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  • Writer's picturechevening school nursery

Junk modelling

Even our staff are enjoying junk modelling. Here is one made by Kate and her son Tom.

The joy of junk modelling is that the materials are free or inexpensive and 'open-ended', so your child can bend the tubes, chop up the pots and, with the addition of some fixing materials such as Sellotape, glue or clay, they can transform the materials into whatever they choose and then paint or decorate them.

Junk modelling benefits children in many ways. For example, they can:

  • use their imagination while developing their design skills and creativity

  • develop their self-confidence as they are enabled to explore materials and how to use them

  • develop their problem-solving skills and resilience as they build their junk models and use trial and error to make their model stand upright or fix materials together successfully

  • get hands-on and learn about the properties of materials, such as the flexibility or toughness of plastic, fabric, cardboard and wood

  • become inventors and ‘engineers’, exploring materials and their properties – for example, deciding whether a material is strong or bendy enough and fit for purpose

  • develop their gross and fine motor skills, which helps them to manipulate tools better and supports the development of early writing skills

  • communicate and work as a team as they ask a friend to hold a yoghurt pot in position while the glue dries or ask for advice.

Nursery practitioners often report that children become deeply absorbed as they concentrate on their junk modelling. It also introduces them to the ethos of recycling – rather than throwing away used objects, they can be repurposed and transformed into something unique.


  • Be warned, junk modelling should be all about the process, rather than the end product, so be ready for your child to proudly give you something that is likely to be unrecognisable.

  • It is good for children to work independently on their own creations and be allowed to let their imagination run wild, rather than practitioners constraining them to use particular resources in a set way. There is little benefit in your child being instructed to make a box robot identical to their friend’s.

  • Your child is likely to want to talk enthusiastically about their junk model because they will probably have put a lot of thought into making it. Show an interest in their construction and ask questions to find out why they chose the materials and how they combined them.

  • Allow your child to continue modifying their model at home if they’d like to, or gather unwanted materials for them to work on other junk-modelling projects. Provide scissors and fixing materials and then sit back and allow them to be creative.

  • Show that you value your child’s work by displaying it in your home, but sometimes it’s just not possible to keep all your child’s creations. Consider photographing them before they are quietly put into the recycling bin.

  • Rather than thinking of it as ‘just’ junk modelling, remember it is sowing the seeds for STEAM – science, technology, engineering, art and mathematics.

Here are some ideas. From Baby owls, to tin can alley, let your imagination go wild.

This great creation was made by Yassy.

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