We often get asked for suggestions on how to play with Grapat mandala pieces and sets or making mandalas with children and there is so much fun to be had here! Try some of these ideas for creative loose parts play and fun ways to make art together.
What are mandalas?
Making mandalas with children is a wonderful, relaxing and creative activity for the whole family! With this transient art, loose parts are used to create geometric patterns. They are usually circular with a central point which you build outwards from. Mandalas can be as complex as you like but the fun is in the doing! Grapat Mandalas and loose parts are specially designed to inspire this sort of creative, open-ended Waldorf play.
What do we need?
- nuts, bolts and washers
- pom poms
- pebbles, sticks or leaves
But it is wonderful to have a basket of Grapat’s mandala loose parts ready for play.
Their interesting, tactile shapes and pretty rainbow of colours are perfect for inspiring creativity. Grapat mandalas and loose parts are one of the most versatile wooden toys, they are Waldorf-inspired and can be anything your child can imagine in open-ended play.
Where do we start?
To begin, you could suggest or demonstrate a simple hub and spoke arrangement for your child to try.
Let them choose a central piece and see where their imagination takes them.
If they ask for some inspiration, you could suggest thinking about a snowflake, a big tractor wheel, a pinwheel or a flower.
You can go outwards in lines like the spokes of a wheel or form lots of circles and fill them in with several coloured pieces. Try building circles in rainbow colours or wavy lines in blues of the sea. Try fanning out leaf, petal or raindrop shapes.
Let your child express themselves and learn in free play, however seemingly ‘messy’ their early attempts may be.
Don’t worry if their pattern isn’t perfectly symmetrical or straight – they are practicing their fine motor skills and developing their creativity, problem-solving and concentration.
Make your own mandala alongside them and enjoy some creative mindfulness yourself!
There are plenty of fun activities to complement mandala play. To help your child practice their precision in placing pieces, try using paper washi tape or painter’s tape to make lines, squares or maze patterns on a tray. Your child can then decorate the line with loose parts, choosing colours and patterns as they go.
To encourage early maths skills, begin a pattern combining several Grapat mandala pieces and ask your child to carry it on or create their own repeating pattern. This is a great, fun way to work on the important skill of pattern recognition.
Mandala pieces are also a lovely tactile, colourful resource for counting and making simple math problems visual, hands-on and fun!
Introduce or practice the concept of symmetry and mirror-imaging. Use mandala pieces to build half of a shape, such as a butterfly or a heart and encourage your child to try to complete the picture. Find a mirror for your child to look at the half shape and see how the full shape will look.
Sorting activities with Grapat mandalas
Grapat mandala pieces are fabulous for sorting activities.
Provide tinker trays, bowls or small baskets for your child to organise the pieces by colour or shape.
This creates a really fun and absorbing activity where your child is working on many skills at once, including fine motor skills, critical thinking and early math skills.
Add wooden tweezers or different spoons to add fun dexterity challenges. Building block shelves are another fun way for your child to sort and display the different pieces.
More loose parts play ideas
Mandala pieces are sure to become a favourite play item with so many possibilities for imaginative loose parts play.
Try other forms of transient art such as creating flower gardens or landscape pictures.
They are perfect for adding to small world play. Children will love using them to build a forest of trees, a river to cross or stepping stones, toadstools and flowers for fairies to play amongst.
Using the colourful pieces to decorate their building block towers, sculptures, pyramids and other creations adds a lovely extra creative dimension to building block play too!
I hope you have lots of fun making beautiful mandalas together!
Sarah Varley is a freelance writer and mother of two from England. Having embraced the Montessori method for her children’s early education, Sarah is a huge fan of open-ended play with beautiful, sustainable toys that last for generations. As a former Librarian, there will always be a special place in her heart for books, sorting and organising!