Strewing

The Art of Strewing

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The Art of Strewing

Do you strew?

This post contains affiliate links.If not, I’m going to encourage you to give strewing a try this week.

I first learned about strewing when I interviewed Kristen Marra of Pepper Paints years ago and have practiced it myself ever since. I included a section on strewing in The Artful Parent book (pages 23-26) and have probably mentioned strewing in passing on the blog from time to time, but decided that it was long past time for a proper post.

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First, though, what does this funny word mean?

Strewing is the art of casually yet strategically leaving “invitations” for learning and creativity out for your kids to discover on their own.

NOTE: Strewing is not about adding to the clutter. It’s about creating subtle but irresistible invitations. Product placement if you will. Strewing works best, in fact, in an uncluttered space.

This is not about, “hey kids, let’s do a project!” Or, “I brought home a new library book; read it.” Although there’s a time and place for those.

Playing with Magnet Sticks on the Fridge

Strewing is more about helping your kids explore and play and create on their own. It’s about introducing or reintroducing materials, books, concepts, in a non-pushy way that lets them own the experience and gives them the thrill of discovery.

In fact, think hands off… Do your own thing and ignore him (or pretend to ignore… you’ll definitely keep tabs if he’s young… use your own judgement.)

So, what and where to strew? Here are some ideas:

Remember, think simple invitations rather than, “here’s a project.” And if the strewed items are in a place they wouldn’t expect them, they’re more likely to *see* them.

Books for Strewing and Exploring

Books pictured from top left: Comics Squad: Recess!, The Big Orange Splot, On My Beach There are Many Pebbles, Beautiful Oops!

Books (opened to a page on the sofa, bed, or table) ::

  1. A new graphic novel on the sofa
  2. A wordless book (for pre-readers and early readers)
  3. A touchy-feely book (for toddlers)
  4. A big grown-up photography book about elephants or sea life or construction

Building with Magnetic Shapes

Construction ::

  1. A basket of blocks or magnet tiles in the middle of the floor
  2. A container of toothpicks and a bowl of grapes (or marshmallows, blueberries, cheese cubes, styrofoam pieces, etc)
  3. A basket of straw builders and some playsilks

Drawing Inspired by Mustache Stickers

Art ::

  1. Set a sketchbook open to a fresh page, with some markers and a sheet or two of hole reinforcement stickers
  2. Get out the playdough, pipe cleaners, and googly eyes.
  3. Put a fresh sheet of paper on the easel along with paints or collage items
  4. Set out a challenge paper and pen or stickers

Strewing with Nature

Nature ::

  1. Set some nature finds on the table or in a basket
  2. Leave a pair of binoculars and a bird guide on the windowsill
  3. Set up a microscope near the nature table

Toy Cash RegisterToys ::

  1. Set out a couple of matchbox cars, tape, and cardboard tubes
  2. Line up some animal figurines along the edge of a table
  3. Bring out a toy cash register and pretend money

The idea is to choose ideas, materials, and books that will inspire your kids’ imagination, creativity, play, curiosity.

Some of your strewing ideas may be ignored, but you know your children and their changing interests and abilities best; work with that knowledge.

I also tend to strew with items that the kids can do or use on their own without too much supervision (you can watch out of the corner of your eye) or mess (I wouldn’t consider shaving cream art to be a good contender for strewing, for example).

You Choose book by Nick Sharratt and Pippa Goodhart

The Art of StrewingBook pictured above :: You Choose by Pippa Goodhart and Nick Sharratt

Ready for your assignment?

Give strewing a try.

Right now, while it’s fresh in your mind.

Set out something or a few somethings that you think will spark your child’s interest. And then go about your day.

I’d love to hear how it goes for you!

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13 Comments

  • Reply
    Dena
    October 6, 2014 at 11:59 am

    Wonderful ideas!!! And I love seeing the big orange spot being featured! That’s such a favorite of mine. Thank you for blog posts that really get me thinking!

    • Reply
      Jean Van't Hul
      October 6, 2014 at 1:19 pm

      You’re so welcome, Dena! And that book is just awesome, isn’t it?!

  • Reply
    Barb
    October 6, 2014 at 8:44 pm

    I had never heard the term ‘strewing’ but it sounds just like the Reggio Emilia notion of ‘invitations’ or ‘provocations’ or ‘explorations’. If strewing is appealing to people, you may want to check out Reggio Emilia! Here’s a website that does a nice job of describing this approach to early childhood education (but which can be applied to older children as well, in my experience)
    Also, if you search Reggio Emilia invitations on pinterest, a whole bunch of ideas come up.

  • Reply
    Laurie
    October 6, 2014 at 10:42 pm

    Each post is interesting and insightful. Thank you for sharing!

  • Reply
    Emma
    October 8, 2014 at 6:59 am

    Thanks so much for this post!! I first learnt of strewing from your book & practice it often :) it’s wonderful in so many ways!

  • Reply
    Karen Kart
    October 12, 2014 at 8:28 am

    Hi Jean,
    I loved learning about “strewing”. I’ve seen this organically with my own kids, (8,6, and 4) when we clean up a space and then their creative juices get invigorated by finding a newness with their old toys. Such a great idea!
    Karen Kart

  • Reply
    mariam
    October 25, 2014 at 9:20 pm

    Ive never “strewn”! (atleast not intentionally) but im interested to try. How would you or any or any of your readers suggest i pique the interest of an 8 year old boy. they seem a different specie than toddler/girls.

  • Reply
    Johanna
    October 27, 2014 at 3:44 am

    I love the idea ! I’ve probably strewn without knowing it since my son is a few months old as I put books I every rooms (or nearly). I’ve never realised anything until my mum pointed it out one day: “it’s so great how William has access to books everywhere in the house!” He was 18months old at the time but now he is 4, I still leave children books everywhere and I find him at list once a day quietly “reading”. I’ll try with other things :-))

    • Reply
      Lauren
      November 10, 2014 at 8:15 pm

      I did this too, my son is nearly finished his first year of school and reads all the time!
      Must do more screwing :)

      • Reply
        Lauren
        November 10, 2014 at 8:15 pm

        Oops. Strewing!! Dam autocorrect!

  • Reply
    Brooke
    January 11, 2015 at 8:50 am

    I love strewing one of my top homeschooling techniques! Great post.

  • Reply
    Kathy
    March 30, 2015 at 6:59 pm

    Invitations to play, been there and still doing it!

  • Reply
    Marcia Simonds
    May 28, 2015 at 8:35 am

    I first learned of strewing when my teens were very young from Sandra Dodd Sandradodd.com/strewing

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