Light Table Activity: Marshmallows and Play Dough

Every week our children use the light table as an extension of the classroom to explore materials that we use in class. The light table is simply an opaque table that allows light to shine through, having a different exposure to a familiar object. It allows them to have new experiences with the same materials in different ways. The children have been exploring play dough a lot lately. They are using it to describe food, animals as well as number sense and shapes.

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Play dough is used frequently at the light table, for its shape can be manipulated easily. The children are asked to use the play dough to describe food, animals as well as number sense and shapes. Individually, the preschoolers combine creativity and innovation to make an object from the play dough. Then in small groups, the preschoolers precipitate in discussion, exposing themselves to different ideas and thoughts on a similar subject.

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Marshmallows were then offered to the children as a new material in addition to the play dough. While the marshmallows look just like play dough, the children were not able to manipulate the marshmallows in the same way, which presented an unexpected challenge. This was a great experience for the children because they were presented with the opportunity to problem solve and find new ways to influence the new material. By discussing the differences and communicating with one another, the children were able to explore the new material and further their language development. This activity allowed the children to work on their fine motor skills and hand-eye coordination. This open-ended material was a great way to enforce creativity, problem solving, communication (as they tried to describe what was happening), and innovation.

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Reggio Emilia’s style of learning is implemented through open-ended play. Open-ended materials are chosen because they can be easily transformed and there are no specific expectations that the children are bound to. The lack of restrictions allow the children to apply their creativity and imagination to the materials instead of having to conform their imaginations to what they expect they are supposed to create. Having the environment as a third teacher enhances learning and discovery through the use of problem solving and communication skills.

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This hands-on experience encouraged the children to explore without boundaries, which builds their confidence, imagination, and education. By incorporating marshmallows with the play dough, the students were able to assess their new limitations and worked with these very different materials in order to create and manipulate and ultimately learn. This cooperative play enhanced their social development, cognitive development, and fine motor skills.

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Hand Study

Since we compared the butterfly anatomy to the human anatomy we noticed the children were talking about their hands. To nurture their conversation, we provided the children with markers and covered the table with a large white sheet of paper. We then encouraged the children study the palms of their hands. This was a challenge for the children because while we know the children may look at their hands often, we don’t know if the children have ever noticed the lines on our palms.

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Thank you to all the families that brought in beets for the class exploration! We used them in a variety of ways throughout the past few weeks.

Using fresh fruit and vegetables in the classroom allows the children to become familiar with all of their characteristics. They become familiar with the names of the fruit/vegetable, they learn how to eat it, how to grow it, as well as concepts that support literacy and mathematics. It’s during this familiarization that picky eaters start expanding their palates and trying different foods.

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Rosemary Play Dough

Last week, the children were introduced to sensory bottles which, in this case, were bottles filled with herbs and spices like cinnamon and rosemary. Gabby, our Food as a Language atelierista, made the bottles to engage the children’s sense of smell. The experience was a hit, and although the children cannot talk, they spent time smelling and reacting to the array of scents.

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Green Eggs and Ham

In honor of Dr. Seuss’ birthday, our Kindergarten group, aka, Earth group (third planet from the sun, our third group to join our elementary) celebrated by cooking Green Eggs and Ham for their Food as a Language.

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