So you ask, what’s the big deal about playing with ‘junk?’ The hut example cited in the previous ‘reuse-based’ blog post provides a defined framework for spatial thinking (even color theory and structural mechanics). Seriously, tiny Designers began considering layout within the hut, words such as ‘floor,’ ‘shelves,’ and ‘table’ were thrown out, as the two proceeded to organize the interior, working within the confines of a predefined space. They collected and staged interlocking rubber mats, sticks, and a recycling box - Designers call this utilizing a ‘Kit of Parts.’ In other words you have not fashioned a new floor, shelf, or table, utilizing a predetermined ‘kit’ or pieces to provide those functions. As adults, we often use the premise to realize greater function with existing items, such as moving a reading lamp to provide targeted lighting or reorganizing a closet to make access and space more functional. Thus, at a young age, little Designers can learn the practice of ‘adaptive use’ early, thinking both spatially and functionally. It may seem instinctive to simply place things, but the greatest insight into ‘boundary breaking’ design is provided by posing a simple question: What if (i.e., consider an alternative)? So I started my q/a with them, ‘What if you moved the table to the center of the hut, or to the back, or turned the box on its side?’ These questions prompted action, then experimentation, providing a new mechanism for self-realization of such ‘alternative thinking’ – at a young age, they are learning to analyze their environment and surrounding functionality, as it exists, ultimately to think spatially and how a space is used.
The hut, especially the color mats, provided them the opportunity for experimentation with color, as well. Color theory is an interesting phenomenon. In the past you may have seen a building you like or trying to explain why you don’t like a room, and often times, it’s simple – the colors are not compatible. Here’s a link to the explanation of basic color theory -http://www.colormatters.com/colortheory.html Through another ‘kit of parts,’ Legos provide a wonderful mechanism for experimentation with color. The various ‘kits,’ now dissembled, are combined, individually, in our home’s infamous ‘Lego Drawer,’ providing a rainbow of sizes, shapes, and colors. So as our children are simply ‘making something,’ they begin to ‘deconstruct’ and modify a model to ‘access’ an incompatibly-colored piece, replacing it with one that is color-compatible, thereby ending up with color-composed lego sculpture – intuitively, they are ‘playing with composition.’
Legos, ultimately, teach the basic premise of structure, as well – my daughter has been in tears in the past due to a plane’s wing constantly falling off, or a building’s roof caving in – so we work together on bracing, support, and appropriate spans…she’s young, so these lessons are rudimentary to be sure; however, our oldest son has not asked for help in a number of years to ‘fix’ a Lego - he’s mastered the basic art of structure - quite simply, function meets form in his Designs! For our toddler, and to avoid any danger of choking, color-coded wooden blocks begin our Design-based lessons early, teaching the limits of height, as stacks go higher, lean, and ultimately crash, usually to the sound of a huge giggle! Although ‘Godzilla,’ as he’s known in our house, does not exercise patience all the time…so, for him, Design waits…as the family’s fun continues!