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, June 4, 2016

I dare you

When people ask me what do I use in the sensory table, I say I mostly use sand and water.  I always add that I never mix the two.  The main reason I do not mix the two is because the sand has to be dry before storing it otherwise it will get quite musty.  And to dry the sand out, takes a long time.

I decided to countermand my own maxim this year.  I took the Jurassic Sand and dinosaurs setup and added water to make a beautiful orange mud in the sensory table.

Why would I venture into this uncharted territory in my last few months of teaching?  One of the reasons was to clean the sand.  Jurassic Sand is expensive, but will last forever if it is cleaned every once in a while.  When I put water into the table, the sand was heavier so it stayed on the bottom while the debris floated to the top.
Each day after class, I would prop up one end of the table and that allowed me to scoop off the debris.

Another reason to try the sand and water mix was that I have seen so many great pictures of children playing outside in mud kitchens that I wanted to see if I could recreate that experience inside.

To make this happen, I set out a tub with water for the children to rinse their hands before leaving the area.  I did not want them washing their hands in the sink to prevent sand from going down the drain.

Washing hands from Thomas Bedard on Vimeo.

The child in the video simply put her hands in the tub and the sand easily rinsed off.  She dried her hands on the towel next to the tub.  When the sand rinsed off, it fell to the bottom of the tub so at the end of class I dumped the water leaving the sand on the bottom of the tub.  I could then scoop it back into the table.  I did not pour the water down the drain, but dumped it outside because, again, I did not want to wreak havoc with the sink drain.

I placed the tub a short distance from the table so the children would use it to rinse their hands rather than use it as an additional place to play.  The only problem was children's hands were not the only things that needed washing.  The dinosaurs did, too.

Washing dinosaurs from Thomas Bedard on Vimeo.

The child declared that his dinosaur needed cleaning.  He transported it very carefully over the two sensory tables and then quickly closed the gap to the tub all in an effort to minimize dripping on the floor.  He was also joined by another child who also needed to clean his dinosaur.

What is the hallmark of good mud play?  Mud pies---or cakes---of course.  Several children undertook the making of a dinosaur candy cake.

Dinosaur candy cake from Thomas Bedard on Vimeo.

The sticks sticking up out of the bowl of mud---I mean the cake---were the candles.  The clumps of mud on top of the candles signified that the candles were lit.

One child made a three-layer cake.  She took three different size bowls from the shelves, filled them with mud and then sequentially stacked them to make her cake.  Once the bowls were stacked, she added as much sand as she thought her cake could hold.

Three-layer cake from Thomas Bedard on Vimeo.

There was a little magic at the end when she poured water with a spoon over her cake: the water diffused the sand so her cake looked smooth and velvety.

Make no bones about it, bringing mud into the classroom is setting the stage for a mess on the floor.
While the sand was wet, I did not even try to sweep it up.  I usually left it over night to dry so it was easy to sweep up and put back in the sensory table in the morning.

Outside mud kitchens are great.  Can you see yourself bringing the mud into the classroom?  I dare you.


  1. Hi Tom! We did this a couple times this year, the first time, I have to admit it was not my idea-the kids transported water from the sink when I wad busy with something else. When I discovered them and they asked for more water, I figured it was past the point of returning to dry, and no one would die or get hurt if more water was added, so why not! The children loved this experience so much, and watching the dusty jurassic sand float on the top of a water container, then suddenly disappear was magical! Thanks for the post and tips on clean up and the dare-we will be doing this again for sure! Heidi in mn

    1. Hi Heidi. How great that you took the children's lead. Children are always coming up with ideas and the "so why not" is such a good response. If there is a legitimate "why not" than we deal with it. Too many of us shut it down without even asking why not.