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.

Saturday, February 22, 2014


For the past three weeks, I have had the same apparatus in the sensory table.  It is a combination of a wooden tray and clear plastic tubes and plastic channels set on an incline.

That is unusual because I usually change the apparatus weekly. Sometimes I will leave an apparatus up for two weeks, but then something would be added the second week to change the configuration.  Instead of changing the apparatus these past three weeks, I changed what was in the table and the accompanying provisions.

The first week was snow with scoops, containers and people for a Snow Park.  The second week was snow with paint and paint brushes for Painting Snow.  This past week, objects frozen in ice were added to the table.  In addition, wooden hammers, tongs, goggles and table knives were available on the shelves next to the table for the children to use.

One can make an interesting comparison between the different operations fostered by the different provisions on the same apparatus.  With just the snow, there was a lot of transporting of the snow with scoops and containers from one table to the other actually using the apparatus.  With the paint, the children did much less transporting and much more mixing of the snow and paint.  The wooden tray was used a lot, but the inclines were used as a painting surface.  With the ice, the apparatus seemed to take on even less significance.  What came to the fore were the physical operations to free objects from the ice.  Maybe the sheer physicality of the invitation trumps all other operations.

Watch as this child tries to free the dinosaur from a piece of ice.  Notice how much zest he puts into his swings with the hammer.

There must be a feeling of satisfaction to be able to break pieces of ice off a larger piece with force.  That is true for both boys and girls.  Maybe the guy in me appreciates an outlet for some constructive brute force.

I have done this activity every year for 20 years.  You can read some earlier posts herehere and here.  I remember as a child growing up in Minnesota finding things frozen in ice.  My friends and I would take to smashing the ice with sticks and rocks to free the objects. In a way, I am trying to recreate that same experience for the children in the classroom.  With little or no direction, the children understand the invitation.

A mother reported this year that her child asked to make "ice toys" at home.  He told her they needed goggles, knives, hammers and toys to freeze in ice.  The mom asked how do we do that. The boy told her to just look at teacher Tom's blog to find the instructions.  When there is transfer like this to home, I know the venture is worthwhile.   So go ahead, make some "ice toys" and let the children pound and chop away. 


  1. I think there is something that just drives children to discover what is inside of ice. Maybe it has something to do with our caveman history... I don't know! I just know that whenever I take children outdoors in the winter, they ALWAYS try to break apart the ice. This year we haven't gotten to play outdoors as much as usual, due to the extreme cold temperatures. So, I think it's a fabulous idea to bring the ice indoors!


    1. Thanks Jen. The drive is certainly there. I am always amazed at the ways they try to get at what is inside the ice. Some things they can tell easily and some things they really have to work at but they are usually up to the task.

  2. This was Adam's exact quote:

    Adam: I want to hammer toys out of blocks of ice like I did with Teacher Tom.
    Mom: Okay, let's look at Teacher Tom's blog for details on how to do that.
    It doesn't look like Teacher Tom has posted about it yet.
    Adam: Oh yes, I know he has! You just need to go to a different blog. It's called "hammering toys out of ice, dot com." Try that one.

    ;) We ended up doing this at home and had a blast. Your sensory table is always the highlight of Adam's week! Thanks for keeping up this blog. I love reading.


    1. Thanks Anne for filling in the details. It sounds better when you tell it.