Okay, we’ve all been penned in for a couple of days and at least at our house, the novelty has worn off.  So I thought I’d take a day away from walking through our schedule and take the opportunity to talk about Repurposing Things to Create New Games… something we’re all going to get the opportunity to develop our skills in quite a bit in the coming weeks!  Here’s some repurposing of play things we’ve done in the past few days that has all been fun, easy to set up and clean up and that still build important skills for children.

Cooperative Building:  Tupperware Box, Building Blocks, Painters Tape

Here’s an easy, SILENT game that I played with my kiddos at our Morning Meeting today and that they loved.  Fill a Tupperware box with a bunch of assorted blocks (we used 16 in our game). If you have it, use painters tape to mark off a square space on your floor- that will be your building area. You pass the box of blocks in a circle, each person getting a turn to add one block to the cooperative structure inside the marked off building area. Your block is allowed to touch blocks that other people have set up but you’re not allowed to move a block that someone has already placed. Make a plan with your kids about who will fix a block if it gets knocked over by mistake because this will definitely happen:). Best part of the game for grownups right now: you play it silently! Put on quiet music while you build to set a calm tone and then no talking allowed until all the blocks have been used. At the end, go around in a circle and say what you notice about the structure or what you think it looks like. Skills involved include maintaining shared focus on a group activity, turn-taking, building patience, impulse control and fine-motor skills. Make sure you decide ahead of time whether or not you will all break it together at the end or if you will leave it up as a “sculpture in a museum” for a little while.

Mystery Structure:  2 Tupperware Boxes, Building Blocks, Painters Tape (image below)

Here’s a fun, simple game we played during our “Closing Circle” at Home School yesterday.  First make two square shapes on your floor using painters tape.  These will be your designated building areas. and will help your child’s spatial reasoning during the game- as these skills are developing, it is supportive to them to be able to perceive how each block is placed in relation to the perimeter of the square.  Next, all you do is fill two Tupperware containers with identical sets of blocks- we used about 12 blocks in each, matching set. Then one person builds a structure while the second person hides their eyes. The second person then tries to exactly replicate the structure. Then switch roles.  

With younger children or to get started try these variations:

  • Start by having your child be the builder while you mirror their structure, so that they can get an idea of how the game is played.  Have them place one block at a time in their building area and then wait while you mimic their block placement in your building area.  Think aloud so that they can hear you model how you use spatial reasoning to solve a problem.  For example, say, “Hmmm… you put a square in the corner next to to the couch.  Let me see if I can find a square too.  Now I’ll put mine close to the couch just like you.”
  • If they’re ready, give them a turn to be the builder next.  Add one block at a time while they watch you and then attempt to mirror your action.  Continue to think aloud to help them build their own mental processes for problem-solving.  You might say, “Ooo, I’m going to do something a little tricky this time.  I’m going to put a triangle on top of this rectangle.  Let’s see you try it.”  Gradually increase how many blocks you add at a time that they have to perceive, recall and then replicate.

We played about 10 rounds of this at our house the other day and it made for a very calm and quiet half hour.  Skills involved included building close observational skills, spatial awareness and geometry, as you go over the name of each shape and explore how they fit together.  You can increase the spatial awareness learning by spending time discussing the structures using as much relational language as you can manage: on top of, underneath, next to, in between, close to, far from, on the diagonal, to the left, to the right.  Additionally, I always find it fascinating to see how creatively children combine materials when the materials are limited.  It will be interesting to see based on the developmental stage and temperament of your child whether they are more interested in repetition as a strategy to develop mastery (in which case they will build the same or a similar structure over and over again) or if novelty and innovation are a more significant pull for them at this stage.  Let me know what you observe- I love geeking out over teacher-stuff like that!

You’re all in my heart.  Please reach out with any thoughts, questions, or repurposing ideas going on in your house!

In solidarity,