Symmetry has baffled and amazed scientists, mathematicians, architects, philosophers, and physicists for hundreds of years. Symmetrical designs are pleasing to the eye and are known to have documented effects on our emotions and perceptions. Interior designers rely heavily upon symmetry. Symmetry is apparent in the natural world around us. Many have noticed the strikingly beautiful designs of natural objects like butterflies, snowflakes, romanesco broccoli, honeycomb, sunflowers peacock feathers, spiderwebs, and our very own Milky Way galaxy.
The Golden Ratio is one symmetric pattern and mathematical ratio is seen throughout nature at small and large scales.
For example, the symmetrical pattern of our Milky Way galaxy can be seen in seashells.
“Astronomers now believe that the galaxy is a near-perfect mirror image of itself…In addition to having mirror symmetry, the Milky Way has another incredible design—similar to a nautilus shells and sunflowers—whereby each ‘arm’of the galaxy represents a logarithmic spiral beginning at the center of the galaxy and expanding outwards.”—S. Grant
This photo of the Taj Mahal in India demonstrates the beautiful symmetry architects and engineers used to create an aesthetically pleasing building. Throughout India's most celebrated architectural achievement there are countless examples of symmetry in use.
The ancient Chinese art of feng shui is predicated upon symmetry and has been practiced for over 3,000 years. Those who believe in the effects of feng shui claim balance is essential and when used correctly, will produce a balanced chi energy.
Leonardo da Vinci and the many artists, architects and designers before/after him have used symmetry and the Golden Ratio to create visually pleasing masterpieces. Symmetry can be found in columns, pillars, windows, staircases, and the overall design of their buildings. Symmetry has played an invaluable role in the creation of art, sculpture, monuments, and architectural designs. Research suggests that by using symmetry, architects can create a variety of shapes that range from pentagrams to icosahedrons (which have 30 points). Studies show that humans inherently gravitate toward symmetrical objects.
What does all of this talk about symmetry mean for childhood education and children’s toys? Learning about symmetrical properties in nature and architecture will improve cognitive development and help children better understand the world around them. Symmetry can easily be taught to children of all ages by allowing them to build creative structures with toys, paper, cardboard and paint. Challenge children to build symmetrical and asymmetrical structures with their toys, enabling them to experience open-ended play and educational learning at the same time!