Harness the power of the sun and Connetix to create dazzling, sparkling reflections and refractions. Allow children to explore light, colour, transparency/opacity, rays, prisms and so much more all through play!
Children are natural scientists and engineers – they are explorative and creative, working out how the world works through their experiences. Through play, we can tune into children’s natural curiosities, and facilitate making explicit links in their enquiries and learning.
Playing with light is one of the first games children enjoy. After all, what is the game of peek-a-boo so beloved of infants but babies discovering that light transmits information? When the light is blocked (a hand covers a face) the photons of light transmitting the shape of that face are also blocked. Newborns experience these vanishings and reappearances as surprise because they haven’t yet grasped how seeing really works.
Older children are likely to enjoy more complex demonstrations of what light can do. By exploring this through Connetix play, you’re not necessarily trying to instil an intricate understanding of physics in your toddler. Instead, it is about the play and exploration opportunities. You’re simply giving them the experience of something universal and fun they can experiment with – light.
Two of the simplest behaviours of light you can demonstrate are reflection and refraction. Let’s refresh our physics knowledge and explore the different possibilities of the two phenomena.
Mirror, mirror on the wall! A reflection is the return of light or sound waves from a surface.
Children can explore reflections through play and everyday experiences – such as mirror or Connetix play. For example, you can demonstrate that mirrors reflect images because they bounce light, by literally demonstrating light bouncing! You can try this in a dimly lit room with a mirror and a torch, or even a window and sunbeam. Play a game where your child tries to follow or catch a reflected beam of light off a Connetix tile.
Connetix have a unique bevel design, and due to this, you will often notice reflections as light bounces off and creates dazzling, glittering patterns on the nearby floor/ walls.
Some ways to explore reflections with Connetix include:
- Pair your Connetix with Animal figurines. You can explore how the animal reflections can be seen in the tiles, and how the animals create shadows once light shines on them.
- Lay a mirror on the floor and build ontop of it with Connetix. The reflections create the most amazing illusions. This is a great activity to try outside too!
- Create a Connetix Wall by a window when the sun is shining. You will likely experience the light reflecting off one side (causing a shimmering, glittery effect around the room) PLUS refracting on the opposite side!
Refra-what? Refraction. This is a phenomenon that is often confused with reflections. But unlike a reflection where light bounces backwards – a refraction occurs when light passes through a medium (like Connetix!). When light moves from one medium to another (e.g., from air to water, or from water to glass), it changes speed and direction. When this occurs with Connetix, because the tiles are bevelled on both sides, as the light passes through the Connetix to the air, the path of the waves is bent and accompanied by a change in speed and wavelength. Once again, for early learners, the science of this occurrence isn’t particularly important. But I bet they will have lots of fun with the refractions Connetix can produce.
Due to the translucent, bevel design of Connetix, as light refracts through the tiles, it creates a bold, vibrant replica on the opposite side. Children can enjoy seeing the colours and exploring them in many ways. For example:
- Seeing the colours refract onto their skin and dancing in a rainbow of fun,
- Tracing the Connetix refractions while exploring colour and shape,
- Colour matching objects to the Connetix refractions.
The Benefits of Light Play
Allowing children to experiment with light and learn how it works can inspire them to think both creatively and intelligently about real-world phenomena – like reflections, shadows and rainbows!
Refraction demonstrations can make the idea of light as a moving particle or wave feel more real. Which is why Connetix are perfect for these explorations- the prismatic colours they create are so tangible (and fun to engage with!).
Exploring these concepts through play will also encourage deeper and more authentic understanding, encourage inquiry and creativity, alongside problem solving and flexible thinking skills. By utilizing simple STEAM toys like Connetix and household objects, it’s possible to set the stage for future curiosity – implanting the seeds of future learning in a fun and surprising way.