The kindergarten curriculum published by the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology in Japan stipulates that the fundamental aim of early childhood education in Japan is to educate young children through play and voluntary activities in a well-prepared environment. Recently, Japanese nursery school teachers have noted the importance of changing the environment by providing “priming water” or other adequate stimuli to ensure that free play and other voluntary activities do not stagnate.
In this study, I introduced a type of “niche” tool called a “Master Brickmaker Set,” manufactured by Hape®, as an additional tool to play with in the sand pit during free play time. Using a non-commitment style, I observed the children and made notes about any changes in their free play in the sand pit and surrounding area.
First, the results revealed that when new sand play tools were introduced, using pristine and unique reasoning, children took possession of them when they recognized them in their playing field. Second, trial and error revealed size relationships between the old and new tools, and these features were utilized in their play. Third, a previous study found that teachers’ suggestions could change the children’s perception of novelty tools to ensure that they used them for a prescribed activity. However, this study found that the children not only followed the teachers’ suggestions, but also explored new uses for these tools.