A Peek Inside our Playroom: The Third Teacher

I love our playroom. It is my favourite room in the house. Jack and Sarah love it too. It’s gone through a few evolutions since we moved in a year ago but I think I am happy with it (for now). Our previous house didn’t have a playroom, instead Jack’s toys were dotted throughout the house. Which was fine but we were always tripping over things. When we moved into this house I was so excited to see that it had a playroom. And not just any old playroom either, one with floor-to-ceiling windows and a door which shoots straight outside to where we would set up the sandpit, mud kitchen, digging pit and veggie patch. Perfect! This was going to be a great room.

When I was thinking about the playroom I wanted it to be a few things. I wanted it to be inviting and engaging. I wanted it to have elements from nature, places for tinkering and exploring, places to imagine and create. A blend of Montessori and Reggio Emilia. Reggio calls the environment the ‘third teacher’; a place which encourages exploration, discovery, communication. We all know how we feel when we walk into a bright, light-filled, organised, clean, beautiful, inviting space. We want to be in that space. This is the ‘third teacher’.

I wanted to bring in materials of all kinds, not just toys. I didn’t want it to look like an Ikea catalogue, I wanted it to reflect the interests of Jack and Sarah, to feel their presence even when they aren’t there. I wanted each space within the room to have a purpose, a reason for being there; and I wanted each material in the room to be cared for and respected by the kids.

Lastly, I wanted the things in the playroom to be open-ended; to have many different uses. So we have natural tree blocks, each with a unique shape, for building, creating, imagining. Play scarves and silks in the dress-up box; one day a red cape, the next day a gushing torrent of lava. River rocks for counting or building ants’ nests, driftwood for building boats or an African jungle. Any one of these things do nothing on their own and anything in the hands of  a three year old.

So on with the tour…

I rotate the toys in the room fortnightly. I try to keep it to ten things or less. There is usually something science-based, literacy, numeracy, imaginative play, manipulative (blocks/building) and sensory. The nature shelf, tree blocks, reading spot, iPod, and light-table stay out permanently. I also rotate the things in the dress-up box just to keep things interesting.

The toy shelf is an old low-bookcase we had before the littlies arrived. It’s perfect for the playroom. The height means the kids can access all the toys whilst the delicate plant and other breakables (and chokeables) are just out of Sarah’s reach (just). I like how it has divided sections; it discourages me from putting out too many toys. Fewer is definitely better.

My dad made the tinker table from an old thrifted coffee table. He cut two holes and then painted it in exterior paint so we can use it outside as well for wonderfully messy activities.

Jack and Sarah are blessed to have a Nanna who loves sewing all kinds of wonderful toys for them. She made these skittles for Jack for his birthday. Great coordination practice for Jack, and great fun for us. She has also made a lot of Sarah’s toys in her room, which I’ll show you a little later.

I’m saving the space that my super creative husband built for our light table for another day. It’s so cool that it deserves a post of its own.

So this is our playroom. I hope you love it as much as we do.


Reggio activities with mirrors and loose parts - An Everyday Story

We have a range of mirrors which I use in provocations for Jack and Sarah. You can read more about using mirrors in this post: Mirrors & Buttons – Mirrors in a Reggio-inspired Home You can use mirrors as a … Continue reading

Explorations for 2 Year Olds – Playful Learning

Reggio inspired investigations for toddlers and two year olds - An Everyday Story

Explorations for 2 Years Olds – Playful Learning

Today I’m sharing some of the explorations I have out for Sarah at the moment over on Playful Learning. I’m going to be a regular contributor on Playful Learning. So I hope you will drop by often.

And if you’ve just popped over for the first time, hi. I’m Kate and I mostly write about life with my two little ones, Jack (almost 4) and Sarah (23months). We started homeschooling this year; preschool homeschool.

Here’s a few of my favourite posts if you wanted to take a peek around:

How to set up a Reggio playroom - An Everyday StoryOur Reggio-inspired Playroom

I love having natural materials for the kids to play with and explore. Here’s a couple of my favourite posts using natural materials:

Nature Table in a Reggio playroom - An Everyday Story

Our Nature Table

Montessori Nature Discovery Bakset: Sensory Exploration for Babies

A First Nature Discovery Basket 

The kids also love painting and all kinds of open-ended, messy art.

Reggio Emilia activities - bubble wrap painting {An Everyday Story}Large Bubble Wrap Painting

Painting with Toddlers {An Everyday Story}Painting with Toddlers: It’s only mess in our eyes

Reggio Activities - Natural Lavender PlaydoughNatural Lavender Playdough

Just a snippet of our story. Hope you’ll pop by again soon.


An Everyday Story - Reggio and Montessori inspired living and learningAn Everyday Story - Reggio and Montessori inspired living and learning


Reggio math activities - Learning to measure from An Everyday Story

In 2013 we started preschool homeschool

There are many reasons for why we decided to home educate Jack and Sarah. But mostly we wanted them to have the opportunity to explore their own passions at a pace which suits their individual needs. We also wanted them to have authentic relationships and experiences with our community and with nature.

