Exploring Footprints

Lately our students have shown quite a bit of interest in the toy dinosaurs we have in our classroom. Our curriculum encourages forming provocations based upon student interests to achieve optimum levels of engagement and to satisfy their existing curiosity. In this exploration, we played off of their interest in dinosaurs by bringing out some of the toys and paints in a variety of colors.

Once the materials were made available, we stepped back and let the exploring begin! Pairing the new, exciting toys with a more familiar tool like paint allowed the children to have a fun, relaxed time of free-play and learning.

The children quickly began to dip the dinosaurs in the paint. They then placed the dinosaurs on the paper, creating footprints. Each dinosaur left a unique set of print marks, varying in shape and size. Eventually the footprints turned into whole sets of tracks, showcasing different colors and patterns on the paper.

Creating, observing and comparing different shapes, sizes and patterns are foundational concepts of mathematics and geometry. This activity also allowed the children to engage and build upon other skill sets ranging from color identification to interpersonal communication.

Not explicitly a team activity, the children were free to individually create and paint in accordance with their own imagination. However, sharing space, paint and tools allowed them to practice working side by side, fostering a comfortable environment for any desired relationship building or collaboration to take place.

Exploring different textures

Texture plays a large role in how we interact with and view the world on a daily basis. It can be observed through our senses of touch, sight and even sound. We recently spent time engaging our senses, and our inner artists, by exploring a variety of different textures using trace paper, glue, watercolors and flower petals.

The children dipped the trace paper and petals into a mixture of glue and watercolors and placed the materials on a larger sheet of paper to dry. Both the creation process and the final results abounded in discoveries about texture.

During the creation process, the children could note the thin, smooth textures of the trace paper and flower petals. As they dipped the materials into the mixture, they were greeted by new sticky and watery textures. They could also note the difference between the feelings of the trace paper before and after it was submerged in liquid as it transformed from a smooth, solid sheet into a mushy bunch.

Once the papers and petals were placed and dried, the final product looked very interesting. It had a three-dimensional aspect, with some areas appearing crinkled or rigid and others looking flat or round. This encouraged the children to make connections between visual and physical textures, noting that the areas that looked crinkled also felt rougher to the touch.

This tactile experience also allowed the children to practice their fine motor skills as they dipped, pushed and squished the different materials into the watercolor/glue mixture and onto the paper. Through this exploration the children were able to learn the important role that texture plays in art, both physically and visually, and how to create and change textures of different materials. 

Playing with our Colored Salt Shaker

A few weeks ago the children created paintings using ice-cream salt and watercolors. We collected the extra salt from their paintings, dried it and put it inside our clear fascinator boxes to create a new exploration. Once the children got their hands on the boxes, they immediately picked up on the percussive possibilities.

The children all shook the boxes around joyfully and banged them on the table. One child especially enjoyed shaking the box up and down with both hands while “singing” loudly. He shows exceptional interest in music and is always making a rhythm, dancing or being musical in class.

This experience primarily engaged the students’ sense of hearing. The children get in touch with their musical side, gathering an understanding of rhythm and volume. They learned about cause and effect, discovering that the harder and faster they shook their box, the louder and quicker the sound. This drew a connection between physical force, speed and the creation of rhythm.

You will notice in the videos that the children respond and react differently to the sounds of their peers shaking their boxes. Two of the children spent some time trading off, with on child shaking his box first, and another responding by shaking her box. The idea that communication can exist through music is shown through these interactions.

Ultimately, music and rhythm are important forms of emotional expression. The physical technique and force used when shaking the boxes can serve as an emotional and creative outlet. Shaking the boxes more rapidly and forcefully can exert more extreme emotions like excitement, joy or anger; where as shaking the boxes softly might provide a more soothing experience.

Playing with rhythm and sound is not only a fun experience, but also a great way to connect with oneself, interact with others and express emotion and creativity.

Scribble Time

In class, we regularly take time to draw with our markers or paint with a brush. These activities help develop fine motor skills and serve as a great way for us to track the progress of each child’s skill level, writing, and understanding of the concepts we are learning in class.

We highly prioritize tracking the children’s progress to ensure that their developmental needs are being met in a way that is interesting to them. We have noticed that each child has taken up their own methods and styles of drawing and painting in class.

