About Me

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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.

Sunday, January 20, 2013


Last week I wrote about an apparatus I call Vertical Boxes and Horizontal Tubes.

Instead of taking it apart after the first week---remember it took a bit longer to build---I left it up for a second week.  (I actually left it up for a third week, but I replaced the sand with corn to provide a different sensory experience.)  I did change the apparatus a bit, though.  I drilled holes in the boxes in various places and through the horizontal tubes.  And, I added loose parts in the form of pvc pipes, cardboard tubes, and plastic tubes.

Because the nature of the apparatus changed and loose parts were added, the nature of the children's exploration changed.  You get a glimpse of that change in the picture above in which the child is threading the pvc pipe through one of the holes in the box.

First, let's just look at some of the play fostered by holes. If we look at the picture above again, we can see the child investigating the hole with the pvc pipe.  Maybe it is like an explorer probing a hole with a tool?

In the video below, you can see how one child utilizes a hole for his own ends.  To set the stage, another child has poured corn on top of the box.  This child has decided he will get every last kernel through the hole.  The child is standing on a stool so he can reach the top of the box easily. Watch!

Sweeping the Corn in the Hole from Thomas Bedard on Vimeo.

At first he is able to use his hand to carefully sweep the kernels into the hole.  At some point, he decides that the best way to finish the job is to use his thumb and index finger in a pincher grip to get the final kernels through the hole.  There are two things to note.  First, that is a meticulous task for this two-year-old who has the patience to see it through.  Second, that pincher grip illustrates fine motor work that will serve him well when it is time to start writing.

Because we are a family program, we often have toddlers visit the pre-k room.  Even toddlers find the holes an irresistible draw to explore.

Second, let's look at what happens with the loose tubes and pipes.  Because of the variety of pipes and tubes that were provided, the children found many uses for those loose parts, most of which made sense in operational schemas that they created themselves.  Some of those schemas involve transporting and some of them involve other types of operations like connecting with each other, combining loose parts, and originating types of role play.

One child commandeered a large cardboard tube and set it up to transport sand from the box to the floor.  I really appreciated his ingenuity and told him so, but I suggested he put a pan at the end of the tube.
This is not as easy as it may appear because the tube is loose and moves when it is bumped.  He was pleased, though, that he could move the sand from the table down the tube.

Another child found a small, flexible tube that she used as a conduit to drop individual corn kernels into the tray in the table.  How much different could two types of transporting be?

The flexible tubes provided the opportunity for the children to weave the tubes through the holes.

And to place inside the cardboard tubes, which created the possibility to connect with a friend at a different spot at the table.

Another common action was to combine the various tubes.  In the photo below, the boy is inserting the stiff pvc pipe into a the black flexible tube.  

The sensory table is always a rich place for role play.  The two boys in the picture below decided to be firefighters.  They gathered the necessary accoutrements and used the pipe and tube to put out the fire.  

The apparatus provide unique and intriguing spaces for the children to physically explore.  More and more I am finding that the implements or loose parts also shape those explorations so the children create a myriad of operations that seems limitless.


  1. This is awesome and a great way to encourage discovery. I can use this for our summer theme, "Building Bridges."

    1. Thanks Jo Ann. Go for it. If you get a chance, I would love to see what develops.