We have only just started though and are still finding our feet, our rhythm. Mostly are days are rather relaxed with a lot of play. At 4 and 2 years old, play is enough.

As time goes on though I am thinking about how our learning will evolve. I remember when I was teaching there was one educational theorist who really inspired me, Howard Gardner.

His theory of Multiple Intelligences changed the way I taught completely. The theory that we all learn in unique ways, have different learning styles, really opened my eyes to how we learn.

Since then I have read and been inspired by many other educational thinkers and theorists. I know that what I have taken from their writings will influence our homeschooling.

Inspirational Educational Thinkers and Theories

Educational Theories and Homeschooling Books

In addition to the books I listed on the Reggio-Inspired Books page, there are some other books I have bought to help guide me through home-education:

  1. John Holt: How Children Learn
  2. John Holt: Learning All The Time
  3. The Hundred Languages of Children: The Reggio Emilia Experience in Transformation

Fire project - Drawing - An Everyday StoryOur Homeschooling Rhythm

You can read about our homeschooling rhythm here. We have a large focus on free play as well as project work. Project work is child-initiated and child-led learning based on a topic of their interest. Here are some of our projects so far:

  1. The Volcano Project
  2. The Autumn Leaves Project: Observational Art, Exploring Leaves
  3. The Fire Project: The Blue Fire Extinguisher, Playing with Fire
  4. The Bugs Project

Art with Children: Wool Block PrintingAfter morning tea (snack) we often do an art or Reggio-inspired activity together. Here are some of our favourites:

  1. Natural Lavender Playdough
  2. Self Portraits
  3. Finding Art in Nature: Starry Night
  4. Observing Snails

Reggio Math - hands on learningAfter quiet time, Jack and I have time together to work on some focussed learning. We do mostly literacy and numeracy during this time. Jack is learning to read as well as basic numeracy; counting, quantifying, working with shapes and pattern work. Here are some of the things we do during this time:

  1. Learning to Add
  2. Learning to Measure
  3. Working with Shapes on the Light Panel

spending time in nature free unscheduled unstructured play 6 natural teepeeAfter afternoon tea (snack) we spend the remainder of the day outside. This is a nice way for the children to end the day. Sometimes we go on an outing, other times a bush walk, or just play in the yard.

  1. Behind the Camera – Photography with Children
  2. Out in Nature – Bushwalking
  3. Geocaching

Reggio playroom shelves {An Everyday Story}At our house we are fortunate enough to have space for a playroom and an art space. Here’s a little more on our playroom: Our Reggio-inspired Playroom


So far our year is going well. I like the rhythm of our days, they are slow and calm. The children have lots of time to play and lots of time to explore, all the time learning as they go.

Lost Treasures

My grandma, who passed last year, used to have this shed in the back of her yard. It was filled to the brim with all kinds of wonderful treasures. Whenever we would visit, my sisters and I would spend hours in there playing. You see, my grandma was never really one to get rid of things, you never know when you might need them again after all.

Grandma’s shed, and the time I spent in there with my sisters, is one of my fondest childhood memories.

My dad, quite sweetly, knows this and so has set about turning his shed into a wonderland for Jack (3.5yrs) and Sarah (19mths). The other day I came across a dusty box, in it was my grandfather’s old slide collection and his, quite amazingly, still operational ancient old slide viewer. What fun!

My grandfather was quite the avid photographer and these slides, most of them more than 30 years old are like tiny little windows into the past. I had never seen them before and some of them are magnificent. This was just as fascinating for me as it was for Jack.

I set them up on the light panel so the colours would pop through. Can you believe how vibrant they are still after all this time? They were beautiful. Jack was completely enamoured by them. You might remember I gave him my old camera and so he has been interested in photos for a little while now.  This was a nice way to extend that interest further.

Just as fascinating on the OHP. I do love seeing our playroom walls projected with light.

One thing that really interested me though, that I hadn’t considered, were the baby photos. There were a lot of slides with photos of me, my sisters, my parents and our cousins when we were babies. I tried to explain to Jack that that was me when I was a baby. But he was confused, ‘No Mummy. You’re big. That’s a baby.’ 

To help him understand I set up this simple inquiry shelf in the playroom. The book Guess the Baby is a lovely little story about a preschool teacher who asks his class to all bring in baby photos of themselves. The children then have to guess which photo belongs to which child.

There’s also some small laminated photos of Jack when he was a baby, old photo albums with photos of a much younger Mummy and Daddy, the slides and viewer as well as two small hand mirrors (one for Sarah) so Jack can compare how he looks now to when he was a baby.

This little area has been a real focal point for the past week or so. Lots of quiet discovery as I hear Jack flip through the photos, That’s me. I’m a baby. That’s Mummy…and Nanny… 

Sarah’s not particularly interested in the slides but she is fascinated by the photo cards. She has surprised me really at how well she is able to recognise each person in the photo.

I’m thinking now about how I can extend this interest even further… maybe some self portraits with some small vanity mirrors. I know dad has some of those in his shed. Might be time for another trip.

I love that these photos, these memories, have been found again. I love that they are being used and explored and cherished. I love that something so old, can capture the imagination of a small boy.

I guess Grandma was right, you never know when you might need them again.