Activities can give you insight into your children. And your knowledge of children can give insight into how they will do activities. When we painted with animal cookie cutters, the results were very different.
E is very straightforward in his approach to things. He tends to have a clear idea of what to do and work that plan. He may get distracted but still completes his idea. His painting reflects a simple, literal approach.
O is an experimenter. She begins simply and slowly but then tries out different ideas. Her end results are very different but very interesting. She will often repeat an activity but get some different results. In her painting she began to make repetitive shapes and mix the colors. The results were a lovely blending of spring colors (and I don't have a photo of it!).
A is a watcher. She dives into an activity but observes the others. She will incorporate their ideas into her own art. And when she discovers a new idea from a colleague, she will continually repeat it, mastering that new idea or skill. She saw what O was doing and made repetitive shapes her mission. Her painting reflects this synthesis of ideas.
That's why I love play-based learning. Some simple materials will allow children to express their own preferences and their own ideas. And play-based learning gives me more insight in the needs, skills, interests, and personalities of the unique people who have landed in my class. And those insights can help me target the activities I choose...thus completing the circle and increasing the learning that can occur.