Arcobaleno Suggestions for Use

To understand children’s learning with open-ended materials, it is often useful to step back and observe their spontaneous play and problem solving. Children use blocks in a variety of ways:

  • To create designs — arrangements with no particular function.
  • To build functional structures — things that move, shelters, and enclosures.
  • To build representations of real objects — sailboats, animals, and people.
  • To rearrange patterns — recombining a given set of blocks into different arrangements.
  • To act out narratives — using the blocks to tell a story.
  • To encounter and solve problems.

Children will almost always start building on their own and may often build for long periods of time with great concentration. We have included some suggestions for use to further stimulate their ideas. However, we encourage parents and teachers to let children take the lead.

  • Language Development
    • Tell me about your round house. Why is it round? How do you get in and out of your house? Who lives in it? What kind of pets would you have in your round house? What kind of furniture would you put in your round house?
    • Can you tell me about the tunnel you made? What kind of car or truck could drive through it? What kind of tunnel would you make for an elephant? How about for an ant?
    • Look at the spiral you made with the Arcobaleno! Where else can you find spirals?
  • Mathematical Thinking
    • Can you make a tunnel on a mirror (or piece of reflective Mylar) with half of the Arcobaleno? What do you see in the mirror? Is it the same? Bigger? Smaller? Can you make a building that is the same on both sides (symmetrical) without the mirror?
    • What is the longest snake you can make? [Mark on a piece of paper where the snake begins and ends.] How many different ways can you make a snake that is the same length as your first snake?
    • I see you made a spiral that starts with the smallest piece and each piece you added was bigger. Try making a form beginning with the largest piece.
    • What is the tallest building you can make with the Arcobaleno?
  • Physical Knowledge
    • Can you make your spiral structure stand up? What do you need to support it? Can you find some shells that have a spiral form? Do all the shells have the same spiral? If not, how are they different?
    • Is it possible to make a bowl with the Arcobaleno? How can you make it sturdy so it does not fall down? Which is easier to make, a dome or a bowl? Why?
    • Why do you think this block set is called “Arcobaleno,” or rainbow? Have you seen a rainbow in the sky? What colors did you see in the rainbow?
    • Can you see a rainbow inside? [Try using a prism.]
  • Aesthetic Ideas
    • I like my building better when all the colors of the rainbow are in line. It is so smooth and shiny.
    • I like round houses better than square ones because the curves inside make you go round and round.
    • [Bring in some books and magazines related to architecture.] Can you find buildings in the book that are like the one you have built? Can you find some ideas for other buildings you might construct with the blocks?
    • [Bring in some books on modern geometric art, Islamic art, Tantric art, etc.] Can you find some shapes in these pictures that are similar to the designs you have made with the Arcobaleno? Which pictures do you like? Do you like the colors or the shapes, or both?

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