One of the things that fascinates me the most when I observe children’s play is their ability to transform everyday objects into countless other things. Many times they are not even concrete materials but pieces of paper, cardboard, things that we are going to throw away …

What is it that leads them to do this process? How do you get inspired from an object?

The truth is that very little is enough to make that connection. Sometimes the shape of the material, its size, its color … is enough to associate the material with some other idea and object and transform it in your mind into what you need for your game.

This is a process that adults often find it difficult to do and that sometimes we even discourage children from doing it … Why can they imagine that a box is a car? How can you transform a cork stopper into a doll? Is it absurd that they see a telephone in a stone?

And in all these examples I am referring to imagining that the material is something else, without more, without any customization process of the object (without painting a face, or adding wheels, etc.).


This process occurs thanks to divergent thinking. Children do not always think in a logical and sequential way (first this, then that other…) but in their minds they exploit a multitude of ideas, a multitude of possible solutions to each circumstance, a multitude of uses for each thing.

This way of acting and inspiring should be protected and respected because it is an extraordinary quality to find multiple answers to life situations, to promote creativity … And also it does not collide or is contrary to a more logical and analytical thinking. You can go from the explosion of ideas to organizing them, prioritizing those that will be most successful.

And for all this richness to develop and be visible… we first observe it in children’s play. Transforming objects without stopping, imagining that they are multiple different things … Sometimes they even use their own body to recreate scenes and scenarios (gesturing with their hands, their body).

And all this that seems like a game … it is, that and much more. When the mind is thinking of alternatives, new uses, different creative possibilities for the same material … it is working on divergent thinking and generating new neural pathways.

If we respect that way of thinking of children, we will observe how they will be skillful looking for alternatives and different solutions to what day to day and life is facing them.

Earthman used a stool, cushions, a mattress, and Mamielo’s seesaw to create mountains. He was a mountaineer who crossed from one side to the other, either climbing or sliding down the slope … You don’t know what he enjoyed with that creation that came 100% from his imagination. And note that it even leads to the hiking backpack!



The object’s ability to transform is a sign of creativity and intelligence, at the service of autonomy (Beatriz Trueba).

What is meant by that? That the child gives new functions to objects according to their needs and interests and this is at the service of autonomy to the extent that the child, by supplying what is available to him, satisfies his needs (in this case, play but we could well think of other scenarios).

By transforming objects the child is more autonomous, he does not have to ask us for every literal object he needs to recreate his scenarios, but he does it by himself.

This is a factor of autonomy, linked, of course, to other aspects such as creativity or imagination.

Earthman playing an electric piano. He used Mamielo’s rocker as the base, placed the cushions on top, as keys, and the central cushion a speaker.


When children transform objects to turn them into what they need, they are not only being more autonomous but also exerting greater control over their play, both in their chosen interests and in the detail of the game.

When children can transform the materials in their environment they move away from adult impositions that are not only reflected in different orders or suggestions of play but also through the toys offered .

In this way, we can say that the transformation of objects enables a much freer game.


The more transformable the materials that surround the child are, the better he can express his inner life and his previous experiences (I mean that game). Because children, surely you have noticed, that a few hours or a few days after an experience that has impacted them, they tend to reproduce it in the game.

It is very common that everyday toys are not exactly suited to what the child needs to digest and reproduce in play. And for this he uses any material at his fingertips that allows him to reflect and digest whatever experience it is.

In this way, the transformation of the object makes it possible to capture and integrate the experience that needs to be digested.

We recently did construction work and a plumber came to do some electrical changes at home. After a few days, the little one assembles this plant for us … The hangers were extension cords and switches, the fabric yarns were the cables, the rocker was the switchboard and the power source where everything was plugged in.

To illustrate all this I am showing you some images with the same material, Mamielo’s seesaw , so that you can observe how they transform objects over and over again, according to their needs.

The seesaw (or semicircle) is a material that I fell in love with as soon as I saw it and we have long wanted to try it at home. It has been a long time since it came to us and I thought that its main use would be to swing, slide down the bridge if it is placed upside down or crawl through it … In any case, activities related to movement, coordination and balance.

To my surprise … after a couple of days of using it to climb or balance … the seesaw has been a structure that has given a lot of play, never better said, far beyond its most obvious use.

Observing the number of times it has been transformed into different things (car, power station, mountains, a store …) is what has led me to dwell a little more on all these aspects of the transformation of objects.


The first thing to say is that it depends on age.

Many times when I give play workshops, moms and dads tell me with anguish that their children do not play this pure symbolic game of transformation of things … And I always ask the age, because the little ones before doing this step are in a very literal game or imitative. They are not able to give new meaning to things and what they do is imitate us 100%.

For this reason, it is recommended that in the first years they have at their disposal materials that easily remind them of the life around them. A rubble, a mop, fruits, first pots, tools, cars, etc.

I am referring to a very early stage, especially up to 2 years, even 3.

From the age of 3 they begin to be able to make this abstraction in a much more common way and they begin to give different meanings to the elements of their environment. Of course, before that age they do it from time to time, with some things, progressively …

And it should be remembered that each child is a world and there are those who do it before, others later, others more frequently … But more or less I observe that at 3 they begin to do it regularly and at 4 they are fully immersed in that process.

Mamielo’s semicircle transforming into a counter. And if you look at it… what he has in his hand is a piece of wood to which he placed a wooden block (the antenna) and he always uses it as a telephone.


From my own feeling and experience, it is not necessary to go around encouraging children to transform things in play. It is usually a process that occurs spontaneously when children are at this maturational level .

So, as mothers and fathers, we should not be “exemplifying” how to do it, but rather ensure that they have sufficiently open and vague materials at their disposal so that they, inspired by some detail of the object, begin to imagine and transform .

Classic and highly defined toys are unidirectional, they usually mark the game. On the other hand, when they have a multitude of unstructured materials at their fingertips, they can have one more game to suit their interests and desires and also develop the generation of new ideas and unconventional proposals, thus observing extraordinary creations. It’s worth it, right?

I wanted to illustrate this article with Mamielo’s semicircle because of the variety of play it gives but also because we generally think of unstructured elements of much smaller size, but the reality is that large elements such as the seesaw, a wooden table, a stool , a chair … they can give a lot of play too and lend themselves to being transformed over and over again, as the child needs.