Sunday, February 21, 2016

Discoveries in Dark Water

I’ve always felt that sensory table play should have materials that suggest different purposeful things that children can do with them. Scooping, filling, and dumping is interesting at first, but once children master these skills and simple materials, they tend to get bored with water or sand play. Or, if they can’t easily find a goal oriented task with these materials, they sometimes create their own goals – which might not always be ones that the teacher is comfortable with.

 One material I like to add to water are objects that children can look for, sort, and gather. Any waterproof manipulatives that could be used on a table or other surface can be used in water. Coloring the water by adding watercolor paint provides a visual contrast, and if it’s dark enough, can provide the suggestion of hiding and finding objects in the water.

I colored the water a deep blue, and added large plastic buttons and counting bears. The colors provided a vivid contrast, and as an added bonus, the plastic buttons floated on the water.
The children gathered objects, sometimes naming the colors, or, in the case of the buttons, the shapes. Some tried to balance bears on floating buttons. One child noticed that blowing on the buttons pushed them across the water.

The next day I tried this with black water and different objects – thick poker chips and rocks. The children showed almost no interest in the rocks. The poker chips, like the large buttons, became objects to hide under the water, scoop out, and stack.

The conversation turned to how the different objects looked under the water, and what else we could hide in the water next time.

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