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Learning with the Lite-Brite

Who here had a Lite-Brite when they were kids? Nope, not me! It was the one toy that I remember asking for over consecutive birthdays and Christmases that I never received. And now, many many years later, I still want a Lite-Brite. Lucky for me, I work at the IMA and we have a 7 x 5 foot Lite-Brite in our Star Studio! Though it was built with 3 to 6-year-olds in mind, you might just find me hanging with the little ones creating colorful compositions using neon acrylic pegs.

Image from:

Image from:

But why does the IMA have a giant Lite-Brite at all? Well, it turns out that there are many educational components, beginning with imaginative play. As many early childhood studies have shown, play-based learning enhances the cognitive, physical, social, and emotional development in early childhood. And … BONUS … play is an ideal opportunity for grow- ups to engage with their children. The purpose of the Lite-Brite, first made by Hasbro in 1967, is to create images using colored pegs. But Hasbro was not the first to come up with the concept of making pictures using colored dots. The term “pointillism” first came about in the 1880s, when artists like Georges Seurat began to make large-scale paintings using small colored dots of paint. The IMA has a couple of good examples of pointillism — Georges Seurat’s The Channel of Gravelines, Petit Fort Philippe, and Alfred William Finch’s The Road to Nieuport.

But it turns out that the concept of pointillism has been around even longer. Think mosaics. The earliest known mosaics have been dated to 3000 BC! And mosaics use colored stone, glass, shells or the like to create large, and sometimes quite elaborate, works of art.

lite_brite_07_loAnd in the 21st century, dots are everywhere! You are reading this on your computer or some other sort of digital device that produces words, pictures and graphics using pixels. Pixels are just little colored dots of light that, when arranged in a particular order, make an image. Which brings us back to the Lite-Brite … now ready for play and learning in the Star Studio on Floor 2.

Filed under: Art, Education

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