Have you heard the "rule" regarding cooking and presentation? "We eat with our eyes first." People usually say that when talking about how a plate looks - if it looks enticing and pleasing, diners will be ready to enjoy the meal.
I've been wondering if the same thing is true with activities. I read a lot about "invitations," setting up materials to invite kids to play. I certainly have a lot to learn about this. I try to place materials in a pleasing and inviting way. But sometimes just arrangement isn't enough.
Recently we had a story that included a well. I wanted kids to think about that (since it is out of the experience or knowledge of most of my kids). I thought building a well in the blocks center could be fun. (Of course, there's always choice and kids can build whatever they choose.)
I put out the blocks like always. I set the two small pails with "rope" nearby. Then I make a small "starter" well, one that could convey the idea of what I was thinking without doing the activity.
A boy came over. He's been my architect, building all kinds of structures and adapting to create just what he wants. He asked about the set-up.
"I thought we could build a well," I said. I explained what a well is briefly. "You can build something else if you want," I added.
He looked at what I had done. "I can build it better than that," he said.
He took down what I had done and began to work.
I love the finished structure. It certainly is a well and functioned wonderfully.
As I thought about this, I wondered what would have happened if I had just put out the block bin and the pails, as I often do. I try to set up materials so kids have an idea of what I was thinking they may do. I hope the materials communicate without a lot of comment from me. (More noninterference!)
I'm thinking more and more about those invitations, creating more welcoming arrangements of materials. I hope to spark imaginations or trigger ideas. (Not dictate direction.) I think the arrangement can impact the outcome.
Maybe we play with our eyes first, too.