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.

Sunday, November 5, 2017

Self-regulation at the sensory table

People have asked me how do I manage the number of children at the sensory table.  My answer has always been that I do not limit the number of children at the sensory table.  Given the chance, the children themselves manage numbers at the table quite well.  Sometimes, there will only be one child at the table.

And at other times, there will be a hoard of children occupying the whole space.  It is not unheard of to see as many as 10 at the sensory table.
With that many at the table, the children are literally shoulder-to-shoulder.  That means there is a lot of incidental contact as they play. So how do they manage?

One reason is that children's idea of personal space is much different than that of adults.   Take a look at this video I call "Close encounters."  Two boys are standing on the same stool, one literally on the back of the other,  pouring pellets down a tube.

Close Encounters from Thomas Bedard on Vimeo.

You might think these two are good friends who play together all the time, but that was not the case.  They were both so intent on what they were doing that personal space did not seem to matter.  Space matters, but not personal space.  Given the chance, the children negotiate space non-verbally with their bodies, which means that there can be a lot of physical contact without real conflict.  Too often as adults, we step in too soon to impose our idea of personal space on the children.  That short circuits their own ability to negotiate and accommodate to each others actions.

If the children are given the chance to negotiate and accommodate, they get to practice true self-regulation.   Take a look at his video in which three boys are taking turns pouring sand down the same tube. 


Taking turns from Thomas Bedard on Vimeo.

Taking turns for these boys was both a negotiation and accommodation and mostly non-verbal.  The child in red on the right was able to pour two scoops of sand down the tube before the other two even had a chance to pour one scoop down.  Was that fair?

Adults often try to impose turn taking on children when none is really needed.  We do that by limiting the number of children at the table or making sure every one gets their turn before anyone gets a second turn.  "Wait your turn" does not lead to children's self-regulation.  Self-regulation is a byproduct of children's own actions to negotiate and accommodate with others in the context of their play.


I am a featured presenter at the NAEYC annual conference in Atlanta.  I will be presenting my newest talk on children's scientific inquiry at the water table.  If you are attending the conference and would like to hear it, my presentation is on Saturday, November 18th from 11:00 - 12:15 in room A411 in the Georgia World Conference Center.  If you do come, make sure you stop by and say hello.  If you cannot make the session but would still like to meet---this is, after all, a great place and time to network---send me an email. 

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