A cat, a volcano, or something else entirely?

In this mindfulness game, each person starts with a handful of materials, and each person takes a turn to put down one item at a time to create a collaborative piece of art while everyone stays as silent as possible. The end result is sometimes very abstract, sometimes a picture evolves, and sometimes it’s just a pile of whatever materials you are using.

This activity is suited for almost any age from older toddler and up. It helps you and your kids develop skills for staying in the present moment, noticing thoughts, letting go of your own story and expectations, and adapting to change.

For younger children, the physical action of grasping and placing small items helps develop the pincer grasp, and the gameplay helps build impulse control through taking turns and remaining quiet.

My favorite part of this, and in fact this is my favorite part of teaching mindfulness to my kids, is that it builds connection. It’s a simple and creative way to spend your one-on-one (or one-on-several) time with your kids.

Materials

5-10 pipe cleaners for each person (see variations below)
a flat surface

Sample Script

We are going to play the ‘stick art’ game.

I’m going to give each of us 5 pipe cleaners and we will then take turns placing one pipe cleaner at a time on the floor to create something together. (Distribute the pipe cleaners. Optional: model how the pipe cleaners can be bent and placed.)

We’re going to stay totally silent while we do this and see what we come up with when all of the pipe cleaners are gone.

I’ll start, and we’ll continue clockwise in the circle.

After the Game

Take a picture of your creation. Or just pick up the pieces, redistribute them, and start over. (For younger kids, you may want to limit it to 1-2 rounds.)

Discuss what happened and how it felt. Was there any point you thought it was going to become something different than it did? How did it feel to let go of your idea? Whose idea was this? Whose art is this?

Variations

Actual Sticks! Go outside. Everyone takes a bucket or bag of their own and fills it with natural art supplies: sticks, leaves, rocks, whatever they find. Meet up after a few minutes to create your artwork together on the ground.

Mindfulcraft! If your kids are into Minecraft like my oldest is, they’ll probably love the Minecraft adaptation of this exercise.  Load a new world in creative mode, and make it superflat so you have a nice even starting point. Then, take turns placing blocks to build something together.

Anything! You can use pipe cleaners, sticks, items from nature, scraps of paper, fabric, craft supplies, bits of playdough, or any small objects of varying shapes (or materials that can be molded into varying shapes). It would work with blocks, Legos, or other building toys. You could also do this activity with any art supplies: paint, sidewalk chalk, crayons, colored pencils, et cetera.

There is also a board game called Tag the Art Game (affiliate link). It involves less creativity, but still is a collaborative art game that can help with some of the same skills like taking turns, letting go of expectations and control, and adapting to change. It has a color-wheel spinner that determines the color for your turn, plus cards that you flip over for what to draw, paint, or collage and where on the paper it should be. This is not a fast-paced game like the stick art game can be, and it is best suited for older children. The manufacturer recommends it for ages 7 and up.

{This post contains affiliate links. Thank you.}