Why the need for wrapping paper led me and the kids to verge on playing a round of exquisite corpse.

I’m blaming it all on my peers. Blaming and crediting, that is.

It’s hard not to serenade Joel and the editors of BIG magazine for assuming that kids play “exquisite corpse” on a regular basis. And hard not to love them for providing the impetus to surrealize the munchkins.

On this dreary December day, I decided to try out the art-play project on their website. The goal was to nurture unbridled creative play while abadoning any personal aesthetic that kept parents from “letting go enough” to meet kids in the space of their wildest imaginings. Thus entered their idea for a collaborative ocean.

I had four munchkins ready to reveal the ocean to me. So we chatted as I mixed the watercolor paints (and then diluted them with added water so they would last longer). We created greens, blues, turquoise, purples, and deep aquamarine blues. All was ready to converge…

As we explored the medium (in our case, craft paper), we drafted a conversation to map our journey. In this sort of play, words make a fantastic vehicle deeper into the fantastic. Conversation also promotes collaborative teamwork and co-visioning. I took note of the available conversation starters and improvised with a few of my own.

B.’s fish ventured in the deepest areas because she “didn’t wanna be scared”.

We also alternated between thick brushes and skinny brushes to emphasize the varying textures of the sea and the way sunlight causes it to sparkle or thicken.

Max’s self-identified fish was no less than a sleighback rado.

An ocean devoid of creatures would not stand with this crew, so they set about (at Max’s direction) creating their own signature fish- a fish that looked most like themselves as they imagined their fish selves to be.


Micah’s handsome, two-sided fish obscured by my lame photography.


Milla’s fish was a tiny golden minnow.


B.’s fish pulled up to chat with the minnow.


Two handsome ocean dwellers hanging out.

Joel and his friends at BIG offered three free big boats and characters to set out on a voyage across the ocean to visit different cities. In their words:

Alas, the ocean dwellers were far too involved in their fish games to entertain the prospect of bringing more creatures into the fold. Perhaps our collaborative ocean will expand to include human beings and their boats tomorrow… You just never know.

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