Beautiful stuff is my students favorite play area every year. They love being able to create and explore with materials in a different way. Setting up a beautiful play center is easy – anyone can do it! I’ll walk you through what beautiful stuff is and how to set up!
What is beautiful stuff?
Beautiful stuff is an idea created by Reggio Emilia. I do not claim to be an expert on the Reggio Emilia philosophy, but I have learned a little and the idea of beautiful stuff always stuck with me. I knew I wanted to implement it in my classroom. Beautiful stuff is a center where students create with recycled goods. You know the saying, “one man’s trash is another man’s treasure”… that’s kind of the idea for beautiful stuff. Students take from items that would otherwise be thrown away/recycled and they create whatever they like.
Why use beautiful stuff?
Beautiful stuff is my students favorite play area every year. I literally can’t bring in enough recycled goods fast enough for them. Students love getting the opportunity to be creative. They look through the items and decide what they want to make. Then they make a plan and they get to work. They have made the coolest things in the past! From board games, to laptops, to masks, to features for our dramatic play center. Their creativity never ceases to amaze me.
Where do you find the stuff?
Easy! Your recycling! You start by just bringing in every clean recycling item you have. Then over time you start to realize what is popular and what students get most creative with. Tissue boxes, paper towel rolls, empty packages and boxes, old kid magazines (make sure they are appropriate ads inside… I learned that one the hard way!), leftover wrapping paper or tissue paper, etc. Literally anything can be a beautiful stuff. You just start collecting items and bring them in and give them a try! The children can find a use for any and everything. Trust me!
How do you organize the stuff?
I keep a small cabinet for organizing the bigger recycled items. It does matter if it gets messy inside, but I do tell my students that the items that aren’t used always have to stay inside the cabinet so it looks clean to the outside. I keep a bucket inside so that the children can easily carry it to the table and look through it. I even had a student once ask to organize inside the cabinet and I said sure and asked them what they needed. They said plastic bags and post-its to label. I gave them what they asked for and they organized the materials themselves. Love when they take charge over their space to make it their own!
I also have these small green drawers that I’ve organized with different art items. I combined my art and beautiful stuff centers for lack of space. So I have stamps, stencils, stickers, dot markers, staplers, and tape here. The students know that if things aren’t put back in their correct drawers, then I close the area for a little while until we can practice putting all the things away. I really haven’t had a big issue with keeping this area clean because every drawer is labeled.
How do you share beautiful stuff?
Students bring home their beautiful stuff and share it with their families. At curriculum night, I let parents explore the classroom and teach them about the benefits to the different play areas. I actually send them on a benefits of play scavenger hunt. This scavenger hunt and all the information about the benefits to the different play areas are free – you can get it below!
Beautiful stuff is a favorite play area for students and it is easier than it seems to set it up. All you need are some recycled goods and let the students have time to be creative. After you try it out, let me know how it goes in the comments!