We used to have a toy garage here. Some children played with it, others stood on it or sat on it. Sometimes cars were parked in it.
It was a toy that fitted into my 'closed' category. A toy that could really only be used for it's intended or designed purpose. One day, one of the barriers snapped off and I decided that it had had its time and it was passed on.
I've always liked the idea of open ended resources. Having observed children playing for many years I'm always rewarded by the creative and surprising way that children interact with objects. As a parent, my children would often play with things in unconventional ways. It's tempting to view these ways as 'wrong' just because a toy manufacturer had not intended it that way.
Having the revelation of open-ended toys some years ago liberated me from this constant tension. I now work alongside four very talented Early Years Educators in a setting which relies heavily on open-ended resources rather than toys. However, I'm still asked if we can invest in certain things. One of the things that is asked for time and again by my team is a toy garage. We have a car basket after all and an array of different sized vehicles, so I can understand the natural progression to have a carpet with road markings on, or a toy garage.
One of our toy baskets is a constantly replenished supply of cardboard tubes, polystyrene, packets and packaging.
Earlier in the week three of my pre-school children had become completely engrossed in constructing something on the coffee table. Supported and encouraged they spent all morning constructing their own car garage complete with pulleys, ramps and lifts. For days it was added to, repaired and redesigned. I love our current toy garage. I love it for its ephemeral and transient nature, for it's child directed construction. For all the creativity and imagination and free play it embodies. For its resourcefulness. Constructed by the oldest children and played with by youngest it reaffirms everything I believe authentic child led loose parts play to be.