(If my goal is to support my children’s creativity–and that is most definitely my goal–then this takes place not just in the art studio but in all we do. So occasionally I’ll post some other examples of creativity. These will be labeled kids out of the studio.)
A discussion over at Kidoinfo led me to this article, where I learned that a better-sounding term for what I’ve always called “stupid plastic toys” is closed-environment toys. Those are the toys that are supposed to be played with in a particular way. Conversely, “open-environment” toys would be the ones that allow the kids to make the decisions and direct the play. I don’t like the closed-environment toys, and I try not to let them sneak into the house. When they do, I try to sneak them back out again.
There are compromises, to be sure. We have one of those battery-operated hand-held Simon Says games referenced in the article; we bought it a few days before driving to Canada for vacation, and it lives in the glove compartment of the car, along with the travel bingo set and the travel tangrams. We are venturing into the world of Nintendo DS, ever so cautiously, with our oldest. But above all other toys, I love the open-environment playthings and the many, infinite ways they can be transformed in the hands of a child.
Home sick from school earlier this week, my six-year-old brought out the play silks and the tree blocks. Working with his younger sister, he set the scene and populated it with the bunny family and the gnome family (the latter made from wooden peg people wearing the little sweaters and gnome hats I knit them).
He built the bunnies and gnomes a house.
He brought out the pattern blocks and built them some furniture. Here is a close-up of the kitchen, with the Mama Bunny cooking at the stove.
The brother and sister bunny went out to play on the bridge.
After these pictures were taken, he used more pattern blocks to add flowers to the field and lily pads to the water. I’m not sure how long he worked on this–at least an hour, probably close to two. It wasn’t my idea, it wasn’t my suggestion, and I stayed out of it completely except when he came to show me his creations. The materials were all on the shelves, and this particular morning, they were his medium. While the kids have built homes for the gnomes with the tree blocks before, this is the first time he’s created such an encompassing environment and the first time he’s built furniture.
It stayed up all day (quite an accomplishment, considering there’s a toddler in the house), and he was okay with cleaning it up before dinner, because he can look at the pictures any time he wants. And I couldn’t resist documenting his creativity.
What are some of your favorite “open-environment” playthings?