Our pedagogue tells us about illegible books and toy games, designed by Bruno Munari to stimulate creativity and problem solving skills in children
Bruno Munari method
Bruno Munari is a famous designer, artist, experimenter who lived in the last century, whose contribution has been decisive in the history of design not only in Italy and worldwide. His 360 ‘thinking touched various aspects of human life and various fields of study, including education and pedagogy . With reference to them in particular, he carried out a reflection that is still extremely precious and current today, so much so that the term “Bruno Munari Method” has been coined and there are study courses and masters aimed at teaching and promoting it.
Particularly interesting is the reflection that Munari makes about the “material” that can be proposed to children and young people , in this sense also drawing inspiration from the thought of Maria Montessori and Piaget , to better accompany them in their learning process. His considerations are crucial even today to design proposals for our children that will stimulate them as much as possible in their creativity and problem solving skills. Two very significant examples of the characteristics of the playful-didactic material we offer to children are illegible books and toy games.
Illegible books and pre-books
The attention in a surprising way is not placed on the content or on the word written in the book, but on the book itself which becomes in itself an object capable of communicating. Its physical and tactile characteristics ensure that the child, only by seeing and touching the text, can receive communicative stimuli, messages, sensations … which are already communication in themselves: the book communicates independently of the printed words.
Then they become fundamental: the type of paper used, the format, the binding, the colors and the textures , the sequences of sheet shapes that are cut in different ways … Since these characteristics become more important than the written content and are themselves communication often these books are designed not to have a “fixed” beginning and / or end, but can be consulted and manipulated starting from any page, as the important thing is to be influenced and stimulated by the material with which one comes into contact. Reflecting on the characteristics of the child’s mind in the very first years of life, able to grasp the reality that surrounds them through ALL the senses, (not just sight and hearing)Munari thinks of books that can stimulate the child from all points of view, for their olfactory, sound, material, thermal, tactile qualities …
Designs the so-called Prelibri , which must necessarily be tiny because they are easy to handle by a child’s hands and which have the characteristic of having a logical sense regardless of the “direction” in which they are held: there is no fixed story, always equal to itself but depending on how the child uses the book it creates a sequence of different images , a different narrative and is therefore stimulated into a new thought. In this way the child gets used to thinking, imagining, fantasizing, in a word, being creative.
Such captivating and interesting books will have the great advantage of keeping the reader’s attention, or rather the experimenter, who will be continually surprised and intrigued by a story that does not exist a priori but which is built by himself depending on how he chooses to move and orient between the pages of the book: the child will not be a passive user but an active protagonist in the learning process.
In the same way, even the most strictly playful material with which the child or young person will come into contact, so that it can facilitate him in his imaginative and creative thinking, must in a certain sense be “open” to a thousand possibilities and solutions and therefore will not be a material. which can be used only and exclusively in a standard way and the same for everyone. The logic of toy production will therefore not be that of the market (we produce what the public wants and asks for) but that of promoting the child’s individual growth (we produce what is useful for him).
The aim is to accustom the child to an elastic, creative, changeable thought … The toy must be: – first of all captivating and stimulate the child’s curiosity;
- provide the child with as much information as possible through stimulations that affect all sensory channels.
- immediately clear and understandable both to the adult who proposes it (often it is the adult who struggles most in this because he is looking for the “instruction booklet”) and to the child to whom it is intended so that too many words are not necessary.
- be open to more possibilities, to more “creative solutions “ and therefore designed so that it can be used each time in a different way according to the child’s desire and will: the child tries and tries again, modifies, tries, assembles and disassembles and thus develops an elastic, dynamic and creative thinking (examples of this type of game are the lego, the meccano, or the Chinese tangram ..)
- it must be made with an “agile” material that is easy to assemble and disassemble, so that it does not slow down in a certain sense the creative flow of the child’s mind. Munari thinks that materials designed with these characteristics can benefit not only children but also adults: they too would need to train their minds, get out of preconceptions, experiment , and develop an elastic mind that stays young, does not age and that for once can learn from children.