Stretching potential

Archive for July, 2013

Forget what you’re doing!

Last week I had the privilege of speaking to one of the world’s leading minds in toy development.  Alex Hochstrasser, designer and creator of the Bilibo shared the essence of play with me:

“Children LEARN when they FORGET what they are doing.”

As an occupational therapist I spend my sessions planning exactly how a child will reach a goal I have for them through play.  But what I have realised is that it is sometimes in that very planning that the essence of play itself is lost.  It is when the child is totally absorbed in the moment, the experience, the challenge, and the joy of the interaction with an object or their environment, that true learning takes place.  Let’s leave the planning up to the creative imaginations of the kids, for they have the heart and spirit to show us how to really forget what we’re doing, and just PLAY!


“PLAY will be …

“PLAY will be to the 21st century what WORK was to the industrial age – our dominant way of KNOWING, DOING and CREATING VALUE” – Pat Kane (2004)

What an exciting thought!  This quote was posted up on one of the walls at the Century of the Child exhibit at MoMA in NYC, which we were fotunate to visit in August 2012.  All the best designs for children, from toys to furniture were showcased on the top floor.  Play is most definitely the way in which children begin to identify with their world, learn basic and complex concepts and test the laws of their environment.

The Search is ON

In a day and age where children are drawn to the latest branded and battery-operated toys, as an occupational therapist I’m searching for classic toys.  By classic, I mean toys that in their simplicity afford children multiple developmental opportunies – for gross and fine motor skills, creative and imaginative thinking, perceptual development, sensory exploration, role playing and interaction with others.

History has given a few obvious classics.  Building blocks can be so much more than towers.  They can be cars, gates and trains.  Villages and cities. Snakes and elephants. castles and dungeons. Pathways and roadblocks. Another homemade toy is the cotton reel – which can be turned into anything from wheels to french knitting.

Today I would like to introduce to you the Bilibo.  This is a dome-shaped bucket/recepticle, with a wavy edge and two holes.  It’s hard to describe for you because it’s not a “thing” that we are familiar with.  In it’s very uniqueness comes the challenge – what is it? What can I do with it? How do I play with it?  And through these questions, the child starts to explore the essence of play.  Although not a classic, it will be lauded in the future for its unique contribution to development in a technologically focused world.  To read more, go to

What can you do with your Bilibo? Who can you be?

What can you do with your Bilibo? Who can you be?

What toys would you nominate as classics?  All suggestions welcome, and happy playing!