Parts and Wholes

Being destructive for the child in a play context is just as much about tearing up old ideas and notions as it is about tearing up a leaf into tiny, tiny strips...and both should be encouraged.” —Marc Armitage

Kids of all ages enjoy the satisfying sensory experience of simply taking objects apart. It turns out that there are a whole host of learning benefits kids get from creating loose parts and turning them into something new. This Spring we are kicking off our Creativity series by inviting kids to lean into the creative power of destructive play! Kids can pick and pluck various natural objects apart, then, gather up the loose parts and bring them together to create something new.

The Guide

Step 1: Watch the Tinkergarten Home Breaking and Making video lesson.

Hop into your My Tinkergarten dashboard to watch the Breaking and Making video lesson. Kids can watch how Meghan and other explorers break nature objects into tiny pieces, then get inspired to do their own breaking and making!

Not yet signed up? Click here to sign up or to try a free Tinkergarten Home lesson.

Step 2: Gather objects kids can destroy.

Use baskets, buckets or bags to collect objects that are interesting and could be broken into smaller parts, such as pine cones, flowers, veined leaves, sticks or sections of logs. Be thoughtful as you gather, focusing on treasures “found on the ground.” And, only take what you need. This activity does alter the items in a natural area, but it is for a great cause.

Step 3: Deconstruct! 

Dump all of your gathered items in a pile. Wonder together, “I wonder what would happen if we took some of these treasures apart into their bits and pieces…” Grab one of the items and start to pull it apart. Share your delight as you play, modeling both the joy and the wonder you feel when you deconstruct. Consider even tossing some of the bits into the air and cheering. Most likely, kids will follow suit. Let this go on, gathering more items to fuel the fire as necessary, as long as kids are engaged.

Step 4: Create something new.

Wonder together what you could create with all of the loose parts. Try some of these ideas:

  • Make Shapes—Make a circle, spiral or other shape on the ground with a piece of string, twine or chalk. Welcome kids to arrange their treasures along the shape. 
  • Sort—Sort the pieces into piles based on different categories (e.g. pieces that are soft, rough, round, long, brown). 
  • Design—Offer a piece of cloth or a falt surface for kids to arrange their pieces to create a design of their own.
  • Nature Bracelet—Wrap a piece of tape around your child's wrist or ankle (sticky side out) and welcome them to stick pieces onto it to make a bracelet or anklet. 
Decorate a tree—Wrap tape sticky side out) around a tree trunk or branch and stick nature bits onto it. 

Step 5: Clean up.

Involve kids in the process of gathering together all of the loose bits. This work need not be perfect, but it will teach your children to make as little impact on nature as possible, and that lesson will stick with them.

Why is this activity great for kids?

A scientist/artist expert team identified a “3 B’s” framework for three thinking processes humans use when we are creative—breaking, bending and blending. What kids do physically forms a foundation for thinking processes they will use later on, so physically breaking objects now prepares kids to break concepts later. Plus, destruction is part of the creative process. Breaking things into pieces and creating something new also stimulates multiple senses, activates behavioral schema (i.e. transforming and connecting), and problem solving skills.

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