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Early years activity: Exploring cultural toys

Little J & Big Cuz is a Logie award-winning animated children’s series that follows two Aboriginal children who live with their nanna and lovable dog. The 13 episodes explore the unfamiliar world of school and how, with the help of their teacher Miss Chen, Little J and Big Cuz navigate their first years of school life. In a regular blog, Miss Chen shares some of the F-2 resources she’s been using in her classroom, which are all available to download for free via the Little J & Big Cuz website.

In today’s activity, the students are exploring how toys are designed and making some of their very own.

In Year 1 Design Technologies, we have been exploring how people design and produce products, and how they consider sustainability to meet personal and local community needs.

To consolidate the learning we’d been doing, I asked the students to bring in an ‘interesting’ or ‘unfamiliar’ toy from home. On the morning of the lesson, they were asked to place the group of toys in a circle. They were then each asked to select and examine a toy they had never had a chance to play with before. We then considered the following questions:

  • What is the toy?
  • What purpose does it meet?
  • What child’s age is the toy intended for?
  • How does it work? How do I know this?
  • What material is it made from?
  • What do I like or dislike about it?

It was really interesting that some of the toys brought in were still in their original packaging. This opened up an opportunity to discuss what materials the toy is made from and where it had been manufactured. We spoke about Australian-made toys and how to determine where it had been made.

One student brought in a Pandanus ball – a traditional bush toy created by weaving strips of Pandanus to form a hollow ball. We learnt that lots of toys have traditionally been made using Pandanus including piar-piar’s from Queensland that worked like boomerangs and were often called ‘little fella boomerangs’ made especially for children. At lunchtime the students took the Pandanus ball outside and enjoyed a team throwing game, ensuring that the ball never touched the ground.

To finish off the lesson, the students made their own paper spinners. It was challenging but they seemed to thoroughly enjoy it.

The resource mentioned in this article is directly related to Little J & Big Cuz Episode 9 ‘Old Monster Dog’. It is recommended that your students view the episode before engaging in the activities listed in the resource. Visit the Little J & Big Cuz website to watch episodes and view the full suite of resources for each episode in the series.

This is an edited version of an article that first appeared in Teacher magazine and has been reproduced with the permission of the Australian Council for Educational Research. To read the full article and to read more articles like this visit www.teachermagazine.com.au.