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Plop refers to the practice of introducing new materials into an early learning environment by simply placing them in the space for children to discover. This practice is based on the understanding that children are natural explorers drawn to novelty in their environments.

Plops may be obvious–20 empty cardboard boxes in the middle of the playground on a Monday morning. Or they may be more subtle–a handful of seashells placed in a sandpit bucket for someone to discover the next time the bucket is used.

Plopping invites children to explore, play, and discovery at their leisure–or not. Plopped items may be ignored, and that is alright too.

Plopping something into a play space can reinvigorate the environment, leading to new or expanded play.

Plops may be random or they may be intentional–based on an interest a child has voiced or an adult has perceived.

‘Plopped’ items serve as invitations to play.

This Term of Art originated, as best we can tell, with Denita Dinger.

You can listen to Denita discuss Plopping in this episode of the Child Care Bar And Grill podcast.


  • “Why don’t we just plop those pine cones on the playground and let the kids discover them instead of discussing them at group time.”
  • “Did you see what Trina built with the new blocks you plopped yesterday?”

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I'm an early learning speaker, podcaster, content creator, author, and founder of Playvolution HQ and Explorations Early Learning.