One child has begun drawing loops and circles and has started to use a more comfortable, ergonomic hand position for drawing. Sometimes she will hold the pen with the teachers and write notes along side them. 

Another child translates his interest in percussion into his drawing. He often uses his marker as a drumstick, drawing dots while also making music at the table.  

Another child has mastered the back and forth motion of scribbling and is also very interested in the mechanism of putting the pen in the cap.

While free drawing and scribbling may not seem to have any special purpose, it actually serves as a wonderful creative and emotional outlet for young children. Providing children with a variety of mediums and colors allows them to freely express their thoughts and ideas, establishing a sense of ownership and independence.

Allowing a child to draw or paint in his or her own manner is not only beneficial to them, but also to their peers. In these types of free exploration, the children are able to learn from one another. They get to observe and compare different techniques and approaches that they might not think of otherwise, learning to respect and value the work of others. This instills a sense of camaraderie while affirming self worth. 


Painting with Oranges

We regularly incorporate painting into our weekly activities, allowing the children to interact with different paint colors, types, techniques and utensils to express themselves and make beautiful pictures. This week we got creative with our painting utensil and used oranges to make art.

To begin this exploration, we sliced the oranges into halves and gave the children red, yellow and orange paint. The children then dipped the oranges into the paint and “stamped” it onto the paper creating circles. Some of the children began to scoop the inside of the orange out and use the inside to paint with, while others squeezed the juice onto the paper to use as type of paint.

Painting plays an important role in our curriculum because it allows children to express themselves freely, exploring new concepts and documenting personal thoughts and ideas on paper. In this exploration, each child was able to freely determine what technique they wanted to adopt in this orange painting experience, allowing them to explore at their own pace and satisfy their personal curiosities. This builds self-confidence and a positive connotation towards being adventurous and trying new things.

Incorporating an uncommon tool (like an orange) into a common activity is valuable because it challenges the children to jump out of their comfort zone, reevaluate their perceptions of the world around them and practice problem solving. In this activity, the children were able to take an item that they usually associate with snack time and learn to use it as a tool. Working with the oranges to create the desired images, textures and colors encouraged the children to think outside the box and learn through trial and error.

Along with strengthening cognitive skills, this hands-on exploration also built upon fine motor skills. Actions involved in squeezing the juice, cleaning out the inside of the fruit, applying various levels of pressure while “stamping” and reaching to different points of the paper all strengthened the muscles in the children’s fingers, hands and arms.

Interacting with ordinary objects in unordinary ways shows children that things are not always what they seem. When imagination and creativity are applied, children are more engaged. With this spark of interest comes more attention to detail, allowing the children to notice characteristics of the item that they might not pick up on otherwise when their primary focus is getting the fruit from their plate to their stomach.

Observing Oranges on the Light Table

“Don’t play with your food!” is a common phrase directed at children. Typically, children are given food with one purpose: to eat it. However, our philosophy supports quite the opposite. We believe in allowing time for children to explore the food, experience it using all of their senses, grasp where it comes from and eventually learn to prepare it.

This week, the star of our food exploration was the orange. We brought whole and sliced oranges for the children to interact with. The children held the whole oranges, taking note of the fruit’s characteristics in its most natural state. The slices of oranges were placed on the light table for the children to investigate, allowing them to take a closer look at the inner workings of the fruit.

As the children interacted with the fruit in its different forms, we talked about:

  • Color
  • Smell
  • Texture
  • The name of the fruit
  • How many there were
  • How to prepare and cut it to eat

Allowing children to have this kind of exploration time with food opens the door to a variety of learning experiences. Mathematics was involved as the children counted the produce and number of slices. Practicing the name of the fruit enhanced communication skills, broadening vocabulary and word/object association.

In learning more about the fruit’s properties the children gain a higher level of comfort with the food and are more likely to give it a try and enjoy it. In learning to prepare it, the children obtain a sense of independence and accomplishment.

By engaging all of their senses, rather than taste alone, the children gained a deeper understanding of the fruit. As this happens, children learn to view food as something more than a snack. It becomes a learning mechanism, a source of artistic inspiration and a new way to look at and experience the natural world around them.