Tuesday / April 23

Playing With Stones: 5 Steps to Meaningful Engagement

“Stones are a kinesthetic medium — never fixed in place or meaning: the ground is an endless canvas, and the hands that arrange the stones are the brushes that move them.”

11-18-16_suskind_pic-1What is Stonework Play?

Stonework Play is an open invitation to work with stones…

Stonework Play is a medium which promotes interaction with nature, harnessing nature’s power to enrich the imagination.

Stonework Play provides a distinctive opportunity for teachers and parents to engage with children in authentic, creative, natural activity.

The History of Stonework Play11-18-16_suskind_pic-2

Several years ago, I was invited to HEMS School in Kathmandu, Nepal, as an early childhood consultant. With limited resources (the children had only a pencil and paper to copy lessons), I was asked to craft developmentally appropriate, hands-on activities. One day, I found myself gazing at stones on the ground. I realized that, as movable, natural objects stones would be a perfect medium to inspire children’s creativity. Making use of a ready and free natural resource, I was able to provide HEMS children and staff with a much-needed opportunity for self-expression. Stonework Play was born!

Stonework Play encourages self-directed learning, teaches critical thinking skills, provides sustained involvement and purposeful effort, and allows meaningful engagement with nature (all aptitudes that have been promoted in recent educational journals as well as in popular media).

Teachers can enjoy Stonework Play with their students; parents with their children. Additionally, adults can participate with colleagues in Stonework Play as a team-building experience. You will be amazed at the power of stones. Start collecting your stones before the first snowfall, and experiment with them through the holidays and all winter long!

11-18-16_suskind_gatheringStep 1: Gathering

First, you need stones!

  • Collect your own stones, alone or with your family and friends
  • Select stones that interest you
  • Sort them
  • Find a flat surface to work on

Please take your time; there is no hurry…

Step 2: Constructing11-18-16_suskind_constructing-2

From an endless variety of stones, there is an infinite source of stories to create!     

  • Use the various shapes, weights and colors of stones to create your unique story
  • Work independently at your own pace

Please be quiet inside yourself…

Step 3: Rendering11-18-16_suskind_rendering

When you are happy with your stone construction, it is time to render.

  • Use a pencil to draw a representation of your stone construction
  • Pretend you are a camera and copy exactly what you see
  • (The technique of shading may be used to enhance your image)

Please remember to take your time…

Step 4: Narrating11-18-16_suskind_narrating

When finished rendering, it is time to narrate…

  • Write or dictate a story about your stone creation
  • Give your work a title
  • Taking your time is “Tarry Time”

Tarry Time is a term I coined to refer to the amount of silence between interactions. This silent space is fertile ground for creativity, and Stonework Play facilitates it. Further, silence is well known to be inspired by nature.

Step 5: Sharing11-18-16_suskind_sharing

When you are happy with your narration, it is time to share…

  • This part is called Museum Walk-and-Talk
  • Walk around the setting of Stonework Play silently
  • You will probably be surprised and touched by the dramatic differences
  • Personal sharing may be cathartic and encourage empathy

As a group gathers at one participant’s work, we listen silently as s/he shares his/her story. For serenity, we show appreciation by waving our hands in the air rather than clapping. The participant may also share his/her process, or how it made him/her feel.

Written by

Diana Suskind, Ed.D and RIE (Resources for Infant Educarers) Associate, is an international Early Childhood consultant and artist. She developed Stonework Play as an activity inspiring children and adults to create meaningful stories through contact with nature; something she passionately believes todays’ world needs. Diana initiated this activity at HEMS School in Kathmandu, Nepal, and has since introduced it throughout the United States, as well as in Europe and Central America. Dr. Suskind recently retired as an associate professor after 30 years of service in the Education Department at Fitchburg State University, Fitchburg, MA. For more information, see her website, Stonework Play on Facebook, and Getting Back to Nature on You Tube.

Latest comments

  • I particularly loved the video of the Nepalese children. They are so creative, adorable and the music played is great! That this developed out of their lack of materials and has become a valuable practice for all children and adults, is very impressive.

  • So engaging, easy to follow, and inspiring. Great photos, too! I wonder to what extent researchers have empirically studied the comparative benefits for children of three-dimensional representation using natural materials like stones and two-dimensional representation using writing materials like pencils, crayons. Stonework Play appears to be a worthwhile area of endeavor for practitioners to actively engage with children and researchers to investigate.

  • Look what Nepalese children doing with Stonework Play . I am so pleased

  • Hope you enjoyed this article and give Stonework Play a go.
    This might be a helpful clip from Chronicle T.V. sharing about Stonework Play
    Namaste, Diana

  • I’m so impressed by the simplicity, ingenuity and creativity of this thought provoking activity! You are a genius and everything you do is genuinely child centered and heartcentered!

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