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5 Talking Tubs to Start Your Year

Blog written by Steven Watson. If you would like to write a guest blog please email Steven

If you work at a nursery or school in the UK you will likely be going back into your practice after a well-deserved break. A Talking Tub can be the perfect way to begin your year, as they will give children a way to talk about their summer holidays while giving the practitioner a way to identify any new child interests that have developed over the summer period. The best talking tubs are created from previously identified child interests, but there a number of great topics that you can cover at the beginning of a year using a tub.

Talking Tubs are a key part of the Floorbooks approach that will allow you to identify and explore child interests. A Talking Tub is a box filled with a variety of objects about a specific subject. A practitioner will then allow children to take each item out one at a time and fully examine the objects, giving them time to investigate and discuss each object. If a child is particularly excited about an object, the practitioner will then be able to create an activity about that specific subject. For example, at Auchlone we identified an interest in medieval knights from conversations between a number of the children. We then filled our talking tub with a range of items, including a model castle, a few toy weapons, different types of fabric and photos of knights in different types of armour and clothing. From this, we found that a number of the children were interested in the clothing that the knights would wear, and then we began creating our own medieval outfits.

Here are our suggestions for a talking tub to kickstart your year, with suggestions as to what you can fill your tub with:

  1. Summer Holidays

A good topic to begin with is the summer holidays, and what children did during them. Many children return to the setting with a lot of excitement about what they have done over their time away, and a talking tub will allow you as the practitioner to channel that energy.

Including items such as miniature airplanes, sand, pictures of the sea, a spade, a small home, a family and different articles of summer clothing can be a good way to learn about what children did over the period. It is likely that children will have developed a number of new interests to explore during their time away. You should try to create as diverse a talking tub as possible, including any experiences you know that the children had. If you a number of your children went on ski holidays, include photos of snow and mountains. A talking tub which is personalised to children will put any new children at ease.

  1. Transitions

At the end of June 2017 Cults Nursery completed a lovely talking tub about their children's feelings on leaving nursery and starting primary school. If you are with children who are just beginning nursery or primary school, a talking tub can be the perfect way to put any fears at ease.

Create an open forum to address some of the fears as well as the exciting things that nursery/school can provide for them. After a month or so this topic can be revisited so that children can discuss how they have found the transition, and will allow them to see that they have been able to conquer their fears. 

  1. Autumn/Seasons

Depending on when you go back, it may be the perfect time to discuss the changing seasons as we move into Autumn. Autumn is an incredibly colourful month with many learning opportunities. Children are fascinated by Autumn due to the dramatic changes that they can see in trees, and practitioners can use this fascination to create great experiences for children.

In your talking tub you can include leaves of different colours, different types of trees, photos of forests, a thermometer, pictures or models of different types of animals, and different types of fabric/clothing. Autumn is a great time to explore different colours through dye making, which is a great activity for measuring and art.

  1. Local/National culture

Exploring a topic which children hold dear to them and may see as part of themselves is a great way to set them at ease at the beginning of a new term. An investigation into local or national culture is a great way to explore what children have in common with each other and to celebrate their differences. This topic can be expanded to discuss diversity and different cultures from around the world. This can be a particularly good topic during the transition from early years to primary and can encourage shyer children to talk about themselves.

The objects that you fill your tub with may vary, from flags and clothing, to photographs of local festivals and events. Some settings choose to begin with a talking tub about the nursery or school to help children feel like they are a part of the setting and to help them feel comfortable moving forward.

  1. Risk

At Auchlone Nature Kindergarten, we begin every new term with a talking tub about fire. As a fully outdoor nature kindergarten, fire is an integral part of our practice which we use for both cooking as well as heat. A lot of children who join us at Auchlone have never made their own fires before, and some have never had access to the flame from a BBQ before.

By filling a talking tub with fire related objects, we can discuss the risks surrounding fire and teach children how to safely risk assess any situation involving fire. We are able to discuss safe distances around the fire pit, how to light a fire and what they should do if they have any concerns. This also lets us talk about the benefits of fire such as creating charcoal for art and being able to cook food,

We fill our talking tub with wood, charcoal, ash, wooden figures of fire, a flashlight, a fire blanket, photos of the fire pit and the fire hut and some pre-cooked snacks. This wide range of items lets us look at what fire provides while also giving us many opportunities to discuss all of the risks involved. 

What topics will you be discussing in your first few weeks? What talking tubs have you used recently and what did you fill them with? Let us know.

Blog written by Steven Watson. If you have any questions or would like to write a guest blog, please email



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