Seeing with your imagination:

Activity One: DaVinci's Doodles

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DaVinci's Doodles

To jump-start his brain, the great painter and inventor Leonardo DaVinci used to draw a simple shape, then imagine what he could make out of it.

My father taught me this game when I was a child. As a kid, one of the hardest things for me to do was to wait for concerts to start. And having a brother who was to become a professional musician meant many concerts. So my father used this game to keep me busy until the lights went down.

I’ve now shown this game to nearly 80,000 elementary students. It’s easy enough for even the youngest of them to jump right in.

Other pages in this article

main article
historical examples

Cloud shapes
Seeing double

• DaVinci's Doodles
What can it be?

How to play

It’s very simple. Just grab a pencil and a piece of paper and draw a simple squiggly shape. That starting doodle should be interesting without being too complicated. Here’s one I did for students at a school.

Now, let your child make something out of it. Encourage her to turn it around before beginning to draw. Remember, this game is about learning to see with one’s imagination. Turning it gives the mind’s eye different possibilities. Let me show you what the four children I chose from the audience did with this shape...

Just for fun, let me show you a few results I got when I gave this same shape to a group of adults.

Pretty creative, wouldn't you say? That last one is mine -- it's my take on a real beehive hairdo. These adults were all very artistic in nature.

But kids can be just as creative, if not more. Want to see what I mean? Take a gander at what this group of first graders did with a simple shape.

When I work with kids in writing workshops, I then use their doodles as the basis for characters to develop!

So, the game works both ways – you can start and your child finishes, or let them do a shape for you to complete. I suppose some of you are thinking, “Yes, but what if I’m not an artist?” It doesn’t matter. Children love their parents’ drawings no matter how polished they are. Your sense of adventure will encourage your child to try new ideas, too.

So, the next time you have some time to fill with your child – a concert, a doctor’s office, or before bed time – you’ll have something to keep your mind’s engaged. Just make sure you’ve brought some paper. And your imagination!

Bruce Van Patter

Ready for the next level of playing with doodles? Try Iggyfit.

all material ©2003 Bruce Van Patter