architecture · children · creativity · design · education · play

Modular play and building sets for all ages

I loved playing with Legos and building blocks as a kid (and actually still do); all the possibilities of what to build, and the ability to tear it all down and start over. Well here are two different ideas from Inhabitat about using that same concept of moveable, removable, and piece-meal design (in a good way):

First, a build-your-own park or patio area:

A green initiative called Softwalks has come up with a way to use existing scaffolding as support stations for fun and lively modular public spaces using their awesome little DIY kits that contain easy-to-build pieces such as a chair, a counter, and a green trellis. The components latch onto the metal beams to create simple impromptu hang-outs and rest stops for busy city dwellers, making the possibilities for sidewalk beautification endless.

The project’s greatest aspect is that anyone can get involved. The kit pieces are modular and lightweight, making them easy to install, take down, and reuse in new areas. The kits also create a public art activity, involving the community to brighten up their construction-heavy areas.
Walrus Toys’s Chimeras is a new line of plush toys that allows your little creative genius to build his [or her] own wacky stuffed animal critters with different interchangeable snap-in ears, arms, legs and wings each day as the mood strikes.
What if a bat really wants to have giant elephant ears to match its wings? You’ll end up with a Batephant! What if a bunny wanted to swing on tree branches, but needed the monkey’s long arms? You’ll have a Bunkey.
These are really adorable, and definitely a step up from Mr. Potato Head. I love how kids’ toys are moving away from the electronic “can only do one thing and LOUDLY” mentality and moving back to more creative play. Robotics toys and robotic dance competitions seemed to be a huge thing a couple of years ago, which is also very modular.
What other creative, modular ideas have you seen pop up lately, either as urban architecture, toys, or other arenas? Leave a note about it in the comments below. If we’re lucky, we’ll be able to make this a new series in the blog!
children · creativity · education · emotion · environment · happiness · health · play · psychology · Social

Exploration of Playful Learning Spaces for Children

toys
toys (Photo credit: red5standingby)

From the blog Art Farm, a play/art therapist who offers some advice on creating spaces that encourage kids to explore, learn and play:

I really learned the importance of organizing and preparing spaces while working with youth in school settings in several public housing developments in Chicago.  So often these youth would come to me (for either individual or group art therapy sessions) filled with anxieties which either manifested as acting out or withdrawn behaviors. The arrangement and presentation of the private space we used was a powerful, non-verbal message to them stating that all things are respected here – including you; everything has a place here – including you; and everything you will need to have a successful experience is here – starting with you.

[Mariah] Bruehl offers some questions to ask when designing a space for your own child:

  • Can your child access the materials in the play space independently? Are they organized in baskets or bins that are clearly labeled so your child knows how and where to put things away when finished with them?
  • Are the materials presented in an attractive manner that invites your child to use them?
  • Do the materials, toys, and games represent a balance between your child’s and your own preferences? Do they represent what you value and thus encourage your child to engage in activities that you feel good about?
  • What is your child currently interested in? If your child no longer plays with dinosaurs, but has been talking a lot about birds, make sure that the play space reflects this current passion. Rotating toys is a great way to keep your child interested in play space activities and ultimately prolongs the life of your child’s playthings. It never ceases to amaze me how excited my girls get about a toy that comes back into rotation. The nostalgia they feel toward a toy they have not seen in a while is almost more than their delight over a brand-new toy.
  • Is the play space a calming environment that allows one to focus on the task at hand without distracting colors, decorations, or objects?
  • Are you seeing things from you child’s perspective? Put yourself in your child’s shoes to determine the right height for displaying and storing materials and hanging art.
  • Is this a space that makes you want to make art, explore science, write stories, and more? If so, would you have everything you need to do what you want to do? What else would you add to enrich and deepen your child’s learning experience in the play space?

What other playful space researchers are out there? Any recommendations? I know about the organization Art With Heart, which focuses on creating therapeutic resources for sick kids. But I’d love to hear more about what’s out there. Let me know in the comments below.

behavior · education · happiness · health · Social

Non-Elimination Games Leads to More Physically Active Children, Researchers Say | MomsTeam

A typical game of tic tac toe English: Tic tac...
Non-competitive games also have benefits. Image via Wikipedia

Interesting article about the value of non-elimination games (the original author focused on “non-competitive” but there are many competitive games that don’t involve elimination):

A study presented in May 2008 established that the structuring of children’s games has a significant effect on energy expenditure.

A research team led by Karla Bruggeman and David Dzewaltowski, Ph.D., measured activity during both elimination- and non-elimination games, using accelerometers, in 29 children in grades four through six. Both normal weight and overweight children participated in the study, but were not separated for analysis.

In non-elimination games, kids accrued more overall physical activity due to not having to spend time on the sidelines as a result of elimination. They also accumulated significantly more moderate and vigorous physical activity than elimination games. Both sets of games were adopted from a children’s program devised by a nonprofit group that uses various pieces of equipment to facilitate non-competitive play; elimination games were modified from non-competitive versions.

Children were surveyed for self-efficacy, enjoyment, and peer victimization following both types of games. Results showed that enjoyment was somewhat higher following elimination games, although enjoyment scores were high in non-elimination games as well. There were no reports of peer victimization in either set of games, but were significant increases in self-efficacy after both sets.

“The games in this study were part of fun and enjoyable day camp,” Bruggeman said. “It is likely that a well organized and positive game experience increases a kid’s confidence regardless of elimination or non-elimination game conditions.”

Again, the article author was focusing on non-competitive sports, but really the evidence is looking at non-elimination sports. While I don’t find anything wrong with competitive sports, I know they’re not everybody’s cup of tea, and I think it’s great to emphasize the fact that you don’t need to be playing on a team sport or competing against others in order to gain the same benefits from play. And there are lots of non-competitive physical activities that kids can and do partake in: parkour, running, climbing, digging in the dirt, parachute play, biking… what else? Name your favorite non-competitive physical activity in the comments.
behavior · culture · environment

Toys in the workplace

I’m a huge fan of toys in the workplace. They help me think, they can trigger creative ideas, and they make me smile. But some people consider thema distraction.
What’s your opinion of toys in your cubicle? Do they delight or distract you? Leave your thoughts in the comments.

Monkey finger puppet

 

behavior · children · creativity · design · play

Bookshelf/Playground combo makes putting your toys away fun

Casasaurus

My mom always told me not to climb up my bookshelves when I was a kid; now I wish I was little again and could beg her to get me one of these. This is actually a great tool for learning, because it allows kids to think three dimensionally, in a playful way. Trying to decide which cubbies hold what items, and climbing, sliding, and thinking of an object as two things at once (a bookshelf AND a dinosaur) are great exercises for the brain at any age.

Casaurus, the senior thesis project of student designer Koichiro Hoshino from Tokyo University of the Arts. The designer’s dinosaur-shaped bookshelf includes plenty of space for a bookworm’s library, a tail-like slide for kids to whiz down, shelves made for climbing and small boxes that add length to the dino’s tail. Kids can also find a reading nook underneath the dino’s belly.

more via Koichiro Hoshino’s Casaurus is a Bookshelf and a Playground | Inhabitots.