By CELA on 12 Aug, 2019

Has anyone recently asked you to look at things from a different point of view? Maybe you’ve been invited to think outside the box? How about turning your frown upside down?

It’s occasionally unsettling, but more often refreshing and engaging, to change the way you view everyday activities. Even more so when you can apply a physical change that really turns an ordinary item on its head – like switching a horizontal play activity to a vertical space, for example.

We’ve raided the ECE internet’s treasure chest to bring you these seven suggestions for taking flat and down-facing projects and turning them up in unusual spaces!

1. Vertical construction blocks

Construction block wall
Source: School Library Journal

Take the base mats typically sold for construction blocks, and fix them to your wall or fence with velcro dots, double-sided tap, or hooks through carefully drilled holes.  It’s a great way to freshen up block play and can apply to any size of age-appropriate sticking blocks. Imagination gets a boost when towers build out instead of up. Tip for set-up: if there’s room for a tub to be fixed directly under the mats on the wall, it will make pack up a lot easier.

2. Tree and fence rubbings

Take some paper and crayons or chalk, and find a vertical surface for rubbing.  The drawn images of rubbings are a different way to represent the textures children feel by touching trees, brick walls, paling fences or even play equipment.  The above video from The Dad Lab shares one approach.

3. Bring on the bugs

Source: Vicky Myers Creations

Three ideas come together in this vertical project:

  1. A useful life for an old tyre
  2. A housing boost for local insect life
  3. A way to help children connect with the daily contribution bugs of all kinds can make to our environment.

There are many ways to build an insect shelter, but this version from Vicky Myers is particularly neat.

4. Weave some magic

Source: Mother Natured

Weaving is one of humanity’s oldest crafts, and it can be very simple to put a vertical loom in place for children. You’ll need some firm supports – which could be milled timber, plastic pipes, or sticks collected from local trees – and some yarn, twine or rope to run vertically. These strings create the loom on which children can weave anything they wish. It might be more of the same wool or twine, or it could be long grasses, flexible fallen twigs, or even obligingly soft toys!

There are myriad ways to make a vertical loom, indoors or outside. We’ve shared this video from Mother Natured to get you thinking about your options.

5. Jean-ius planters

Source: The WHOot

With Jeans for Genes Day 2019 coming up soon (20 September), let’s look at what you can do with some of those outgrown pairs of denims too.  It’s estimated it takes a whopping 7600 litres of water to make a pair of jeans, so it seems right to look at extending their life the garden when you’re done with them. This is an opportunity to talk to children about recycled clothing, fast fashion, and being creative in the garden or courtyard.

This video shows you one simple way to recycle jeans into vertical planters, but you may also search for other methods that use diluted cement solutions to add strength to the final product.

6. Weigh it up

Source: @themakermum

A simple set of old-fashioned scales encourages exploration of weights, introduces the idea of comparisons, and supports early mathematics concepts, to name just a few outcomes.

One of the easiest ways to create scales is to find a vertical support for a coat hanger with a container attached to each side. You can use an internal wall, or a doorknob (not in a busy entry!), or head outside and hook your hanger up on a fence, retaining wall or tree.  If your tree doesn’t have a branch at a helpful height for the scales to hang from, an alternative is to loosely tie a rope around the trunk: the weight of the scales hooked over the loop should hold it place.

7. Drive it up the wall

1. Storage Source: via Pinterest

And we finish with a double-header! We have two ways you can get small objects off the floor and onto a vertical surface. The first is with storage (above). Instead of putting all those cars, trucks, planes or farm animal figures into tubs, think about making a honeycomb style storage area on a wall using short pipes (got a plumber or landscaper in your parent community?) or recycled yoghurt containers.

The second is for play.

2. Play
Source: via Pinterest

In the image above, pallet planks have been repurposed very simply to make a wildly versatile gravity play wall.  Toy vehicles, balls, and any other rollable objects could be guided or raced down these ramps – and you’ll only need an old pallet, sandpaper, a hammer, some nails, and some lengths of velcro sticky strips to make it vertical.

About CELA

Community Early Learning Australia is a not for profit organisation with a focus on amplifying the value of early learning for every child across Australia - representing our members and uniting our sector as a force for quality education and care.



Debi Bennis
Posted on 16 Nov, 2021
Absolutely Brilliant! I’m very impressed to have “stumbled across” your organization while searching Pinterest. I’ve shared this post with my Homeschool Whisperer FB Group families.
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