Experiment, Play and Make

IMG_6615The 21st century calls for literacy in both high-touch and high-tech materials. To demonstrate deep understanding, students will need a wide variety of media in which to express ideas and convey information. Producing different versions of a quality in different media will further deepen understanding. For example: The same line looks very different when made with a pencil, Japanese brush, clay, pipe cleaner, sand, bottle tops, computer app or whole body.

Each brain is unique and children’s selections and work with different materials/media provide clues as to the strengths of individuals.


Here are some more “Creative Moves” for you and your children:

Experiment, Play and Make


Objectives for Children:

  • To engage with different kinds of materials/media, and use them to play and create.
  • To use the Sensory Alphabet as a way of approaching materials/media.

The Sensory Alphabet:











  • Prepare the environment so that safety and clean up are facilitated. For example, have the children work atop plastic tablecloths and make sure the material is not toxic.
  • Discuss any safety concerns if needed.
  • Give children one material/medium.
  • Ask children to recreate the quality they are studying in the material and/or just encourage children to experiment and free play. Ask: “How many things can you do with this material?”
  • If children have no ideas, make suggestions. For example, PAPER: write on it, draw/paint on it, cut it, tear it, twist it, fold it, roll it up, etc.
  • Photograph or otherwise record children as they work. (Note: Young children may create one form and then destroy it to create another, so it is important to capture interesting forms as they emerge.)

Repeat this “Creative Move” with  different materials/media. Notate which children gravitate toward which media and which non-verbal qualities seem characteristic of each child’s experiments. Also note any unusual uses of the materials by a specific child, for example, a child who creates a skit using two lumps of clay as characters.)


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The children should NOT be taught a “technique,” that produces products that all look the same. All media and materials should have play and creative potential. The teacher should not expect children to complete finished products but rather to try out many ideas using each medium. Children should be encouraged to use the materials in unique ways.

Maintain materials that lend themselves to each non-verbal quality. Include the following in your general supplies:

  • School supplies such as construction paper, markers, glue, crayons, tape, paint and brushes and scissors.
  • Office supplies such copy paper, pencils, index cards, adding machine paper, stamp pads and sticky notes.
  • Recycled materials such as aluminum foil, boxes of all sizes and materials, tin and cardboard cans, wood pieces, bottle and jar tops, old newspaper and magazines, and mesh and paper bags.
  • High touch materials such as fabrics of different kinds, pipe cleaners, corrugated cardboard, cotton balls, modeling clay, sandpaper, yarn, and string.
  • High tech materials such as smart phones, tablets, projectors of different kinds, and various apps. Note: Remember it is vital to use high tech materials that have creative possibilities.
  • Children should also experiment with using their voices and bodies in different ways. Examples: “How many ways can you go across the room?” “How many animal sounds can you make?”


Other materials/media ideas:

  • Words
  • Letters
  • Bags of different kinds
  • Boxes of different sizes
  • Staplers
  • Colored acetate
  • Blocks of different kinds and sizes and/or Legos
  • Tiles and tessellations
  • Measuring tools of different kinds: rulers, measuring cups and spoons, containers of different sizes, measuring tape
  • Math tools such as protractors and (safe) compasses, etc.
  • Puppets, action figures, dolls
  • Small cars and other toys
  • Hats, dress-up materials, mirrors
  • Chairs
  • Pillows
  • Materials from nature such as water, sand, dirt, leaves, twigs, rocks, shells, flowers, bones, pinecones, nuts, bark, etc. (Note: Living things should NOT be disturbed.)
  • “Slime” (and other concoctions)
  • Tools should be used with care but not ruled out. These might include hammer and nails, needle and thread, hole punch, etc.



Objectives for Children:

  • To choose between an assortment of materials/media, and use them to play and create.

Note: This pattern is best used after children have explored different kinds of materials. Your job is to observe and note each child’s preferred materials/media.


  • Organize a variety of materials, which the children have used before, so they are easily and safely accessed and cleaned up.
  • Instruct children to choose a material they especially liked that week and play, experiment and create with it.
  • Photograph or otherwise record children as they work/play.
  • If a child wishes to change materials, agree but encourage them to spend plenty of time with each choice.
  • Notate which children gravitate toward which media and which non-verbal qualities seem characteristic of each child’s experiments. Also notate any unusual uses of the materials by a specific child.



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