This post is taken from the archives of All Things Bright and Beautiful. I am always looking for new and creative manipulatives to add to our classroom, ones that are sturdy, a good investment and can be used by kids of all ages. Keva planks rank #1 in our home, so I thought that I would share them with you!
Over the past few months, I've been receiving e-mail's from individuals requesting lessons and tips on how to help kids of varying ages get started building with their Keva Planks. While I am not an expert on Keva Planks, by any means, our family has been enjoying them for several years now, and so I am happy to share what I know through my experiences of using them to teach in our homeschool classroom as well as of watching the boys apply simple building techniques and principles to create what I consider to be creative masterpieces! (See how we got started here.)
(Special note to parents: Keva Planks are an ACTIVE and SOCIAL adventure. Active as in the person building is engaged in his/her project and is the sole creator of his/her work. This is completely opposite of passive toys, video games or television programs which require little or no effort, concentration or creativity from the participant. And, they are social in nature. Building and creating with others, is not only fun but it teaches team work, cooperation, encouragement, healthy interaction and opportunities for parents to engage in the children's learning, creativity and success. So roll up your sleeves and build with your kiddos!)
TOP 10 TIPS FOR BEGINNER BUILDERS:
1. If you don't know where to begin, use the guide that came with your planks. Start with constructing simple structures, such as towers and move into roof lines and spirals (the guide book will show you how). Even the littlest architects can create with them! Getting the basics mastered truly gives the children confidence to try more difficult structures.
(Henry stacking the planks on edge to create a simple tower.)
2. If your children are resistant or hesitant at first because the planks don't link, blink or light up, just keep encouraging them! A little bit of guidance (you sitting on the floor with them, playing their favorite music and engaging in conversation) is typically just the little "push" that they need to get started.
3. If you are working with a large group of kids in a classroom or perhaps even in a homeschool setting, you might save yourself some time with lesson planning by purchasing the Educator's Guide on the Keva Planks website. You can also print out free easy lessons plans there such as this park or lemonade stand:
4. I know this sounds basic, but don't build on the carpet or uneven surfaces! You really do need a smooth even surface to maximize building potential. And, be sure to store your planks in a proper box or bag. Don't leave them on a damp concrete floor or anywhere that they might be exposed to moisture, because they do warp.
5. Incorporate the planks into daily lessons. For example, if you have little ones at home, you can use them for counting, adding and subtracting and even measuring. Does your child have a stack of favorite stories? Encourage them to build one or more places, settings or objects in the story. For example, in Big Red Barn by Margaret Wise Brown, you could build the barn, or stand the planks on end and make rows of corn. The same lesson can be applied to older kids. My boys love the Redwall Series by Brian Jacques and have built Redwall Abbey several times.
6. Don't limit your students/children to creating buildings. Encourage them to build trees, fences, bushes, autos, furniture. Anything is possible, and you'll be amazed at the wonderfully unique and thoughtful designs they engineer!
7. Integrate them with other toys. For instance, you might create a race track or maze for vehicles to run through. My boys love to build forts and place their army men or Play Mobile figures on and around them.
(George creating a Keva forest for his Play Mobile battle scene.)
8. If your older kids think they are "too big" for Keva Planks, just go to You Tube and you'll find a number of videos from high school and college competitions that are spectacular! You can view an example of one here.
9. Offer to make a photo album of your child(s') creations. They love to see photos of their hard work and creativity.
10. Encourage your school age kids to build a structure that represents a book they are reading or a favorite subject they are studying in school. For instance if they are studying Greek and Roman history, they might build the Colosseum or the Parthenon. There is a great demonstration of a Civil War Encampment (From You Tube) that is particularly interesting for boys. Ask your child to share a little presentation with the family, and celebrate their accomplishment with a special treat.
BONUS TIP: If your kids are enjoying their planks, but always seem to "run out" then consider buying another set, writing it into your classroom budget, or asking grandparents or other family members to give them as gifts in lieu of other toys or video games. We have roughly 1000 planks, between four active builders in our home, and they are used almost every day. A very sound, no need for batteries, updates or anything plugged-in investment!
SHARE THE KEVA LOVE: Begin a Keva club in your school or homeschool league. We took on this venture a few years ago and had a blast! A Keva Club experience will surly be a positive and rewarding enrichment to any child's education! (You might even have fun yourself!)
"I have no special talents,
I am only passionately curious."
~ Albert Einstein