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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 13, 2016

SOCIAL SKILLS

Once or twice a year, I put out Moon Sand.   When I put out Moon Sand, I like to set up a large wooden tray on which the children can work.  I start with two tables, the everyday blue table and the clear toddler table.
I place a large wooden tray on top of the toddler table.  To keep down the mess, I tape packing corners from an appliance box onto two sides and one end. 
The side that reaches over the blue table is left open.  That allows the children to easily move sand from the wooden tray into the blue table.

Besides the large wooden tray, I also set up a smaller wooden tray that spans the width of the blue table.
This picture highlights one of the salient features of Moon Sand.  It holds it shape so it can be molded.  That is also the reason I set up the trays with this type of sand because the sand forms take on more import when they sit above the table.  

In addition, the trays allow the children to work on a more comfortable level, much like the counter and workbench we use in the kitchen and workshop.  This more comfortable level, in turn, brings out the budding social skills of children.   For instance, in the picture above the children were making birthday cakes.  Once they were made, they decorated them.
And once they were decorated, the children had to decide which birthday cake was theirs.  And whose birthday was it anyway?  Watch.


Birthday cakes from Thomas Bedard on Vimeo.

Each child chose a birthday cake that was right in front of them  One child did change her mind because her friend pointed out that the figure on the other cake in front of her had longer hair.  Life would be so good if it were everybody's birthday and everybody was happy with the birthday cake they got.  (Did you notice no one picked the Ronald McDonald cake?)

Here is another example of those social skills in action.  Two boys were putting Moon Sand in a jello mold.  According to one of the boys, they cannot fill it to the top because they are making a little garage.  He qualified it a bit when he said they were making a little, big garage.  The other child keeps agreeing with him and adds: "...and then let's build a house."  


Building a garage from Thomas Bedard on Vimeo.

I have no idea how putting Moon Sand in a jello mold leads to making a garage.  But that is not important.  What is important is the natural way in which ideas flow back and forth in this give-and-take exchange between friends.

I write a lot about science and inquiry in relation to the apparatuses at the sensory table.  Just as important, though, are the opportunities they offer children to master the social skills such as negotiation and accommodation.  

On a lighter side, I want to leave you with a video with a touch of mirth that happened at the table this particular week.  In the video, the child in the orange tries to remove the Moon Sand that he has packed into a small plastic measuring cup.  He hits it on the tray.  But on the upswing of the second hit, it flies out.  It flies out right into the cup of the child on the opposite side of the table. (If you look closely at the setup picture for the video, you can see the Moon Sand in mid-flight over the other child's hand.)  When the child with the red cup looks for the Moon Sand, he can't find it and wonders where it went.  It happens so quickly that neither of the children notice what happened.  The child's face for whom the Moon Sand vanished is simply beguiling.  Enjoy.


Where did it go? from Thomas Bedard on Vimeo.

2 comments:

  1. Tom....I had the pleasure of taking two of your classes last weekend. The first on large muscle play was so inspiring. In fact I headed home immediately and put in an order for a large mat to create a safe area for this type of play.

    However, since I also took your sensory table class, you can imagine my delight when I saw the huge perfectly shaped box it came in on Friday. It was absolutely the PERFECT size for my small table.

    I cannot wait for the children to arrive tomorrow and explore my first ever "Tom inspired sensory box"!!

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    Replies
    1. Thanks Amanda. I would love to see what you do with the box. If you ever have any questions, do not hesitate to contact me. Tom

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