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Ideas for Talking Tubs: Winter and Summer


Welcome to Floorbooks Friday, a blogging session in which we at Mindstretchers will try to answer some of the common questions surrounding Floorbooks as well ideas and tips for their use. Floorbooks are part of the Talking and Thinking Floorbook Approach™ as developed by Claire Warden (1994) in her book Talking and Thinking Floorbooks (3rd ed, 2015).

Last week we launched our TES Resources Shop (where we provide downloadable talking tub planners and lesson plans.) Since then we’ve had a lot of requests for more information about talking tubs. When I first got to grips with Talking Tubs it was quite daunting to try and think of items to fill one with, especially if they are based on an unexpected Possible Line of Development (PLOD.) However, with experience and experimentation you can quickly become an expert talking tubs user.

In a 0-11 setting, seasons can be great themes for learning and lend themselves well to PLODs. Depending on where you are in the world, you’re either going into Winter or Summer. To help you get started with a seasonal talking tub, we’ve come up with ideas for both a winter and a summer tub.  Both are from previous PLODs developed at Auchlone Nature Kindergarten. Talking Tubs work best when based on PLODs: when a child shows an interest in a particular topic (such as birds) a talking tub can be used in conjunction with a Floorbook to create a really valuable learning experience which is linked to the curriculum.

In selecting your items you should consider what will create discussion and stimulate interest for children. You should avoid filling a tub for the sake of filling a tub: as with many things, it is the quality of the items rather than the quantity. You also do not want to overload children with ideas. 

Winter Talking Tub (find a general Winter talking tub planner here)

On a cold winter’s day at Auchlone Nature Kindergarten the children were mesmerized when snow began to fall in between the trees. The team decided it was a great opportunity to create a talking tub on snow and ice to teach about changing temperatures and how nature adapts. The tubs were filled with the following items (examples of open ended questions which a practitioner can ask to generate discussion are included):

  • A photo of Auchlone covered in snow from the day discussion started: why is snow cold, where does snow come from and how is it made, how does weather work?
  • A photo of ice (after the investigation the children went out to look for actual ice which they couldn’t find due to the increase in temperature): where does ice come from and where does it go, what do fish do if they’re under the ice, why is ice slippery?  
  • Model igloo: why don’t igloos melt, who builds igloos, where and why are igloos built, why don’t they use bricks or sticks instead of ice, how do people stay warm inside an igloo
  • Thermometer: why is summer warm and winter cold, how do weather forecasters know what the weather will be? Thermometers are currently on sale at our shop. 
  • Brown and white fur (said to be from a rabbit): what do animals do in winter, why do rabbits change colour, what colours do animals change to?
  • Pine Cones and acorns: why do trees make pine cones, why do squirrels bury nuts and seeds?
  • Hibernation Den (a small basket filled with leaves, sticks, a small piece of fabric and other materials. It is designed to look like a bed where an animal could sleep): where do animals go during winter, why do they sleep for so long, why don’t they get hungry?

Summer Items (find a general Summer talking tub planner here)

A group of children were discussing what they were going to be doing over the summer holidays. It was clear that some of them were very excited by the idea of getting to go to a warm beach. The staff decided this interest in beaches was a good theme to create discussion. The tubs were filled with the following items (examples of open ended questions which a practitioner can ask to generate discussion are included):

  • Fishing line and lures: why do things float, what do fish eat, how do we get food?
  • Parasol: why do parasols make shade, why do we need shade?
  • Model and photos of fish: how do fish breath underwater, how do fish swim, why do fish have scales?
  • Treasure (coins, assorted gemstones and metals): why are objects buried, how long are objects buried for, how deep can we dig underground?
  • Photos of waves: where do waves come from, why is the sea salty, where do waves go,
  • Seashells: what creates seashells, what pushes them up onto the beach?
  • Model ship and fabric: how do ships float, how do sailors know where they are going, what materials work as sails?
  • Driftwood: why does wood float, what can you build with the wood, would driftwood be good for making a fire?
  • Tub of sand: why are things buried under the sand, why does sand feel soft, how did sand get to the beach?

General Tips:

A practitioner needs to be creative and think about items which children can easily identify as representing a specific topic. For example, in our Beaches talking tub a bucket was too big so the practitioner picked a small spade to represent the activity. Instead of drift wood, sticks from nearby trees were collected. Larger objects can also be brought in, but to utilize the talking tub they need to be small enough to pass around and grip.

In our examples we carefully chose items to appeal to a range of learning styles. The animal fur and the tub of sand were to allow children to really run their hands through the objects and let them feel them. The photographs allow more visual learners to connect with the object and think about it. To get the most out of your talking tub you should try and appeal to as many learning styles as possible.

Almost anything can arise as a PLOD. We need to encourage children to create their own learning links, and help to support this learning. For instance, the driftwood might cause a child to remember their dog playing with wood on the beach. This could lead to a discussion and investigation into dogs which the practitioner wouldn’t have thought of otherwise. As a practitioner you must be open, ask open ended questions, and be prepared to adventure into the unknown with your children.

If you are looking for specific talking tub planners, we now provide them on our TES store. We have a planner for winter and for summer (as well as a special bundle of all 4 seasons) to help you get started and begin generating ideas.

Want to know more about Talking Tubs? Come on our Provocations for Thinking: Talking Tubs course or email for information about booking it in your setting.  

What would you fill a winter animals and beach tub with? Let us know in the comments on Facebook. You can also join our Floorbooks Facebook group!

Blog written by Steven Watson.

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