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, April 25, 2015


About three years ago, there was a phenomenon all over the blogosphere: Water Beads.  I even got in on the action by introducing water beads with an apparatus called Table Covering with Holes.

The table coverings sat seven inches off the bottom of the tables so the children would reach into the holes to collect the water beads.  Once they collected them, they rolled them down PVC half-pipes that were set on inclines.  The inclines were opposing so the beads could be transported back and forth between the two tables.

The beads were extremely attractive because of their features.  They were soft, slippery, and translucent.

That was over three years ago.  I remember vividly how much exploration water beads inspired in the children.  One boy even invented his own game using the water beads.

Water bead game from Thomas Bedard on Vimeo.

Is he trying to roll the water bead across the top of the table or is he trying to get it back into a hole?  I am not sure, but I think it is the former.  In any case, his game is to roll the water bead and track where it goes.

I decided to bring back the water beads.  To do that, I combined the beads with the small Table Covering with Holes and the Oobleck Platform.
The idea was to provide two platforms on which the children could do their operations.  In addition, the frame for the Oobleck Platform anchored tubes running back and forth between the two tables.

Needless to say, this was an irresistible invitation to play and discover all the features of both the apparatus and the water beads.
There are 10 children with smocks already at the table with an 11th child in the back of the picture going for a smock.  Did I say irresistible?  

Here are the provisions for play for this setup.   There are all kinds of containers and scoops plus two different sizes of minnow nets.
I would not recommend purple water beads.  They bled and stained everything they came in contact with.  Note the small metal pan on the top in the middle that is circled.  You can still see the stains from the purple water beads.

The two platforms added a second level above the water at each of the tables so the children could do their work above the water with multiple containers at the same time.  By being able to  use multiple containers at the same time, children could create and combine operations to author more elaborate play.  
There were many new surprises in their play.  One of the surprises had to do with the clear plastic tube. One of the children discovered that the empty plastic juice can fit perfectly into the the clear plastic tube.  Watch what happens.

When the video starts, the can is in the middle of the tube.  Someone pours beads down the tube that hit the can.  The can slowly starts to move and then picks up speed until it hits a child's container at the end of the tube.  It is a surprise, but a good surprise because when he removes the can, he is able to quickly fill his container with the gush of water beads behind the can.  

There is an important point to make here.  I do not do much testing on an apparatus once I set it up.  I had no idea the can would fit in the tube.  The testing, by default, is the children's' endeavor. And they do it quite well.  In many ways they are more creative because they bring all ideas to the table without censuring themselves.

Another surprise had to do with the PVC half-pipe that was attached to the Oobleck Platform on the top. Because the incline was so great, the water beads would bounce all over the place and onto the floor when children poured the beads down this incline.  Watch.

It may be hard to see, but when the child dumps his big minnow net of water beads, they go all over.  I had to rig up a quick patch because there were so many beads bouncing on the floor.  You can see the cardboard patch below taped to the lip of the table to prevent spillage.

Here is another important point.  All the water beads on the floor were not the children's fault. They were just doing what they do best: test the apparatus. This was a design flaw on my part.  When I put the apparatus together, I made the incline too steep so when the children poured the beads they raced down the pipe and did what they do best: bounce all over the place.

When I saw the large number of water beads that were bouncing out of the table and onto the floor, I had two immediate choices.  The first was to shut down the activity.  The second was the patch.  I chose the patch because the fault was mine that the beads were going all over the place. The children's play was too rich to stop, so I needed a quick solution mid "bead-stream" that would work until I could find an adequate solution for the problem I had created.  

Stay tuned for Water Beads 2.

A word of caution about water beads.  If you read the label it says to keep out of the reach of young children.  It also says things like it will plug up plumbing.  You will have to think what that means for you.  For me it meant knowing the children in my classroom and knowing when to supervise more closely.  The week I had them out, I did not have any children try to put them in their mouths.  Oh, and it also meant I could not pour any down the drain.


  1. Water beads are incredibly fun and versatile, as well as cheap. As a sensory material, they have so many applications for exploration.
    Have you tried clear water beads? What's fun about them, is they completely "disappear" when put in a tub or water. Children are amazed (as I am, too) and adds a bit of science to the play.

    1. Thanks Eileen, If you look closely, there are clear beads. I have several videos of the children "discovering" and "hiding" the clear beads. Stay away from purple!

    2. Looking closer, I saw the clear ones. Thanks for the heads up about purple water beads!