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!