Exploring Concepts and Building Things

The focus during the first years of formal education, is to teach children basic concepts such as height and length. Worksheets are often designed to help teach identifying what is the same and what is different, and to determine which things that go together.

A concept is an abstract pattern in the brain that stands for some regular, recurrent aspect of the world. A mental representation, image or idea of tangible and concrete objects and intangible ideas and feelings. We can identify three different types of concepts – concrete, semi-concrete and abstract.

  • concrete – relate to objects or things that are tangible for example, a dog, or a book.
  • semi-concrete – actions, colours, positions or something that can be demonstrated but not held in your hands, for example, skipping, blue, and in front.
  • abstract concepts – time, relationship, social interactions, feelings and idioms, for example, in a minute, love, nervousness.

To invent something new, we can broaden a concept. This approach is used in the following exercise from the booklet Biomimicry for Young Children – Architecture and Design. Biomimicry or bioinspiration is a great way to encourage children to reflect upon what different concepts are and how you can change and challenge patterns to get new ideas.

Futuristic car

Cars are usually hard and metallic. Draw a futuristic car inspired by sea slugs. Or a banana slug. The car should be calm and soft. You can also use clay or play-doh and make a model of your car.


The task is designed to encourage children to think about what a car is and to change aspects of a car. Their invention will be something new and exciting, something car-ish. Something more alive and animal-like.We can make a new example inspired by observations of the natural world. If we think of a house and define what a house is, we might include some of the following ideas:

  • a house is a building
  • a house has ground floor and one or more upper storeys
  • it is made out of hard things, like bricks and wood
  • a house provides shelter
  • a house stands still
  • there are mobile houses on wheels

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