Back in Time: The Value of Vintage Resources for Play in Early Childhood Education

By: Diane Kashin, EdD, RECE.

Vintage materials are valuable play resources! There is value to vintage. They remind me about what is important. They give me pause to think deeply about values and what it means to value. Values are the regard that something is held to deserve. Values are the importance of something. To reflect on what is important with children, turn to this vintage book, written by the incredible Margaret Wise Brown. In reflecting on the essence of something, children can wonder about what is important about who they are. Maria Popova of The Marginalian writes that whatever changes you might undergo in your growth and becoming, you are always you. The essence of you, remains the same.

I think I am drawn to vintage resources for children’s play because they reflect who I am and represent where I am, in my season of life as an early childhood educator. The important thing about me is me. I am vintage! I am not as old as an antique but valuable, nonetheless. Vintage literally means “of age”.

What would be the value for children and their teachers if they moved away from plastic toys and electronic gadgets to embrace authentic resources like vintage materials? At Curiosity Approach® settings, they have opted for the use of loose parts, recycled and authentic resources rather than toys! These settings are testimony to the value of vintage. I believe that there is great value to valuing vintage in early learning environments. People and things of a certain age can spark wonderment and creativity. After years of curating, I had the opportunity to offer a vintage workshop with my professional friend, Rosalba Bortolotti. Taking a trip down memory lane with other educators, was an opportunity to collectively inquire about the value of vintage and the power of play.

The session offered a showcase of child friendly, safe, durable, intriguing, and authentic resources from closets, cupboards, drawers, garage sales and thrift shops. The resources brought together cultures and people. From an array of silver, copper and brass to wood, straw, and fabric, each piece had a different function and form. The resources evoked memories and stories were shared. The educators engaged as professional friends, demonstrating the power of the vintage resources to inspire creativity. When participants were invited to collaboratively create from the array of curiosities and oddities the invitations were provoking!

The invitations that were shared provoked dialogue about the possibilities for children. What could children learn from the ways of the past? What is meaningful about offering children this opportunity to imagine the days of old? I will continue to reflect on the meaning of this experience while wondering about the possibilities of vintage for young and old. Think about this invitation offered by a group of educators, during the workshop, to travel back in time. All of the materials displayed have now been replaced by one smartphone! Imagine the possibilities if these were shared with children!? What would be their questions? What would be their reactions? What might the invitation provoke?

Let’s now travel back to the future. I asked ChatGPT for a quote about the value of vintage resources. I was offered the following which was attributed to a paraphrasing of the work of Elizabeth (Betty) Jones.

Authentic materials offer a powerful stimulus for children’s curiosity and imagination. When they encounter materials that are real and relevant, they are motivated to explore, experiment, and make sense of the world around them. This kind of play-based learning helps children develop critical thinking skills, problem-solving abilities, and a lifelong love of learning.

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