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, March 26, 2016

Don't do this

I have been thinking a lot about the children's need to transport (see Axiom #1 on the right hand column of this blog). 

It began in January with a relatively simple setup that included several pails and tubs around the table so children could transport the sand out of the table.

In the process of writing about how the children explored the setup in a post called transporting,  I began to wonder what would happen if I removed the table completely, leaving only the buckets and tubs to create a transporting paradise.

Without the sensory table, the sole purpose was to move the pellets from container to container.

I decided to have the children work without the table a second week but to add some loose tubes, pipes and channels to see if and how the children changed the process of transporting.

While adding some loose parts, I took away some of the big containers to reduce the clutter.
Along with Axiom #1 on the right, there is its corollary: During transporting, the children will spill.  What that means in practical terms is, if you are ill-disposed to messes, don't do this!  

Let me give you a couple of fine examples of children spilling in the act of transporting with this setup.  The first one is a child attempting to pour pellets into a bottle.  He has a full scoop and the lip of the bottle is small.

Pouring pellets 1 from Thomas Bedard on Vimeo.

Most of the pellets ended up on the floor and not in the bottle.  On closer examination, you can see that there are plenty of pellets on the floor already.

Here is another example of spilling, this time with a child trying to transfer pellets with a spoon into a small pipe.

Pouring pellets 2 from Thomas Bedard on Vimeo.

The child is undeterred even though most of the pellets miss the pipe and end up on the floor.  Only through experimenting does one learn to estimate size of openings and overflow capacity.

If you think spilling is a natural phenomenon and you can tolerate the mess, then there are plenty of examples of children taking advantage of the opportunity to transport.  Here is an example of two children using a tube placed in a channel to transport pellets from one container to another.

Taking turns from Thomas Bedard on Vimeo.

Not only are the children in the video learning to pour carefully into a relatively small opening, but these three-year-olds are taking turns in a joint transporting endeavor.

Remember that small pipe into which the one child tried to dump pellets?  Watch how a little older child figures out how to deposit pellets into that very same pipe.

Fine motor work from Thomas Bedard on Vimeo.

Besides the superb fine motor work, the child continually speculates how many more pellets he thinks he needs to complete his self-appointed task.  And think about the persistence this child exhibits to fill that long, narrow tube!

Here is one more example of the wonder of transporting.  One child has decided to fill a cardboard tube with pellets.  The child pours pellets into the tube and checks the level of the pellets in the tube.  He takes a second scoop and repeats.  This time, though, he sees how close he is to filling the tube and he lets out an understated "ho-ho-ho" of excitement at how close he is to finishing his undertaking.

Filling the cardboard tube with pellets from Thomas Bedard on Vimeo.

Not so long ago, I tried to pour a can of partially frozen juice into a juice container with a small lip.  The result was a huge mess.  What happens when we create messes?  We clean them up.  The same is true for children.  In fact, what a great learning experience to have the opportunity to clean up your own messes.

That said, if it causes you physical pain to see the amount children can spill and the unmitigated mess the children can generate, Don't do this!


  1. This is all fabulous! What are the pellets? Thanks.

    1. The pellets are wood pellets that people with pellet stoves burn for heat in my neck of the woods. They are made from compressed sawdust, no chemicals.

  2. I feel like a mess fraud! I'm all for it outdoors but can't quite embrace your love of it indoors you are a braver man than me!

    1. Kierna, You just wrote about the glory of mess, so you if anyone would understand. Since I only have 2.5 months of teaching left, I have to go wild and let the children go wild. In all seriousness, I do have a high tolerance for mess. The sensory table area is in a corner of the room with three walls surrounding it and only one side open to the room. That does help contain the mess---somewhat. Tom