Why do children transform objects into play materials?

Children transform objects

Children transform objects

What motivates a children to transform an object?

One of the things that fascinates me the most when I watch children’s play is their ability to transform everyday objects into countless other things. Many times they are not even concrete materials but pieces of paper, cardboard, things that we are going to throw.

What leads them to do that process? How do they get inspired from an object?

The truth is that very little is enough to make that connection. Sometimes the shape of the material, its size, its color … is enough to associate the material with some other idea and object and transform it in your mind into what you need for your game.

That is a process that adults often have a hard time doing and that sometimes even discourage children from doing so … Why can they imagine that a box is a car? How can they transform a cork stopper into a doll? Is it absurd to see a phone on a stone?


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Divergent thinking

This process occurs thanks to divergent thinking. Children do not always think logically and sequentially (first this, then that other …) but in their mind they exploit a multitude of ideas, a multitude of possible solutions to each circumstance, a multitude of uses for each thing.

That way of acting and being inspired should be protected and respected because it is an extraordinary quality to find multiple responses to life situations, to favor creativity … And it also does not collide or is contrary to a more logical and analytical thought. You can move from the explosion of ideas to their organization, prioritizing those that will be more successful.

And for all this wealth to develop and be visible … first we observe it in the children’s game. Transforming objects without stopping, imagining that they are multiple different things … Sometimes they even use their own body to recreate scenes and scenarios (gesturing with the hands, the body).

And all this seems like a game … it is, that and much more. When the mind is thinking of alternatives, new uses, different creative possibilities before the same material … it is working divergent thinking and generating new neuronal paths.

If we respect that way of thinking of children, we will observe how they will be able to find alternatives and different solutions to what day to day and life is facing them.

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Children transform objects

Benefits of pure symbolic game and the transformation of objects

The ability to transform the object is a sign of creativity and intelligence, at the service of autonomy

What do you mean by that? That the child gives new functions to the objects according to their needs and interests and this is at the service of autonomy to the extent that the child, providing for what he has within reach, satisfies his needs (in this case game but we might well think of other scenarios).

Transforming the objects the child is more autonomous, he does not have to ask us for every literal object he needs to recreate his scenarios, but he does it himself.

That is a factor of autonomy, linked, of course, to other aspects such as creativity or imagination.

Greater Control On The Content Of The Game

When children transform objects to turn them into what they need, they are not only being more autonomous but also exercising greater control over their game, both in the chosen interests and in the detail of the game.

When children can transform the materials of their environment, they move away from adult impositions that are not only reflected in different orders or game suggestions but also through the toys offered.

In this way, we can say that the transformation of objects allows a much freer game.

 Children transform objects

Greater Expression of The Child’s Inner And Previous Life

The more transformable the materials that surround the child, the better the child can express his inner life and his previous experiences (to that game I mean). Because children, surely you will have noticed, that a few hours or a few days after some experience that has impacted them tend to reproduce it in the game.

It is very common that everyday toys do not match exactly what the child needs to digest and reproduce in the game. And for this, it uses any material at your fingertips that allows you to reflect and digest the experience.

In this way, the transformation of the object makes it possible to capture and integrate the experience that needs to be digested.

Do All Children Perform That Transformation of The Objects?

The first thing to say is that it depends on age.

Many times when I give play workshops moms and dads tell me in anguish that their children do not make this pure symbolic game of transformation of things … And I always ask the age, because the little ones before doing this step are in a very literal game or imitative. They are not able to give new meaning to things and what they do is imitate us 100%.

Therefore, it is recommended that in the first years they have at their disposal materials that easily remind them of the life of their surroundings. A rubble, a mop, fruits, first pots, tools, cars, etc.

I am referring to a very early stage, especially up to 2 years, even 3.

From the 3 begin to be able to make this abstraction much more usual and begin to give different meanings to the elements of their environment. Of course, before that age they do it from time to time, with some things, progressively …

And it should be remembered that each child is a world and there are those who do it before, others later, others more frequently … But more or less I observe that at 3 they start doing it regularly and at 4 they are already fully immersed in that process

Can The Resource Be Favored?

From my own feeling and experience it is not necessary to encourage children to transform things in the game. It is usually a process that occurs spontaneously when children are at that maturational level.

So, as mothers and fathers, we should not be “exemplifying” how to do it, but rather to ensure that they have enough open and inconcrete materials within their reach so that they, inspired by some detail of the object, can imagine and transform.

Classic and very defined toys are unidirectional, they usually mark the game. On the other hand, when they have within their reach a multitude of unstructured materials, they can have a more complete game with their interests and desires and also develop the generation of new ideas and proposals that are not conventional, thus observing extraordinary creations. Worth it, right?

I wanted to illustrate this article with Mamielo’s semicircle because of the variety of play it gives but also because we generally think of unstructured elements of much smaller size, but the reality is that large elements such as the rocker, a wooden board, a stool , a chair … can also play a lot and lend itself to being transformed again and again, as the child needs.

I encourage you to allow children to use how much they have within their reach to unleash their game.

Please share your thoughts and suggestions with us through the comments below.

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Children transform objects

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