In our Toddler class, there is a specific area dedicated to clay and play-dough. Every day we create provocations and observe how the children interact with the materials. Often times we incorporate several supplies in addition to the clay and play-dough.
One child was particularly fascinated with how different materials left distinctive impressions in the play-dough when he pressed down.
Saint Thomas Aquinas (c. 1225 – 1274) defined ‘human’ as “a being with brains and hands. As such our greatest joy comes when we can employ both simultaneously in ways which are creative, useful, and productive.”
Imaginary play quickly developed as the children assigned “roles” to the various materials. We encouraged them to investigate and revise their previous creations, and more complex construction (and understanding) emerged. While this project began with no clear direction, we believe that children strive to learn. In this project, the children took an active role in the direction of the “assignment.” We allowed them to have some control over the path of their learning and this project is significant in demonstrating how letting children learn through touching, moving, observing, questioning, and hypothesizing is beneficial.
One child consistently created lines with each new material, whether it was with paint, stickers, markers, or dinosaurs. It’s interesting to note that here he made a line with all of the materials on the table. Parents- take note: he is exploring “lines” in his own way. This child is hypothesizing and testing his own theory using several materials. This is one of the reasons we believe in giving children the freedom to explore with numerous materials and allow for their thought processes to wander: because abilities that far surpass a standard “age-appropriate” concept emerge organically.
In addition, this child demonstrated remarkable problem solving skills once he realized that he wasn’t able to fit everything in the line.
At one point, another child began assisting him in perfecting the line. This age group is learning to verbally communicate. This is a great instance of children working on communication skills, teamwork, and problem solving in order to fix the line together.