Weaving is an art form which lends itself remarkably well to an outdoor context. The opportunity to weave using natural materials, or on a bigger scale to indoors is exciting. There is freedom and space to behold! Big impromptu weaving moments are usually group affairs where children end up working together in the knowledge that something special is happening.
The photo above is well over five years old but remains one of my favourite. The nursery at South Park Primary in Fraserburgh had this weaving net in place for a long time. If you look carefully there are ropes attached so that children could weave these as and when they wished. Additional material was provided in different forms as a prompt. It’s worth scrolling down this post for more examples of the fence weaving that happened there.
Bread crate weaving is another robust approach. At Alfreton Nursery, the colourful weaving happened spontaneously. A couple of children decided to hide the ribbon sticks and this was the colourful result.
Alfreton Nursery children clearly seem to enjoy weaving. I’m a fan of natural frames like this with the twine because the children’s efforts are clearly displayed and it’s easy to see the children’s input. Also as you can see, it’s all about the process and not the product. Weaving in the early years will often be patchy and ad hoc. Children need to be able to come and go from a frame rather than be expected to participate.
In the above photo, the frame is natural, but look at the twine compared to the Alfreton photo. In this photo, there is a warp and weft of twine. By making minor changes like this, the weaving experience for children will change. Suddenly the children will be able to weave vertically as well as horizontally.
Next there is the decision about what to use as a frame or place for weaving. Many settings will have a weaving frame and will put out a variety of materials for the children to use. However in the photo above, it is clear that children have made the decision that the dividing frame needs a bit of colour.
Fencing often demands a spot of weaving work. Whilst having a frame can provide a good boundary for such activities, children also love the opportunity to extend the experience far and wide
When thinking about the learning which happens through weaving, there’s lots to consider. Firstly there is the language of position and vocabulary such as “up” and “down” or “in” and “out”. It’s an opportunity to talk about “longer” and “shorter” and other length related vocabulary. When looking at weaving that others have done or materials which have been clearly woven, then introduce the words ‘warp’ and ‘weft’ and explain that ‘warp’ goes from top to bottom and ‘weft’ weaves in and out of it.
If children get into weaving, then link it to songs such as “Let the Little Butterfly Through the Gate” or “In and Out the Dusty Bluebells.” and show children the fun of songs which involve physically weaving in and out of a circle of children. When children have whole experiences such as moving through a web, this can also provide a link to the concept of weaving.
Another consideration is what to weave. Really any space can be threaded up! Look at the beautiful work on an old chair back. Weaving a forked branch is a good spur-of-the-moment “grab ‘n’ go” approach to weaving. Leaving such creations in the ground can be useful. Take a photo each day and capture the decaying process. Often children do not think about what happens after a creative act has occurred so to witness this happen is a useful discussion point.
Next, there is a lot of co-ordination required to develop the skill of weaving. So thinking about the spacing needed can be helpful as well as a choice of materials. At the Ananda Marga River Pre-school, the approach is very much down to the children’s motivation. There’s a table where wool is available and long twigs. It’s up to the children to decide if they want to create any structures and what these will be.
Sometimes weaving can happen on structures that need the texture. At Belgrave Heights Christian Pre-school, there are a couple of woven cubbies which were much loved and well-used by the children in their role play. The original frames are made from long bamboo poles.
Anything long can be used for weaving including: string, wool, rope, cord, old bandages, long grass and plant stems, bendy sticks, fleece, old plastic torn into strips, foil, cellophane, strips of old material, wire, pipe cleaners and so on. It’s a great way to use up resources that have been lost for years in cupboards. The variety of textures, the pliability of the materials and details of each piece are all talking points.
All-in-all, it’s a good thing to consider how you would weave such opportunities into your outdoor provision 🙂 For more inspiration, a great place to look is Jenny Kable’s blog, Let the Children Play – there’s lots of mouth-watering examples in all her weaving posts.
I’ve also blogged about different sorts of weaving such as:
- Making outdoor fleece mats using peg looms
- Making spiders’ webs outside
- Using a weaving technique to create tripod stands
- Masking tape investigations here and here
- For a natural weaving challenge, never forget the value of a willow structure.
Thanks to the pre-schools mentioned for their inspirational work – the chair and the lovely divider in two of the photos are also from the Ananda Marga River Preschool.