Tell them how – and not what – to do

The arts are called ‘creative’ fields because there are no predetermined correct answers to the problems (Lauer, 2005)

For the last two weeks our school was closed for the winter break. Hence we had plenty of time to spend at home with my little girl. Therefore between the activities I planned for us I also set up a play center inspired by Active Discovery Learning (a concept first developed by Jean Piaget).

The initial idea behind our art play was to explore colors, forms and textures in order to build a city; that’s why we called our play center ‘Construct Zone’. Myrsine lately expresses her interest in building ‘cities’ with every block or item coming her way (so it was a perfect match). So let me describe you in brief the process approach (hoping to inspire your play).

Before I set up the ‘Construct Zone’ we started by making paper-cutting. Two days ahead we just made cut-outs, a lot of cut-outs, exploring the paper and its possibilities. At some point Myrsine asked for a glue and I gave it to her; so she started gluing together her shapes and making collages. I followed her ideas and I also made some collages, showing also to her some ideas of how to use those shapes in different ways such as: ex. What will happen if I fold paper that way or how to make a 3D shape with paper?!

After this phase of Experimenting and Practicing with the paper I felt that it was time to get more involved with our bodies (kinesthetic learning) in order to keep the creative juices flowing. To this extent it came to me the idea to enrich our play center with different shapes of cardboards (human sized ones + smallers ones)  in order to stimulate her imagination, tactile senses and curiosity (environment as a third teacher). Moreover I added some extra materials in our play corner such as sticks, beads, lids, straws. The idea was to combine all those shapes we cut with the new ones and to create a new whole; our ‘city’. I told her that she can play freely by placing the shapes and materials as she likes; overlapping shapes or different materials, putting together, extending etc.

The only rule was to use scotch instead of glue (the reason behind was that it is more practical + give to us more possibilities to change our mind and modify our shape placement as many times as we want throughout the play) and so this phase was our Play and Build with the Materials (lasted about 2 hours of full play and that happened at Day 3).

The last day of our project, Myrsine asked to add some paint. She painted a part of the ‘city’; I noticed that she liked to paint over the shapes and the balloons instead of the plain cardboard. I asked her gently (with no intention to intervene but to point out) : ‘ I see you like to paint the shapes and the balloons a lot, what are you trying to make? That’s really interesting’ And she answered ‘ Don’t you see? I’m painting the dog, this truck, the window…!’ As she answered she pointed to the shapes she painted and named them (as you can understand, in childrens big imagination shapes never are just shapes they have identities and they make up stories from scratch; listen to those stories).

After she decided that now the city is complete we had our little Reflection phase discussing and watching our city de loin (by stepping out). Well we realised that we saw some face features mixed in our creations. An eye, a bouche (a mouth), a nose…we saw this face-features scattered all over our city! From creating a city we ended up playing with face features… our city was the city of emotions and from there we started another project but this is another story! From this idea I also inspired a lot for my third kit where I include interesting materials for you to ‘Create A Persona – Art Kit’.

Enjoy your little artists and family,


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