Primary Paint Exploration

Learning about color is a key part of childhood development. Being able to recognize colors, match them with their proper names, and understand how and why they exist are all extremely important skills for children to obtain. Because color plays such a large role in the world around us, and in art in particular, we believe it is important for children to fully understand where colors originate from and how to create them.

We recently focused on introducing primary colors to the children. They used cotton swabs to mix red, yellow and blue to create other colors like purple, orange and green. They were encouraged to explore how all of the colors worked together and separately. This gave the children a chance to practice color/word association.

By learning to create colors on their own, the children gained a sense of independence. Having the ability to expand their color set is important in matching the pace at which their imaginations and desires for creative expression are growing. 

This experience also allowed the children to explore the many different shapes that the cotton swab created. There are a lot of circles and lines in their work. Creating these types of shapes are fundamental for their motor skill development and understanding of geometry.

Artistic expression is one of many languages that we value within our curriculum. As a child’s understanding of color expands, their means of self-expression and resources for documenting the world from their perspective also expands.

Sugar Beet Popscicles

As a continuance of our classroom exploration of beets, the students recently engaged in a time of sensory play involving sugar beet juice popsicles. Sensory play is comprised of any activity that excites a child’s senses, encouraging them to engage in developmental processes as they play, satisfy their curiosities and express their imaginations.

In a PBS article, Danielle Steinberg explains the value of sensory play in childhood learning:  “Children (and adults) learn best and retain the most information when they engage their senses… By giving children the opportunity to investigate materials with no preconceived knowledge, you’re helping them develop and refine their cognitive, social and emotional, physical, creative and linguistic skillsets.”

Freezing the sugar beet juice into popsicles using ice cube trays allowed the children to gain a new perspective of the veggie while building upon many of the skillsets mentioned above. As the students interacted with their frozen treat, we posed several questions regarding its physical characteristics:

  • How does it feel (hot or cold)?
  • What color is it? 
  • Is it hard or soft?
  • What is happening to the popsicle when you play with it? Why is it changing shape?

Asking questions challenges children to solidify their thoughts and ideas. Discussing topics and hearing other’s explanations expands existing knowledge and ideas. These conversations are also important because they increase children’s communicative skills, as they practice adequately articulating their personal thoughts.

As the children used their senses to make observations, they were able to build upon their understanding of cause and effect, temperature and texture. The dark, rich coloring of the juice kept the children’s visual senses engaged, encouraging them to study it further. Using their sense of touch they noted the stark difference between the hard, cold popsicle and the warmer, squishier beet the children had previously encountered.

Another primary lesson the children took away from this exploration was the process of physical state change. Using their senses of sight and touch to observe the frozen cube melting into a warm, sticky juice allowed the students to better grasp this considerably challenging scientific concept.

We will continue to study the beets via different methods and in different environments. The more we explore and observe the food, the deeper an understanding we have about its characteristics.

Legos, Legos, LEGOS

This week, the children have been working with Legos. Legos are considered an open-ended material, meaning their transformational possibilities are nearly endless when a child’s creativity and imagination are applied. Because they have no pre-determined purpose or shape with a specific resemblance, they do not place parameters or limitations on what the child can create with them. Therefore, they make a perfect addition to a play-based and child-led environment.

We took the Legos to the light table, giving the children a different perspective of the blocks and allowing them to see how the presence of light impacts and intensifies color. Among the comments the students made, we heard them say that they were building “a truck” and “a train.” In the photos, you will notice the students lining up the Legos and stacking them to create different things.

Inside the classroom, the children shifted from their original technique of lining up the Legos to stacking them instead. In doing so, they explored factors like height and the physical, strategic process of stacking objects. The grasping, reaching and carefully placing involved in stacking and lining up the blocks engaged muscles in the children’s hands and arms, improving their fine motor skills.

During this time, we also sorted the colors and counted how many bricks were in front of the students. Some of the children even began counting the circles on top of the Legos. Sorting the blocks allowed the children to practice color recognition, classification and categorization. Counting the blocks reinforced mathematical skills such as number recognition and addition.

Along with the cognitive skills practiced in this activity, the children also built upon their social skills. They worked together as a team in conceptualizing and implementing the construction of their trucks, trains and other creations. In doing so, they learned to share resources and how to create one cohesive plan from the many thoughts and ideas of different-minded individuals.

Sound Exploration

The following collections of photos illustrate all of the different materials we recently used to investigate sound. Our curriculum is heavily based on the “hundred languages” of children, or the ways in which children can express their perception of the world around them. Music is one of those languages. We also focus on experiences that excite students’ senses (sound in this case).

Using water bottle ‘shakers’ filled with different materials, we were able to talk about “loud vs. quiet,” or sound level and dynamics. The introduction of musical instruments allowed students to hear thumping drum sounds, the tinkling noise of the chimes and the knocking sounds from the wooden sticks. The children particularly loved the plastic colored sticks, banging them together and using them to strike different materials inside and outside of the classroom.

Hands on explorations of music and sound are extremely valuable because they provide students with an emotional outlet and tools for self-expression. Along with studying sounds, this experience also allowed the children to apply mathematical skills like addition (counting each time they hit the colored sticks together). It also allowed them to take note of the interesting exteriors of the instruments (discussing the different colors of the sticks).

