Cultivating Skills with Clay & Color

To embrace our exploration of Autumn, we gave clay to the children so they could manipulate the material to represent a Fall leaf. Since clay is flexible and moist it allowed the children to learn the clay’s physical properties with their senses such as touch and sight. As the children manipulated the clay they were enhancing their dexterity and refining their motor skills by pushing and pressing the clay with their hands. This experience also gave the teachers clues on the children’s cognitive structures based on how the children manipulated and combined materials.

For two days we let the clay dry. Because of this, the clay objects the children created were no longer flexible and moist. Instead the clay was dry, hard, and rugged. In their latest project the children used their hands to paint their creation with the fall colors of red, brown, and orange to represent fall leaves. This type of sensory play improves learning because it taps into the children’s senses. Using senses is not only one of the most familiar ways of learning new concepts but it is the first step in strengthening neural pathways.




In this project, each child utilized their hands to mix the fall colors on top of a sheet of paper and others without paper in their work area. The children used their hands primarily to hold their creations and feel its texture. Regardless of having paper or not, the children understood their environment by either using the entire space in their [play] area to mix colors or only using a certain portion of their area to paint. This observation communicated to the teachers that they understood the concept of quantities. Some children used more red paint, others used more yellow paint, others used more of the orange paint, and others used more of the brown paint. This let the teachers know that the children could demonstrate their sense of personal space as well as their preference to color and their ability to adapt to their environment.





When the children are older they can apply this information to other concepts such as learning different properties of matter and color theory. With this foundation our children will be able to ask more complex questions based on previous hands-on educational experiences such as this project in working with clay, paint and color.




According to Angie Dorrell, former commissioner of the National Association for the Education of Young Children, “Sensory experiences offer open-ended opportunities where the process is more important than the product; how children use materials is much more important than what they make with them.”  Early infancy is a distinct developmental phase in which children show an extraordinary curiosity about the world. At Little Wonders Learning Center and the School of Wonders we emphasize the importance of the learning process over the final product. This allows our children to have a higher level of understanding by revisiting subjects of interest multiple times through different mediums and gaining valuable perspectives along the way!






 Developing and Cultivating Skills Through Sensory Play, PBS





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Sweet Potato Play

The infants loved playing with sweet potatoes on Friday! They rolled the mushy food around on the floor and enjoyed exploring its squishy texture and bright color. At one point, the teachers placed a sliced sweet potato on the light table, which magnified the brilliant orange color even more. The infants were able to explore the sweet potato in a different way because of the lighting!

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Painted Leaves

Cooler weather brings changing leaves, cozy clothes, and warm colors. When we started to think about the fall and winter season, the teachers instantly thought of how the leaves change color. We wanted the infants to get excited about this change of seasons and explore warm colors, so one day we presented the children with red and yellow paint! As the children studied and played with the paint, soon a new color was created: orange. Since the children were painting with their fingers and hands, naturally the red and yellow paint mixed and the new color addition was an absolute treat!

Finger painting is an ideal activity for infants because it allows them to explore texture, make marks, and develop physical and social skills. According to the Childminding Association, for young children it is important to have time to explore and investigate materials without the pressure of producing an end product. Continue reading

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Inside a Pumpkin

To begin our exploration of fall foods and colors, the teachers set up a pumpkin for the infants to explore! First, the teachers placed the pumpkin in the center of the room for the children to touch and investigate. The infants were immediately intrigued and loved the shape and color of the giant fruit. Only one child was hesitant at first and stayed away, but after awhile the child started to come around and slowly explore the pumpkin.

In order to continue the exploration and increase intrigue, the next day the teacher cut the top of the pumpkin open so the children could feel the texture inside. The children absolutely loved the gooey mess and sticking their hands inside the fruit to feel the web-like texture. They were clapping their hands together and laughing at the squishy mess. Some of the children even enjoyed putting the top of the pumpkin back on and it often fell inside the pumpkin because the children kept pushing it in.

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Fall Festival Projects

The song “Itsy Bitsy Spider” is a favorite among the infants in our classroom. To expand on their joy for this song, the teachers incorporated the jingle into one of the infants Fall Festival projects with the use of clay and paint! We gave children clay to sculpt their own “itsy bitsy spider” and black paint to explore with. The children thoroughly enjoyed molding the clay with their fingers, getting their hands full of paint, and many of them proceeded to cover their clay mold with the black paint. For an earlier blog on the importance of sensory play with infants, click here.

Clay play with infants is so important because it gives them an opportunity to squeeze, pinch, poke, pull, twist, and create with the molding material. Continue reading

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