At the end of October, I volunteered for a local church that organized a neighborhood party to promote their Friday after school program. The organizer, Grace, wanted me to come up with an activity that has an art component in it.
I am a fan of "loose part" play, from the "Theory of Loose Part", first introduced by an architect named Simon Nicholson in 1972. I owned random small boxes from wrong orders, boxes of newspapers microfilms I bought a couple of years ago at a library book sale (Did I mention our library is better than yours? Unless you live in Cincinnati and Hamilton County, Ohio).
When I came up with the idea the team was not sure how it would go. If the kids would pick it up, or even be slightly interested. So we did a trial run for it on the regular Friday afternoon and it went great! With the limited amount of boxes, a couple of scissors, and tapes, we got a tree, a castle, another tree, and a building, created by teams of children ages 6-12 (and one 5 year old and one 2 year old who were eager to join.. may be because they had no choice since their mother dragged them everywhere she went).
The rule is: there is no rule. We are not allowed to give children examples or instructions. The idea of "loose part theory" is giving children materials that can be moved, carried, combined, lined up, taken apart, and put together in different ways.
So, I improvised a little bit with boxes, donated by my generous neighbor whose daughter apparently was asking for boxes later on and he had none left! I am sorry, my husband hauled them all from their house.
Does anyone know any child who doesn't love boxes? Mine loved them so much, they played with them more than "regular" toys if I would let them. Their imagination runs wild! It's an airplane; it's a boat; it's a store; it's anything they want it to be.
One boy at the event had read a book about dinosaurs before he came over and then spent over 20 minutes creating his own T-rex box! I was impressed on how focused he was.
These guys created a spaceship fit for two with a window, and actually took off (in their imaginations). They spent most of their time orbiting through space in this "station" and didn't check out any other activities.
Another cool, creative project was a three year old who built a castle from six different boxes and invited other little people to come in. That's what I call hospitality.
The great thing about this play is that I could still recycle the boxes afterwards. Remember the boxes the next time you play.
PS. This "party" was called Friday Fun Life Fall Bash, organized by Miss Grace who is the awesomest, according to the Millers (aka us). After this party, this program was adopted by Woven Oak Initiatives to be an addition to their programs.