Here is a very simple example of what I am talking about. The example features a couple of play episodes around an apparatus I built back in 2012. I called it a box metropolis. I built the construction over three weeks, adding boxes each week until there were a total of 25 boxes all connected in and around two sensory tables.
In the first play episode, a child scooped corn from inside one of the boxes. To do that, he had to bend down and lean under and into the box. There is plenty of corn in the open portion of the table, so why did he feel compelled to gather corn from inside that box?
The second episode was quite similar. A child on the other side of that same narrow box placed a plastic green cup just inside the box. He put corn into the cup with a long handled spoon, again lifting it from the table to the height of his shoulder. He used his left hand to scoop, but then enlisted the help of his right hand to guide the spoon into the box. Twisting his wrists, he emptied the spoon. Because that was such a narrow opening, some of the corn went into the cup and some not.
Making coffee from Thomas Bedard on Vimeo.
He said that the box was a machine for making coffee. Was he recreating an experience he had watching an adult make coffee? Did the corn kernels and the sound of them remind him of coffee beans?
From these two short episodes, I would have to conclude that the apparatus changed/enhanced play and exploration at the sensory table. Imagine the table without the apparatus. That particular play never would have happened. Sure, other play would have happened, but the play potential with the apparatus in the sensory table increases significantly. Because there was not one way to play with and explore the apparatus, the children created their own challenges like pouring corn into a hole at shoulder level. In addition, the fact that the apparatus was open ended allowed the children to bring their own lived experiences, like making coffee, to their play.