The paper framework of play

Sometimes, something as simple as a paper picture frame can create new interest in materials that have been sitting in a basket for some time now…

Before the children arrived, I set out paper frames and two types of tiles for the children to explore. The tiles have been in my classroom but the children just didn’t seem all that interested in them. I decided that the children needed something a little different or interesting to help facilitate their play…

When the children first came to the table, they asked “What are we supposed to do here?”  Don’t you just love that question? To me it is a good sign that the materials on the table are both inviting and open ended…

I didn’t have to actually answer their question because as soon as each child came to the table, they quickly formulated their own plan for play and each plan looked different. You might be thinking, “what are the children learning from all of this?” so let’s take a look. This little girl spent time working on the space between her tiles so she could get the desired domino affect. She reset her tiles many times over and considered how much space she needed to adjust the tiles in order to get them all to fall down…

This little boy took a different tactic in his play. He spent time stacking the tiles as he built a tower of tiles. In order to build this complex design, this young man had to start with a foundation then through trial and error, determine how many tiles could fit together to create each layer of his structure. Although this child began working inside a frame, he soon chose to move the frame because he felt it was in his way…

Each child chose to explore several different methods of play and throughout the experience, the children talked with each other and continued to revise and put into action their plan for play…

The frames served as a way to facilitate interest in the tiles, personal play space, and different kinds of cognitive planning and critical thinking as the children determined how the materials on the table could work together to achieve some sort of outcome…

Sometimes, just adding something as simple as a frame can bring new dimension into a play experience that leads to new understanding and greater problem solving…

And time for play gives children the chance to explore what is possible which ultimately leads children towards their greatest potential…


By |2012-06-02T07:00:36+00:00June 2nd, 2012|

About the Author:

Deborah J. Stewart, M.Ed. has been working and teaching in the field of early childhood education for over 30 years. Deborah currently owns and teaches in her own part-time, private preschool called The Children’s Studio. Deborah’s deep passion for teaching and working with young children is documented and then graciously shared with millions of readers around the world through her blog and other social networking communities. Deborah believes that young children learn best through play and exploration and embraces this belief in all that she does in her own classroom so that she can effectively and passionately share rewarding, real- life, tried-and-true practices with other teachers, parents, and leaders across the field of early childhood education.


  1. [email protected] June 2, 2012 at 7:45 pm - Reply

    This is a wonderful open ended activity. You could also vary the shapes. Although it is open ended it incorporates so much learning – spatial awareness, mathematical concepts, fine motor skills and visual perceptual skills.

  2. Ness @ One Perfect Day June 3, 2012 at 8:07 am - Reply

    Oh I LOVE this kind of open ended play! I love seeing kids completely engrossed in discovery and exploration like that. Those glass tiles are so beautiful too, I might have to find some of those somewhere.

  3. Julie S June 3, 2012 at 12:01 pm - Reply

    How clever! We have several things in the classroom that the children bypass. I look forward to getting back in there with fresh eyes to see how I can invite them over to these areas.

  4. [email protected] June 3, 2012 at 1:24 pm - Reply

    I love how this simple activity so perfectly illustrates the importance and value of play. I just have to share this one.

  5. Patricia June 4, 2012 at 8:55 am - Reply

    Deborah, Where did you pick up those tiles?

    • Deborah J. Stewart, M.Ed. June 4, 2012 at 10:55 am - Reply

      Hi Patricia,
      I purchased these tiles from Michaels:)

  6. Gina June 4, 2012 at 11:23 pm - Reply

    I love that this activity facilitates open ended play with kiddos this young! When I taught 4th and 5th graders they were always coming up to me during projects or writing assignments asking for specifics on how to do it or what to create. I don’t think that free play or creativity is inspired enough sometimes in the classroom. Wonderful post! Pinning to try out with my little guy in the future. 🙂

    • Deborah J. Stewart, M.Ed. June 5, 2012 at 12:29 am - Reply

      What an interesting perspective you bring Gina about the older age classrooms. I bet a few 4th and 5th graders would also benefit from time to just freely explore the concepts they are being taught.

  7. Anna June 14, 2012 at 3:58 pm - Reply

    Great idea! I often find my son responds positively to having a frame to work in. This is so simple… I think we can use it with just about anything.

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