Thursday, October 1, 2015

We Play With Our Eyes First?

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.

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