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Early childhood education has been my life for over 30 years. I have taught all age groups from infants to 5-year-olds. I was a director for five years in the 1980s, but I returned to the classroom 22 years ago. My passion is watching the ways children explore and discover their world. In the classroom, everything starts with the reciprocal relationships between adults and children and between the children themselves. With that in mind, I plan and set up activities. But that is just the beginning. What actually happens is a flow that includes my efforts to invite, respond and support children's interface with those activities and with others in the room. Oh yeh, and along the way, the children change the activities to suit their own inventiveness and creativity. Now the processes become reciprocal with the children doing the inviting, responding and supporting. Young children are the best learners and teachers. I am truly fortunate to be a part of their journey.

Saturday, March 3, 2012


At the end of the last post, I mentioned that the Trays in a Box apparatus became a large muscle apparatus for my youngest group.   Here is the apparatus.

In many ways, a child uses his whole body to explore and operate on the apparatus in the sensory table.  Below is a nice example of this.  The child starts at one end of the table and walks around almost the entire table to empty a cup with corn into the clear tube.  

Did you see from the very beginning that he is quite intentional---as if he had a plan---about walking around the table to empty one of the cups?  Does he need to walk around the table? Yes, because a child likes to use his whole body through space when he transports.  No, because as you saw, once he was at the tube, he found a pot within arms reach that he could empty into the tube.   Yes and no: How is that for a difinitive answer?

That was a fairly blase´ example of full-body exploration; I see children moving around the table to complete their operations all the time.  Here is an example of more adventuresome exploration.  In the video below, the child climbs up onto the lip of the table to deposit corn through a hole in the top of the box.  Watch.

For him, the act of putting corn in a hole at the top of the box is secondary to the physical challenge of stepping up from the stool onto the lip of the table.  If you watch closely, you will see he is a little unsure of himself as the apparatus shakes a bit as the child next to him climbs down. Also, he quickly comes down after grabbing a handful of corn from a tray and dropping it in the hole in the top of the box.  Though he may have been a little unsure of himself, he was still proud that he executed his full-body exploration.  He clearly announces his physical accomplishment when he says: " I'm standing way up here."

Another example of full-body exploration happened in the tub next to the table.  The tub was inviting enough to entice two children to climb right in.  Watch.

I did not see how it started; I only entered the area with the camera when they were well under way. In the tub, they noticed they could make noise by stomping the corn---and children do like to make noise.  They may also have enjoyed the feeling on their feet of the corn moving in and around their feet as they stomped down into it.  Their exuberance is palpable.  By the way, this started a cascade of children in and out of the tub for the rest of the period.

Finally, look at the pictures below that document one child's effort to explore the whole apparatus with her body.

Standing on the lip of the table.

Climbing onto the tray embedded in the box.  Now that's adventuresome!

From the table to the tub.

In the tub.

Climbing back out via the table.

Just in case you were wondering, the photos are in sequence.

There is a price to pay for so much exploration.

It would seem the operations of children transporting (Axiom #1 in the right hand column) encompass more than transferring the medium in, out of, through, and around the table.  They also include children transporting their bodies in, out of, through, and around the table.  


  1. You're sensory tables are very inspiring! I don't quite have that kind of room in my classroom, but am hoping to implement some of the ideas I've seen on your blog. Keep them coming!

    1. Thanks for your kind words. For the longest time, I had a small area for my sensory table (6' x 8'). And now that I think about it, that may be one of the unconscious reasons I began to expand the table vertically with apparatus.

  2. I love your tables too, keep it up. They give me a lot to think about.