A Provocation: Tubes, Balls, & Gravity


A few weeks ago I found 20 feet of plastic pipe on the side of the road when we were coming home from a hike.  Having recently read Loose Parts: Inspiring Play in Young Children (*affiliate link), I dropped Carys off at home and went back to get it.  It sat in the back yard for a few weeks while I thought of something to do with it – I’d already taken the book back to the library so I had to dream something up myself.  Eventually I decided to cut about four feet off it with a utility knife and tie it to a chair.  I dug out a muffin tin and put several things in it that would fit through the tube – I knew some of them would get stuck, and I wanted to see what Carys would do.


tube provocation set up

tube balls provocation


We went in the garden after lunch to see what Carys would do with the provocation.  I didn’t show her what to do with it; she just picked up the different things in the tray to look at them.


balls muffin tin


She was pretty excited when she realized that things would come out the other end of the pipe when she dropped them in.  Some things did inevitably get stuck, and in hindsight that probably wasn’t the smartest move on my part for the first time I put something like this out.  It probably would have been easier for her to figure out if she had some experience with things coming out reliably for a while before some things then didn’t make it through.


where did the ball go


This doesn’t feel like the purest of Reggio Emilia provocations to me because it didn’t grow out of her interests; it grew out of me finding 20 feet of pipe on the side of the road.  It seems like a lot of the provocations in the Loose Parts book are like that, though – they’re collections of materials grouped in a way designed to elicit a reaction from the child, and it didn’t seem as though there was always a connection to a broader body of knowledge.  I’m looking forward to learning more about that in a couple of weeks when I’m in Reggio Emilia.

Anyway, Carys had a good time with it, and has done several times since then while I’ve grilled dinner.  Usually I put a bunch of old tennis balls on the chair because they bounce satisfyingly out the end of the pipe.

Carys and I are in Reggio Emilia!  Looking forward to sharing what we learn when we get home…

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