Why Are Materials So Important?

Based on the Reggio Emilia philosophy, the classroom is the third teacher. The materials chosen for the classroom are carefully selected to enhance learning and discovery. Materials have the potential to draw you in, make you want to explore, and wonder what will happen next!

Many materials in our classrooms are everyday items found mixed into your recycling bin, at your local hardware store and outside in nature. Although these are materials we may encounter everyday, looking at them in a new light is when you see their potential to be a tool for learning. We believe that by presenting children with combinations of these materials, they are able to come to those new potentials and possibilities. 

Children are natural born explorers, they are eager to learn how to use new (and old) materials. By supplying children with real life materials, glass jars to hold materials in the writing center, ceramic plates to set the table in dramatic play and mirrors to create an elaborate design on, they will learn the delicateness of these materials.

You may have heard the term, open-ended materials, which are materials that can be transformed. These materials have an amorphous form; with the manipulation and creativity of the child, they are altered into a representation of the child's imagination. In this manner, open-ended materials give children new opportunities to express their minds. 

Here is a full list of everyday materials that can be used in our classrooms:


  • acorns
  • bark pieces (found on the ground)
  • branches, tree branch forks
  • coral
  • driftwood
  • flowers: fresh, dried
  • fossils
  • gourds
  • gravel
  • leaves
  • moss (dried)
  • pinecones
  • sand
  • seashells
  • snakeskin
  • sea glass
  • starfish
  • sticks, twigs
  • stones, rocks and pebbles
  • tree trunks, cross sections of tree trunks
  • vines
  • wood: chips, planks, pieces, chunks
  • wool


  • CD’s (without labels)
  • cellphones, blackberrys, telephones
  • computer keyboards, keyboard letters
  • watches, clocks and alarm clocks: clocks and
  • discarded parts
  • typewriters
  • telephones (rotary and with buttons)
  • digital cameras 

Music Supplies

  • real musical instruments
  • sheet music and music writing paper

Building / Industrial / Art Supplies

  • aluminum or cooper sheets
  • bamboo
  • boxes: sturdy, various shapes
  • bricks
  • cellophane
  • ceramic tiles
  • colored glass: small and large pieces
  • gauze and tulle
  • marble: slabs and tiles
  • plexiglass and plexiglass mirrors
  • slate chips, tiles
  • washers, nuts, bolts, screws
  • wire
  • film boxes: slide film boxes, film canisters|
  • chicken wire
  • clamps and other woodworking tools
  • laboratory vessels, test tubes, beakers
  • light-boxes, light tables
  • metal brackets, hinges
  • metal rings (various sizes)
  • moulds (soap, chocolate)
  • plastic tubing
  • printing and letterpress blocks
  • spools (wood, plastic, small and large)
  • vinyl

Stuff Around the House

  • art lithographs or posters
  • aquarium pebbles
  • baskets: wicker, wire or fabric
  • beads, buttons
  • bicycle wheels
  • bottle caps: juice, beer, water, soda, colorful, shiny
  • chopsticks
  • CD containers
  • corks: from wine and champagne
  • glass jars and lids: jelly, baby food, spices, pickle, sauce (clean and no labels)
  • keys
  • mirrors
  • old game pieces and puzzle pieces
  • ribbon, string, thread, yarn
  • vintage household items: irons, typewriters, rotary telephones, thimbles
  • X-rays