About Me

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Early childhood education has been my life for over 40 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 19, 2016

Transporting paradise

Back in January of this year, I wrote a post called transporting.  I ended the post this way: I am now wondering what would happen if I eliminate the table completely.  The shelves would stay, but what if I just put a plethora of buckets and tubs directly on the mats?  Stay tuned.

Well, I did it.  I took my sensory table completely out of the room.  I moved the shelves into the middle of the mat and filled them with scoops, long-handle spoons, and big and small containers.
I set out four, five-gallon buckets and three large tubs.  I turned over one tub for a small table.  I also covered my clear toddler table to create another small table as an elevated work surface.  Here is the setup from two other perspectives. 
The medium I used for this "no sensory table" setup was fuel pellets.  They are compressed sawdust that are manufactured to be burned for heat in pellet stoves.  

More than any other setup, this array of tubs and containers offered children the ways and means for transporting with small, medium, and large containers.

Watch as this 18-month-old transfers pellets from one small container to another.

As you might have noticed, he was not too successful.  That matters little because he is quite content with the trying while sitting on the floor with his legs wrapped around one of the containers.

These three-year-old children were using scoops to transport the pellets from a large container to a plastic garbage pail.
They knew it was a garbage can and as they poured the pellets, they stated: "We're putting garbage in there."  

This four-year-old child takes pellets from a large container and puts them in a triangular-shaped container.  He then pours the pellets into a second large container.  This undertaking is challenging because of the atypical shape of the container he chooses to use to make the transfer.
Here is an example of yet another combination of containers used in transporting.  This time a child pours a five gallon bucket of pellets into a washtub.  He adeptly lifts and tips the green bucket so all the pellets end up in the white washtub.

This is even a greater challenge, not only because the he is wielding a larger container, but also because the washtub in not secure so it moves as he pours the pellets.

Here is an example of transporting from the small table that is part of the setup.  The child is scooping pellets from the washtub to deposit them in the green bucket.

One of the more interesting aspects of this clip is that the child is using a homemade scoop he fashioned by inserting a clear plastic tube into a plastic measuring cup.  The new tool makes it harder to scoop but easier to dispatch the pellets accurately in the green bucket.

Here is one final combination of containers and transporting: containers inside of containers.  The beauty of this operation is the practice the children get with comparing volumes of the different containers.
This setup fostered many more examples of transporting.  The children seized the opportunity to transport to their hearts' content.  You might even conclude that it was a transporting paradise.

I have often been asked for ideas to set up sensory play in a shared space where the sensory table cannot be left out because another group uses the space.  Part of the answer may be to forget about the table and just have a variety of containers that can fit inside each other and then placed on the floor.  Commandeering a small table from the room for an additional work space would add an additional level of play making it more inviting.  

If you can't use a sensory table, never fear, even you can create your own little transporting paradise.



  1. Tom,
    This is fantastic! Clever thinking and I appreciate the documenting if children's discovery. I'm curious if any little girls played with your sand and water tables or if only the male toddlers were intrigued. I'm researching right now the dispositions male teachers bring to the classroom and the impact on males. This demonstrates ingenuity on your part and appears to attract the males. Just curious.ThNks for sharing!

    1. Jill, My experience is that both boys and girls are attracted to the sensory table setups. You did make me go back to look back at my documentation for this setup and I found I took a lot more pictures of boys than girls. I am not sure why that happened with this setup. Thanks for your kind words. Let me know if you have more questions. Questions are good because they make me look again.

  2. Tom
    Great article and creative! I'm curious if during this discovery iany young females engaged in the play or just the males? I'm researching the impacts male teachers have on children in the dispositions they carry. This idea is ingenious, at least in my estimation, and certainly valuable to all children. I have shared your blog with my ECE male preservice teachers. Thank you

    1. Jill, again, let me know if you or any of your preservice teachers have any questions. I hope your research goes well. If there is anything I can do to help, let me know.