Little Os of Oats in Design

You know what I’m talking about- little Os of oats, Cheerios, my favorite breakfast cereal. I saw the funniest thing recently at the Children’s Museum. Yes, I’ve been hanging around with the wee folk. The extra reserve of energy and sense of wonder with the 0-5 year old crowd makes up for their lack of self discipline, running around till they trip on air and chanting their favorite word “NO”. Hilarious. Of course, since I wasn’t the one running around after them, it really was. I must say that the parents of these little desperados behaved beautifully. It was a pleasure to be there among them.  So, Cheerios. Where does that come in? The museum staff set up a few activity tables for hands on crafty things. One had a container of Cheerios and shoe laces to string necklaces. Initially, I was concerned about the little peeps putting strings around their necks, I’m overly cautious. Turns out not too many of the little Os of oats ever made it onto the laces. They ate them. I think the parents did a good job of safety patrol on that call.  What may have been more important for that age was the experience of developing the child’s senses, mostly touch and taste.

Okay, so what does this have to do with Creativity? Well, when it comes to preparing a project for others to participate in, test it. Finger painting with pudding is another fun idea, but I would be the first to lick my fingers. Really. So imagine health issues with that and save it for personal expression, not a  community arts & crafts project.

Even with non-food creativity, testing is important. Take Origami. There is no magic age that is Origami appropriate, I’ve seen third graders persistently tackle a crane with up to thirty folds and adults lose it making a paper cup with only four folds.  Maybe one on one or a small group experience would be better.

What I like about Cheerios, besides the taste and health benefits, are that they are empty circles inside solid circles, which I find fascinating. They are an introduction to design, simple as it is, they inspire more design.  If I thought more about it, which I have, I would have circles of all sizes cut out of colored paper ready to be arranged on a larger rectangle or square piece of paper.  They could be abstract (like bubbles floating randomly) or put together to represent something, like a caterpillar or butterfly. More lines could be added with marker. Just brainstorming here- but before I put it out for kids to “be creative with”, I would test it. How many ways can I arrange five circles, ten circles, twenty circles? How many colors or what sizes would I be likely to use? How many representational images can I think of that circles would be part of? I’ve made a list of at least five circle inspired things and my final choice is dandelions, before and after they go to seed. I need yellow circles and white circles and a green background.  I could use a marker to make loops for the yellow petals and straight lines crossing through the center of the white ones.  I’m confident my other ideas would work too.

Be inspired by Cheerios- either create something out of them like the little kids would (unless you too are tempted to eat them) or set a real grown up challenge.  Lay them out in an interesting composition (I would let mine float in the bowl of milk) and draw them on paper, shadows and all. Notice how the light reflects off the milk and bowl. Or let them spill randomly out of the box onto the table, how does that inspire a composition for drawing? I, for one, am happy that Cheerios were invented. It’s one of my favorite snack foods and I just might string some for a necklace to nibble on.


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