Our perception of lines—indeed our perception in general—is based on our life experiences. Optical illusions, such as those where equal lines appear unequal, “trick” us because our brains cannot see and interpret what is actually out there in the world but can only make its best guesses, based on millions of past interactions with lines.
Our brains tend to connect items into lines, even when the lines are not there or not totally there.
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Lines are not only straight but can be virtually any path from one point to another. The Oxford English Dictionary has 35 different definitions for a line—and that’s only the nouns!
All children need experiences with lines in order to enrich their non-verbal vocabularies. Some children actually “think” in lines and need these experiences even more. In New World Kids, “line” is one of the nine elements in the Sensory Alphabet.
Try some of these with children:
- Make lines by connecting two dots. Try drawing in the air, drawing with markers, painting or using rulers and other math tools.
- Listen to, compose, “conduct,” and sing simple melodic lines. Tape record and playback lines you create.
- Tell a storyline that has a beginning, middle and end.
- Draw or tell the line of your day. Use words, symbols, or just moving lines. Draw or write on adding machine paper.
- Make different kinds of paths and find ways to get from “Start” to “Finish” quickly, slowly, backward, etc.
- Play games where making lines or trajectories are important: the old video game “Pong,” tug of war, snap the whip, pool, baseball, and so on.
- Swirl or drop a ribbon or string to make different kinds of lines. Dip it in paint first to make lines on paper.
- Make lines by stacking, putting things in rows, bending pipe cleaners, making clay “snakes,” and otherwise constructing.
- Investigate or make more optical illusions and try them out on other people.
- Plan a real or pretend trip by drawing on a map or creating a map. Or make a “hidden treasure” map.
- Use the computer or a map to find as many routes as you can from your house to school. Which are the straightest? Which are the fastest? Which are the most interesting?
- Create an illustrated timeline for your life or your family.
Then ask children, “What were your favorite experiences with lines?” This is a clue to how they naturally think best. Try giving them more experiences like the ones they prefer and help nurture their natural imaginations.