at home ideas

at home POURING adventures

“Pourable solids,” such as sand, oats, and rice provide a range of opportunities for exploring: how a material feels, moves, and sounds; spatial concepts including empty and full; and quantitative ideas such as parts and whole. These types of materials also provide for rich sensory experiences that often tend to be soothing and calming. And working with these types of materials also exercises and encourages fine motor skill development.

  1. Exploring textures: A low cookie tray with just a thin layer of sand (or rice, oats) is a wonderful, accessible way for babies to explore textures. Be patient if your baby seems unsure of the new textures and tactile sensations at fist. Model your own curiosity by exploring the sand. At first, sprinkle and pour the materials using your hands to show your baby some of the possibilities. The baby may just push the sand around on the tray with sweeping gestures. Try imitating what the baby does to support and encourage her efforts. Even this simple exploration provides a lot of information and feedback about the material and its properties.
  2. Using hands and feet: If you have a large, low plastic bathing tub, pour a thin layer of materials into it. Take the baby’s shoes off – or even let him just wear his diaper – and after exploring together with your hands, set the baby into the tub. Try sprinkling the materials on his feet. Read your child’s reaction and adjust the amount of materials and the amount of silliness accordingly. Describe the action. Take your time with this sort of exploration and start gently.
  3. Transferring: Set out two or more big bowls, or pans, and fill one with sand, oats or rice. Give your baby a plastic measuring cup or scoop, or a plastic spoon. Make a game out of transferring the materials from one container to the other. Let your child experiment with various of these “transferring tools” to determine which one she seems to prefer. Don’t worry if she misses the container or even dumps it all out. All of this exploration requires fine motor work adjustments and practice as well as quantitative thinking. As you play these “fill it up” games, use “quantity” words such as “more” “another scoop” or “a lot” and “a little.”
  4. Sprinkling and Listening: Active listening is a great activity for infants. One of the nice things about these fine materials is that your child can explore making sounds – lots of sounds- without a lot of volume. These sounds tend to be soothing and engaging. Set out some tin foil or muffin pans and experiment with sprinkling and listening to the sound of the rice (or sand, or oats). To keep things tidy, place the foil pan inside a larger plastic tub. Lift your hand high when you sprinkle to see if it varies the sound. Use the word “listen” and model listening closely to help the baby focus. For a variation switch to a metal pot or large plastic bowl and sprinkle the materials into these different containers. Talk about what you hear. Your baby may just be fascinated by your sprinkling sounds – or she may grab a handful. Either is great – just be sure to “listen” actively to any sounds she makes as well. Model your behavior to encourage your baby doing this along with you.
  5. Filling and Emptying: Babies and toddlers are fascinated with changing the amount of something in a space. They like to empty things and fill them up. Set out a series of small cups filled with one of the materials and a larger clear bowl or container. Model pouring one of the cups into the larger container. (With older babies, you might start by helping your child to fill the cups first.) Then set up a “factory” where, one at a time, you hand a cup over to your child to empty into the larger container. Continue until all of the cups are emptied and then start all over again. Help with the refilling – but let you child participate and “help” with filling too even if her efforts are not the most efficient. Comment on how you see the larger container filling up. Reverse the action by letting the baby scoop the material out of the larger container into another one and start over again. Use “quantity” words to describe what you see.
  6. Stirring, Scooping, Digging: Fill a deeper container such as a roasting pan, a pot or large plastic bowl with rice, oats or sand. Give your baby some “tools” such as plastic cups, spoons, or scoops. Model digging or stirring. Observe what engages your child. Let him simply explore and try different things out. Babies and toddlers can be engaged for some time with this rich activity.
  7. Pouring through: Using either a large funnel, an empty paper towel tubes, or a plastic milk or juice container with the bottom cut off, help your child to explore what happens when the materials move through a tube or funnel. Model what happens if you lift the tube or funnel. Comment and watch what happens as the material comes out the other end. Try variations on this exploration with colanders or pasta strainers with large holes. Babies also like to just look through tubes and grids to see how the world looks with these different materials.
  8. Imaginative play: Spread a thin layer of materials onto a cookie sheet placed on the floor. Add toy vehicles to this “terrain.” Watch and describe the action, sounds, and “tire tracks” that result from this “off-road” experience.
  9. Shaking: Provide a small, re-useable food storage container with a cover and model putting one of the materials into it. Talk about the materials going into the container. When your child seems ready for the next step, put the cover on the container, shake it, and hand it over for some “music” time. You might create your own “rhythm instrument” and join the baby band. Try imitating the rhythmic pattern your child creates. Be playful. Describe the sounds and the “beat.”

Note: If you are concerned about your child eating any of the materials use sand, set the activity in a large tub, outdoors, or on a table covering set on the floor.