Spark Blog

Trusting children to use tools

April 30, 2016
Posted By: Meghan Durieux, Public Programmer for the Creative Kids Museum at TELUS Spark
We let children play with glass

When you imagine children's toys, there are probably some qualities that come to mind. And if you were to imagine the possible materials a toy could be made of, you’d probably name materials like wood, plastic and fabric.

There’s a reason children’s toys aren’t often made of glass. Glass objects can break, causing sharp, unpredictable edges. We teach children that glass items need to be handled with care and under adult supervision. When we ask adults what children should not play with, glass is a common answer. This is exactly the reason we’re exploring glass as a material through activities in the Creative Kids Museum. We want to redefine what children think they are capable of by providing them with authentic challenges, using real tools and real materials.

It’s true, of course, that glass has to be handled with care, but we also believe it’s possible for children to explore this material and benefit from doing so. It’s worth the effort to find ways to safely explore this challenging material. Through activities in the Creative Kids Museum, youngsters will have the opportunity to explore various properties of glass.

Kids use real tools at TELUS Spark

There are tons of activities happening in the Creative Kids Museum that allow children to familiarize themselves with glass. Children can try their hand at safely cutting glass and exploring glass and mirrors as a canvas through art and sensory play. They can also practice handling familiar glass objects with care, as they explore the transparency and sounds of glass. Each day, until the end of May, we will be exploring glass through a different drop in program.

Through activities in the Creative Kids Museum we’re able to help visitors safely interact with glass as a material. But, some of these programs still involve a degree of risk - and that’s on purpose. Risky play is important and inherent in childhood play and development. By supporting children through small amounts of risk, we, as adults, can help them deal with the risk they are experiencing. More importantly, this gives children the opportunity to learn how to manage emotions like anxiety. Practicing smaller risks helps children develop the skills to safely navigate larger risks when they grow up.

In the activities happening in the Creative Kids Museum, this risk takes the form of safely handling pieces of glass that might have sharp edges. Facilitators help children use a glass scoring tool to safely break glass into smaller pieces, and we’re using the pieces to create collaborative artwork. By doing this, we’re able to show visitors that we trust them to handle materials and tools, and support them in building their confidence as they manipulate a sometimes-risky material. This experience, and others, give us ways to provide children with authentic challenges and new experiences.

Why it’s important

Part of exploring one’s place in the world is finding ways to interact with materials that are found every day in the world around you. We find glass in the world around us, but there aren’t always opportunities to investigate this material through open-ended play. We have to actively carve out, and create opportunities for this type of learning. But when we do this, we are creating moments for children to lead their own exploration of a material. This is just one of many small ways that we can help children learn that they have agency over the materials around them, and experience safe ways to exert their agency.

The reason we run these activities in the Creative Kids Museum is so we can support children in developing new skills and capacities. We know that children are strong, resilient, and capable. Each child that visits TELUS Spark has within them the capacities and curiosity they need to explore the world and find their place within it.

When it’s happening

Until the end of May 2016, if you visit TELUS Spark with a youngster, please join us for the program, daily, at 10:30 a.m.-11:30 a.m. in the Creative Kids Museum. Together, we’ll explore the possibilities and limits of glass!


Values and Principles of the Reggio Emilia Approach

Lella Gandini


Peter Gray Ph.D.Freedom to Learn

Risky Play: Why Children Love It and Need It


Children’s Risky Play in Early Childhood education and care

Ellen  Beate Hansen Sandseter, Associate Professor, Queen Maud University College of Early Childhood Education, Norway