ELEMENTS THAT MATTER
The environment that young children live in influences their playing style. Daily schedule, chosen toys and tools, set up of the furniture, rules inform children about playing possibilities. Creating temporary installations for children gives them the power of experiencing materials, tools and spaces from a new perspective that acts as a basis for creative stimulation. Here are the elements that would help you as a pedagogue to create your very own installations.
Don’t forget to add your own keywords.
Plan in the art or creativity unit. Can be also considered as a gym activity.
Give children the autonomy to reimagine their every day spaces through play.
Use big size and a large amount of already existing paper (or any other) materials.
Combine existing tools with materials to connect them in the space.
The more time children have the more differently they play: min 1 hour.
“Wow, what this could be?”. Give instructions in the form of questions.
Children and adults are both needed. Tested with 4-22 children, 1-2 pedagogues.
Observe, hold back, inspire by doing, help to solve conflicts, stop in case of danger.
This approach fits well with “creating with different methods” abstract learning goals in the preschool context. The creative process also includes exploring with full body movement and the whole space.
During this session, children explore the potential of BIG materials: how to construct in 3D, rearrange the environment and experience the material characteristics.
For example, children were building houses, boats, towers, costumes while standing up on tables, chairs, sitting on the windowsill, swimming on the floor or touching the lamps.
Every body part was involved in the play.
Children are used to seeing environments in fixed form. Even classroom interior design has a certain style. However, experiencing spaces in a different setting triggers children to use their creativity in unusual ways.
Creating installations with large scale loose materials visualises additional movement possibilities in the space. Children will get inspired: play with the setting, rearrange it and create their own spaces. Connecting a big sheet of paper to the window handles or hanging the paper in rolls down from the ventilation pipe creates diverse play options.
Experiment with different arrangements, observe and analyse how the combination inspired children.
SCHOOL SPACES: furniture
Furniture in the room can be also rearranged: put upside down, aligned in a curve or placed in the middle leaving the walls empty. The details offer perfect connecting possibilities: wholes, handles, corners, hollow spaces.
In combination with big loose materials spaces within spaces occur: for example a floating restaurant surrounded by boats. Even the content of the highest shelf can be explored while sitting on the windowsill and looking through the long tube.
SCHOOL SPACES: lamps
Lamps are connected to the ceiling or placed on the furniture, floor. The hollow shape allows materials to be attached around the corner.
With the help of the long tubes, lamps were “touched” thus making children aware of their existence. Putting the paper over the light visualises another colour and the pattern.
SCHOOL SPACES: windowsill
A windowsill with easy access can offer a space for play while climbing constantly up and down.
Either just sitting, looking out or standing up while interacting with materials grants a new perspective: being on a higher level.
SCHOOL SPACES: ceiling
Connecting materials to the ventilation pipes or ceiling lamps make the children more aware of the full height of the room.
While interacting with materials, “touching” the lamps with a long tube, children are constantly looking up and down.
SCHOOL SPACES: the whole floor
Seeing materials spread around the whole space gives a strong visual trigger: to explore with a full body, tell a story or just crawl around.
Covering up the whole floor space with materials offers a new situation: the floor becomes a swimming pool, a pile of leaves or snow.
Young children already learn the “right” usage of tools, toys, objects, materials, space. However, opening up this usage allows children to use their creativity and come up with their own meanings.
The same is true with paper. Usually, it is used as a support material for painting or drawing, sometimes also for constructing smaller objects. That is why seeing the paper in large scale and the amount is unusual for the children and offers a new way of playing.
For this approach, materials should be chosen based on the principle of offering a new experience in the form of scaling up. For example, even fabrics (curtains, blankets) have a fixed size. How would children play with 20m long fabric?
MATERIALS: big sheet of paper
So big that covers the half of the room creating spaces with in spaces. It probably breaks in the first 2 minutes but at least the leftovers could be reused in another setting.
SETUP: attach to the window handles and other furniture, allow children to explore possibilities freely.
COLLECT: are some parents working in a printing company? Ask them to collect the ruined printed sheets. Or just buy it in a craft store.
MATERIALS: super long cardboard tubes
It is perfect for sound making, peeking. It so long that allows touching the ceiling or creating a bridge between two walls. It is a perfect building material.
SETUP: like a long tower and allow children to explore possibilities freely. Let them rearrange. Take care that they will not fall.
COLLECT: are some parents working in a fashion design studio or in a fabric store? Ask them to collect some tubes or just visit the local fabric store.
MATERIALS: very long paper in roll
Creates the desire of pulling out the whole paper and being covered by it.
SETUP: hang it from the ceiling down to the floor and allow children to explore possibilities freely. Use it as curtains or just cover the whole floor with it.
COLLECT: are some parents working in a printing company? Ask them to collect the ruined printed rolls or just buy it in a craft store.
MATERIALS: big amount of cardboard boxes
Different sizes boxes in big quantity will create a message of building and climbing.
SETUP: like a tall maze and allow children to explore possibilities freely. Take care that they will not fall.
COLLECT: are some parents working in a warehouse? Ask them to collect some cardboard boxes. Or just visit the local supermarket and get the boxes there.
MATERIALS: lots of shredded paper
Gives the message of snow or leaves: creating snow angels, snowball fight, jumping into the material. It is perfect to throw around, be covered by it or just construct with piles.
SETUP: cover up the whole floor and allow children to explore possibilities freely. Take care that a big amount of shredded paper will create some dust, opening the window will help. Make sure you have the vacuum cleaner nearby for cleaning afterwards.
COLLECT: unwanted paper could be cut into small pieces using the paper shredder or just cut it with children. Are some parents working in an office with the shredder? Ask them to collect some shredder paper.
CONNECTORS: fluffy wire
CONNECTORS: sealing clip
Minimum playing time should be 45 minutes and about 10 minutes is needed for cleaning up. In some of the testings, children were constructing for 2 hours and continued playing with the “ready” spaces in the afternoon.
This approach could be implemented weekly or even monthly, once or more. It has the potential to become a continuous project: using different materials or finding even more and more new combinations for paper and other materials.
Have an experimental mindset: test, evaluate, recreate, analyse.
Create a temporary installation before the children enter the room. The setting acts as the first instruction that at the same inspires and visualises diverse possibilities for play.
Trigger children to go in while saying “are you ready to play?”. Ask additional questions: “what do you think this is?”. If needed explain more that they are allowed to explore the space and materials freely taking care that they do not hurt themselves or others. Clarify also that children need to clean up after themselves, provide the necessary tools for that: brush or vacuum cleaner.
Using the question format allows children to find out the answers themselves while receiving emotional support.
Different installation arrangements were tested in 4 schools, in the age of 3-8. The minimum amount of participants were 4, the maximum was 22. In total 1-2 pedagogues were involved in the sessions.
These numbers can be changed according to the need, another child-adult ratio can also function.
Hold back and just observe how the children are playing.
How is this play different compared to the usual? How large scale and amount of materials influenced children's playing style? How did the play affect children's autonomy? If needed help them out with construction or ask additional questions “what is this?”, “how could you connect that here?”.
Interfere in case of conflicts, for example with sharing materials. If you feel the play is too dangerous, suggest other possibilities.