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The Big Orange Splot by Daniel Manus Pinkwater


“Imagination is more important than knowledge. Knowledge is limited. Imagination encircles the world.

– Albert Einstein


In The Big Orange Splot, Mr. Plumbean’s expression of creativity and individuality challenges his neighbors' ideas about the importance of having a “neat street.” By repainting his house to reflect his colorful dreams, Mr. Plumbean inspires creativity and community in those around him.


Recipe for Unpaint

Let your kids know that y’all are going to paint today, but when you go to gather materials, ‘realize’ that you forgot the paint! Ask if y’all can make your own paints. Wonder what color of paint you could make with the earth (dirt and water = brown!) Then provide materials such as flowers and grass from your yard, food scraps (we love to use beets and carrots), and spices like turmeric. Model crushing items with rocks, sticks or mallets (whatever is available to you) then putting them in a container like a muffin tin or recycled containers. Add water and a pinch of cornstarch to create a paint. Then paint! You can connect to our story by using the images as ideas for what to paint, or you can provide house outlines and each child can create their own house to add to your book or create their own street.


What are we learning?

🔹Creativity → Bending, blending and breaking are key components of creative thinking.

🔹Problem Solving → Kids use problem solving skills as they experiment with different ingredients and methods for making paint.

🔹Multi-Sensory → Kids will use multiple senses simultaneously (sight, sound, touch, proprioceptive and vestibular), increasing their engagement and giving them the opportunity to learn to integrate their senses with one another.


Community Nature Display

Gather nature treasures (leaves, sticks, stones, acorns, pine cones, flowers, etc.) of different shapes and sizes, colors and textures. As you collect, discuss how the objects look, feel and smell. Then, invite play! Wonder, “Do you think we could make a design with these nature treasures to make people who walk by feel happy?” Wonder together where you could set up the design so that others will find it and enjoy it (such as your front yard, near the sidewalk, in the park). Head to that spot and wonder, “What kind of shape or design could we make with these nature objects? What design would make people who find it smile?” Then invite kids to create! With wee ones, you can draw a chalk design or put down twine in a shape for them to follow.


What are we learning?

🔹Creativity → This activity also allows opportunities for breaking, bending and blending materials together! These “3 Bs of creativity” are what scientists have identified as the main framework of thinking functions that humans use when we are creative.

🔹Focus and Fine Motor → Arranging materials into patterns and designs supports focus skills and is a workout for kids’ fine motor skills.

🔹Cognitive and Compassionate Empathy → Thinking about or appreciate for another person and creating something that might make them smiles supports both cognitive empathy (taking the perspective of another person) and compassionate empathy (turning our sense of what other people need into action.)


Why Encourage Messy Play?

✴️”Play messy today, think creatively later.” Research says that messy play is the foundation of creative thinking!

✴️When we allow kids to make mud, mix different paints together, or dump out all of their toys to see what happens, we allow them the chance to get comfortable acting freely and exploring a wider range of possibilities.

✴️Giving the go ahead to play outside the box helps children think outside the box as they grow and encounter problems in daily life.

✴️Divergent thinking–a necessary component of problem solving–is boosted by messy and creative play.



I’d love to hear which ideas sparked play and joy with your explorers or if you have any other connections for play! Comment below or tag me in your play on Instagram @magnoliaoutoor.



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