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January 21, 2014

Sensory Experiences Beyond the Bin

teacher blog postIs your Rice Bin or Sensory Center buzzing with activity, or is it simply a brief stopping point for children to poke around in before moving on to other areas of the classroom?

We know that young children are oriented toward sensory experiences. From birth, children have learned about the world by touching, tasting, smelling, seeing and hearing. Sensory play plays a key role in brain development – stimulating the senses and sending signals to the brain that strengthen neural pathways important for all types of learning.

Sometimes, we can breathe new life into these areas by thinking outside of the bin. Tom Bedard, an early childhood teacher in St. Paul, MN attached cardboard boxes, rubber bands, cardboard and PVC tubes to his tables in various ways to create multiple levels, ramps, chutes, and tunnels. He shares his construction tips, pictures, and thoughts on his blog here: http://tomsensori.blogspot.com/

Our curriculum encourages creativity, student input, and is gearing more toward more multi-step processes and open-ended thinking. In the sensory center, in particular, the ‘flour piping’ activity, is a good example of focusing on the process of creating with the children; there are no measurements for a reason. This activity gives children a hands-on platform to exercise their thinking. “What will happen if we add a little water to this big pile of flour you just scooped? How about a little more water?  How has the mixtures changed?” This is just the beginning.

The predicting, discussing, experimenting, and thinking continues as students scoop and pour the material into their own piping bags, squish in some color, and watch as the mixture oozes out into interesting designs all over their paper. Then, they can make tracks with craft sticks, smash it around and make prints with their hands, sprinkle on some glitter or other art cart material, make a print by putting another piece of paper on top, or even scoop it all up into a container and pour it out again. The experience continues to morph and extend over and over with engaging discussion, open ended questioning and ample time to play.  By setting up your environment with opportunities for discovery, children become the driving force of their own learning.

*As a reminder –please refrain from using plastic baggies or glitter with children under 3. Empty squeeze bottles (such as condiment bottles) are a good substitute for the baggies.

Contributed by Jennifer Horner, Education Specialist at www.doodlebugs.com