Junk Modelling

 Aim of the game:

Children explore and learn about their world through play and subsequently learn the language associated with their discoveries. Junk modelling is a great activity for play and language development as it uses non-directive toys, materials, props, equipment etc which leaves space for your child to explore their creative and inventive side. This is all great for language development as children become fascinated, curious and inspired by their creations and use higher level problem solving skills to work out how things might go together.

For those who have never experienced or had a go at junk modelling before, it is simply using junk items (empty cereal boxes, yoghurt pots, cardboard tubes etc) to create anything your child’s imagination can conjure up – plus it’s great fun!



 What you will need:

Junk modelling does what it says on the tin so you can use a whole range of materials. The key things to remember is that they must be clean, child safe and that you supervise your child, particularly if they are using glue, scissors or paints.

  A collection of empty packaging, for example cereal boxes, egg boxes and yoghurt pots, old takeaway tubs etc.

  Something to stick it all together with such as PVA glue, parcel tape, masking tape, or sticky tape.

  Decorations to perfect the creation such as paint, pens, stickers, glitter, goggly eyes, pipe cleaners, tissue paper and similar items.

 A covering or oil cloth for your table or the floor to protect it


 Warning! Although preschool children  are less likely to put things in their mouth be mindful of choking hazards, use non toxic glues and paints and supervise your child at all times during this activity.


 How to play:

  • Introduce the activity by telling your child they are going to do some junk modelling.
  • Lay out the junk and tell your child that they can use any or all of these materials to make whatever they like.
  • Your child may say that they want to make something specific or they may just start building and then decide what it is at the end.
  • You might need to help them with sticking or holding items as they build their creation but be sure to follow their lead – as tempting as it can be try to avoid guiding their ideas or taking over.
  • Comment on what they are doing and building but try to avoid jumping to any conclusions or guessing what it might be. Saying things like “wow, it’s getting taller” and “ah you’re sticking the tube to the box, that’s interesting…” and “I wonder what it will be”
  • Allow them to use their imagination and ask you questions but try to encourage their thinking and imagination where you can rather than directly answering questions. For example, your child might ask “what do I do with that?” instead of telling what  you would do with it, you could say something like “hmmm, looks interesting – what do you think?”  or they might ask “where shall I put this?”, try to inspire their thinking by saying “let’s see if you can find a space for it”.
  • When your child is happy with their creation then it’s time to decorate it. This is a great opportunity for you to model descriptive language, comment on colours, size and shapes.
  • Once your child lets you know it’s finished praise their efforts and see if they can describe what they’ve made, what they did and how they put things together.



 How to extend:

  • Encourage your child to tell you about their creation or create a story about what they’ve made.
  • If you’ve made your own item then you could create a game, role play scenario or story together.
  • Share the creation with family members and encourage your child to describe how they made it, the materials used etc and if they are able to sequence the steps (e.g. first, then, last).
  • Help your child to learn about concepts of size, shape or colour by role modelling that language for them or giving them choices to help extend their descriptions (e.g. “did you use the big or little goggly eyes?” or “do you think that’s a square or circle?” etc).
  • Do junk modelling with friends or siblings – they could make a giant creation together and will therefore need to negotiate and communicate with each other.  Or, they could make individual creations from a theme (e.g. space or monsters) but then generate a story or game cooperatively with them afterwards.




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