Stackable re-usable paper or plastic cups are a favourite of mine to introduce into a space. They’re recognisable but novel; especially in large numbers or unexpected contexts. They’d be easy to dismiss but offer up endless possibilities. This play diary is made up of observations from various sessions where I’ve bought cups into the space. They vary from big groups on a school playground to small groups in a classroom to one to one sessions in all sorts of settings with all sorts of children and young people.
First there comes towers. Not always, but often. Build up knock down build up knock down.
For some that’s a perfect formula, they continue in one way until they’re done, alone or in groups, this might take two minutes it might take forty-five. For others the first tower is just launch point.
Build up knock down.
There are always more ways to build a tower. There are always more ways to knock it down. There’s every way you can get from one point to another and then there are ways that don’t care for those two points at all.
Sam keeps reminding herself to breathe and talking about how she can’t believe how much fun she’s having as she aims her tower for the ceiling.
Jamie doesn’t seek to build high, he builds wide; not towers but apartments and a public transport system.
Ethan doesn’t see a cup at all, he sees a new material to work with and fetches some scissors.
Jake is an all-powerful Crusher of Cups. We build a ‘crushing zone’ so his flavour of destruction can exist alongside his peers’ less permanent versions.
Zoe says she “knows what we’re meant to do!” but she soon forgets the “meants” of it all and lays on the ground looking at the sky through a cup telescope.
Cass is just not that interested at present.
Lou fills a cup with water, drops some bouncy balls in and spends the next ten minutes trying to seal it up. Eventually there is so much blue masking tape involved you can’t see the water or the balls. They’re pretty happy with their creation.
Finley creates a very complicated game, with very complicated rules which she explains excitedly at length.
For Rishi I’m his collaborator and competitor interchangeably; I hand him cups as he stands precariously on his tiptoes to build or I work to stack up cups quicker than he can knock them over.
Eagan holds up a stack and slowly s l o w l y lets one at a time fall through his hands onto the floor. He’s delighted by his level of control and the slow rhythmic drop.
How many cups can you balance on your body at once? What’s the sound of 100 cups falling in an empty hall? Did you know if you have enough cups in one stack you can wiggle them about like some kind of cup-worm?
To me cups are the perfect example of how, when it comes to creating opportunities for play, there is no such thing as ‘too simple’ or ‘not enough’. Also, in a push, they can actually be useful for drinking from!