Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Water Explorations

 Working with two- and three-year-olds is an excellent reminder that the simplest materials are also often the most interesting, versatile, and stimulating.  Water is one of our favorite materials in Cohort 7+9.  Water is familiar and accessible, and yet it has so much to teach us and offers so many different ways to play.

The children have always loved playing with water outside.  Usually one of the first things we hear when we get out into the yard is "Can we fill the basin?!"  Pouring, scooping, splashing, and dumping; working with small and large quantities of water; mixing water with cornstarch, flour, salt, and other materials; we have found many different ways to play with water outside.

Inside, water has been used frequently in our art, as a vital ingredient in watercolor paint and as a component in our work with watercolor pencils, water-soluble crayons, and other blend-able art mediums.

Lately I had been searching for ways to bring water to the table for sensory play.  The children have   an ongoing fascination with natural materials, and particularly an appreciation for their sensory properties.  We have spent long minutes feeling smooth stones, rough stems, and soft leaves and petals.  I was interested in bringing water into this careful and focused sensory work.

One afternoon as we gathered at the table after nap, I took out a collection of smooth river rocks.  I offered each child at the table a small amount of the stones on a dish, along with a paintbrush and some water in a little bowl.

For several minutes, the table was quiet, as each child looked over the materials and decided how they could be enjoyed together.  I noticed CC experimenting with dumping the water back and forth from her bowl into her plate and back again.  She smiled as she got a new idea, and then filled the tiny bowl with all of her stones.  NA ignored the stones altogether and spent time gently tapping water from her paintbrush onto the cloth covering the table, noticing how the wet spots made the cloth a different color.  LT soon brought some imagination into her play: she began mixing the stones in her bowl with her paintbrush, announcing that she was making pancakes for everyone!  LP stacked her plate on top of her bowl and then carefully placed stones on the top, saying "Look what I'm doing.  I call it a tower.  Look it!"  LS quietly experimented with her materials in different combinations.

With such simple materials, many different forms of play emerge, using creative and fine motor skills, experimenting with balance, cause and effect, and storytelling.  No instructions or suggestions were needed, just simple materials, and space and time to experiment.