Mango Exploration

We recently introduced a new and exciting fruit to the classroom- Mango! The yellow fruit has sparked a great deal of interest in the students, launching many a conversation and opportunity for exploration.

After conducting investigations of the inside and outside of the mangos, the students began a yellow color exploration. Throughout the week, the children compared and matched other yellow objects that could be found in the room. A few of these materials were Legos, flowers, play dough and paint.

Conducting comparisons between objects is important because it encourages close attention to detail and engages problem-solving skills. Making simple comparisons between physical properties lays a solid foundation for discovering commonalities between more complex concepts in the future.

Students used the yellow paint to mimic the inside of the fruit. They used the paint in both the classroom and at the light table, allowing them to examine how different lighting impacts a color’s appearance. The play dough was useful for constructing models of the other yellow objects the children observed. Even the play dough containers were used!

Creating models of the items that the children compared required problem solving along with a great deal of imagination and creativity. Creating their own interpretations allowed them to exercise self-expression. Using their hands to shape play dough, control a paintbrush or work with small Lego pieces builds the children’s hand muscles, which enhances fine motor skills needed for future tasks like writing.

While working with play dough or paint may just seem like fun play to children, they are actually engaging in an important aspect of cognitive and behavioral development. Children use modeling as a way to learn about the world around them. Creating a flower out of play dough requires the child to carefully study the flower. As a result, they learn a great deal about its shape, color, texture etc. Modeling also increases an understanding of symbolism and the ability to make connections between two objects while remaining aware of their separate identities. 

The students also explored mangos with Ms. Gabby during a Think Tank session and as their Food as Language. These encounters allowed the children to use multiple senses while making their observations. They tasted the mango, took in its bright color and felt the textural differences of its various parts. This experience fostered relationship-building opportunities and a sense of community as the children communicated with one another regarding the fruit and worked together to squish it between their fingers.  

They had fun exploring the different parts of the mango: outside, inside and seeds.

Carrots and Broccoli

Gabby, our nutritionist, visits our class every week for our Think Tank session, which supports our curriculum with food. Healthy food like fruits and vegetables play an important role in our classroom because they teach us about the natural world, are interesting to learn about and come in all different shapes, sizes and colors. Not to mention they make a tasty snack.

During a recent Think Tank session we got to explore two interesting vegetables- carrots and broccoli. The children got to put all of their senses to use while investigating the vegetables. Some thoughts and questions that we came across about while exploring the food were:

  • How does it feel?
  • How many do we have?
  • How does it smell?
  • Different shapes and colors

The children made observations using their senses to compare and contrast the two vegetables. This process encourages valuable researching skills such as attention to detail and careful observation. The children enjoyed feeling the different textures of each vegetable and discussing how different they look. One of our favorite things to do was discuss color and smell!

Having a group discussion in which children can share their opinions and observations is important because it allows children to express their thoughts in an encouraging, supportive environment, gives them an opportunity to learn about their peers’ opinions and teaches them to respectfully agree or disagree. All of this is meaningful in building a child’s communication skills, personal relationships and self-confidence.

Along with increasing communication, observational and social skills, this experience also doubled as a math lesson. The children counted the different vegetables. They noted the different shapes and sizes of the vegetables, enhancing shape identification and measurement skills. Also, playing with new or different foods and learning about them in fun, interesting ways increases a child’s chances of enjoying the food more. The more acquainted they are to the food, the more likely they are to feel comfortable snacking on it later. 

A food encounter like this one is important because it allows children to freely explore and become acquainted with a food at their own pace, in their own way. You will notice in several of the photos that some of the children spent time smelling the food by pushing it onto their noses. There were also some children who chose to see if they could combine the two veggies, pushing the carrot into the top of the broccoli. The encounter is based upon each child’s personal interests. We encourage this because we believe that a child’s personal interests drive some of their best personal learning experiences. 

Dropper painting

Lately, we have been using droppers and paintbrushes to paint. Learning to use these tools has been a good challenge for the children. While the brushes and droppers both require fine motor skills, the droppers are especially difficult to master because the children have to carefully suck up and release the colored water and paint.

Activities that incorporate fine motor skills are important because they increase the strength and control of small hand muscles. Coordination and precision in these little muscles are required for children to accomplish daily tasks such as buttoning a shirt or eating dinner with utensils. Fine motor skill development is also important for children to accomplish more complicated tasks in the future such as writing.

Take a look at this link to learn more about the stages and value of fine motor skill development.

We constantly engage in conversation with the children as they participate in activities in order to promote communication and vocabulary. A couple of questions that we contemplated regarding our painting exploration included: 

  • What happens when we drop only a few versus many drops?
  • How much force is needed to suck up and release droplets?

This exploration incorporated some important mathematical and scientific learning aspects. By using the droppers the children learned about absorption and displacement of liquid. They discovered cause and effect as they squeezed and released the droppers. We also counted the drops as they cascaded onto the paper.  

Aside from serving as a wonderful learning opportunity, painting is also a fun way for children to freely express their creativity and transfer their ideas and imaginative concepts into something tangible that they can share with others.