Checkerboard Play

What You Need

  • Checkerboard
  • Small blocks and/or toy figures

What You Do

  1. Invite students to play in pairs with small toys, such as blocks or toy figures (animals, dinosaurs, people, etc.) on the surface of a checkerboard.
  2. Allow students to play in whatever way they choose and observe them to see how their play develops.
  3. You will likely observe that when students play on a checkerboard surface, they tend to organize and move the toys in a linear fashion.
  4. After they have had some time to develop their play scenarios, ask them to reflect on and discuss the experience. “How is playing on a checkerboard different from playing on a plain tabletop?”
  5. Write down the students’ reflections. Ask follow-up questions that challenge students to describe how they moved the toys from space to space. Was there a pattern? Were there rules?


Ann Gadzikowski is an author and educator with a passion for challenging children to think creatively and critically. Her recent book Robotics for Young Children won the 2018 Midwest Book Award for best educational book. Ann developed her expertise in robotics, computer science, and engineering through her work as early childhood coordinator for Northwestern University’s Center for Talent Development. She has over 25 years of experience as a teacher and director of early childhood programs, and currently serves as the Executive Director of Preschool of the Arts, a Reggio-Emilia inspired school in Madison, Wisconsin.

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