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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 15, 2014


The last two posts were Building a Strong Box Tower and The Box Tower as an Invitation to Play. This past November, I built another box tower and outfitted it with dinosaurs and Jurassic Sand. It was actually two box towers connected by a "bridging box."
Box tower 1 is in the blue table.  It is made of three boxes, one on top of the other.  Building of this tower is the same as that of a previous tower that was built in 2011 called Dinosaur Mountain. The second tower is a tall box embedded in a shorter box much like the Strong Box Tower. The bridging box is a long rectangular box set horizontally and forms a tunnel between the two towers. The bridge has holes on top and on each side.  One end rests on the tower in the blue table; the other end is embedded in tower 2.

Here is a view from the other side of the apparatus.  As you can see, there are plenty of holes on all different levels.

This apparatus is called Dinosaur Towers because, besides loose parts like rocks and sticks, dinosaurs were provided as part of the provisions.

Like any good apparatus with holes, everything gets put in the top hole and falls into a pile on the bottom.

Instead of highlighting the play with the dinosaurs or the holes or even the bridge, I would like to highlight a feature of the apparatus that can be easily overlooked: the ledges created by the boxes stacked on top of one another.

Here is a picture that shows the multiple ledges created by this apparatus.  The tops of each of the towers and the bridge can also be considered top ledges.

Children find these ledges and take advantage of them to form their many and varied operations. Let me highlight just a few.

In the case of the dinosaur towers, the ledges create narrow platforms on which the dinosaurs tangle.

A ledge can also be a place on which a child can set his cup as he attempts to step onto the lip of the table so he can pour sand through the top hole of the dinosaur tower.
In fact, I am curious how this child would have managed this operation without the ledge.

The ledge also turns out to be an inviting place to put the sand.  A child does not always need to transport into a container; sometimes a ledge works just fine.
Do you notice the trail of fingers on the lower ledge where a child or two have brushed the sand from that ledge.

That is a nice segue to the next picture.  Below you see a child brushing the sand off a ledge with her hand.
Notice that the child is reaching through two holes to brush the sand off the edge.  That is noteworthy because for her to complete this operation she has to know where her arm is even though she can't see all of it.  It sounds simple to us, but she is working on her proprioception. Doesn't that sound impressive?

There is one more ledge operation to highlight and it is similar to the one above except this one uses a tool: a little broom.

Sand cascade from Thomas Bedard on Vimeo.

There are two aspects of this operation that are significant.  The first is that the child is able to create a cascade of sand  as he brushes the sand from one level to the next.  Second, he shows an amazing amount of broom control so not much sand---if any---falls on the floor.

I have long contended that children will find all available spaces in and around an apparatus.  I have overlooked ledges far too long.  Not any more.  I can now see they are important spaces for the children and their operations and will dismiss them no more.


  1. Fascinating structure as always. I fantasize myself jumping into the picture to play:) So interesting you mentioned the proprioceptive aspect of the play. A a special ed. teacher, I work with children who have sensory integration difficulties and I know that they would benefit so much from this kind of activity, and they would totally love it! Will refer this to the teachers with whom I work.

    1. Thanks Eileen. Their are so many operations we as adults take for granted that we do not always appreciate the work the children are doing. As a consequence, we do not always set up the environment in ways that foster and promote such things as proprioception or even trunk extension.

    2. I totally agree. Will make me more conscious from now on as I create games with and for children to experiment will. Thanks again.
      Just wondering, do you ever come to NYC to give workshops?

    3. I am still a teacher in the classroom everyday for the school year. I do workshops all over when my schedule allows. I have spring break in two weeks so I will be traveling to southern Minnesota for a workshop and for summer break I will be in the UK for three weeks doing presentations and workshops. If you are interested in something contact me through email at tpbedard@msn.com. Otherwise, keep looking at the blog for more to come.

  2. Thank you so much for your inspirational blog! I have passed on the link to my college students. I've also copied one of the pictures as a teaser. I hope that's okay. I'm afraid they wouldn't check it out unless I showed something that would catch their interest! Hope this is okay.
    Nancy Gaumer, Parkland College, Champaign, IL

    1. Thank you Nancy. You are more than welcome to copy a picture. I am curious which one you chose. Let me know if you or your students have any questions.