Axioms of Sensorimotor Play

8 September 2012 · 3 comments

in Early Years Outdoors, Play Resources

Yesterday I was working with a class who love any water play. Many children will join in and explore with enthusiasm and gusto in their own preferred styles. Today, I’ve just finished reading Tom Sensori’s blog post which was very helpful in terms of understanding the behaviour and actions of my group in relation to the water wall. In the left hand column of Tom’s blog he has several axioms which are useful advice to consider. I realised they made a framework for evaluating what I observed and considering how to extend the play next week.

Within minutes of the water wall going up and water trickling through the system, one child had taken one of the water tables and its stand and moved it over to the water wall.

Axiom 1 states:

“Children need to transport whatever is in the table out of the table. During the transporting, children will spill.”

In our water wall (a vertical table?) the water was ending up in an old flower box. The water was emptied frequently into the larger water table by several children. I wonder what would happen if a length of guttering is provided and the large water table placed just within reach…. hmm.

Axiom 2 states:

“Children will explore all spaces in any given apparatus no matter how big or small. More space equals more exploration.”

The equipment was shifted and moved quite considerably. I think because there was not an overwhelming amount of pipes and tubes, the children investigated the whole set up more effectively. In the photo below, the child had removed one tube and was fascinated to see how the water no longer flowed through the piping system.

Axiom 3 states:

“Children will find all the different levels of play for any given apparatus. Children will use all levels of play including the highest and lowest – which includes the floor.”

The water wall was explored from top to toe. For the first time, the water container had been hung up high. The can has a wee tap that provides a trickle of water. It takes quite a while for vessel to be emptied. The reason for doing this was purely practical. When the container is on the ground, there are often arguments about who wants to carry it around. When the water begins in the big water table, some children are compelled to tip it over within minutes. So I thought it may work better being hung up high. The children were fascinated by this change of level and really used and looked at and checked out each part of the water wall.

The actions by the children also slotted into Axiom 6:

“Children will try to stop or redirect the flow of any medium in the tables for any given apparatus. Whenever possible children will try to completely block the flow of any medium.”

Even with the tap they tried to plug it up, twist it off and stop the flow at every join.

Axiom 4 states:

“Children are naturally drawn towards pouring, rolling or sliding materials and objects down ramps, chutes and tubes.”

The water wall that was set up did not have sufficient gaps for children to add water to of their own accord. So they dismantled and moved bits as part of their efforts to achieve this. Next week, I think we will brainstorm and see if we can offer more “entrances.” to the water wall prior to building it. This behaviour also dovetails with Axiom 5:

“Children are compelled by nature to put things in holes. Children will find every hole in and around an apparatus no matter how big or small.”

The photo below shows one child inserting a cup into a tiny crack to intervene with the water flow.

Axiom 7 states:

“Children will always devise new and novel activities and explorations with the materials present that are tangential to the apparatus itself.”

I think this is one of the strengths and interesting aspects of working with children in the additional support needs classes. They consistently present divergent ways of thinking which provide me with challenges and provocations to consider. For example, the child who brought the water table over, decided at one point to cover it with a white sheet. I think it was his way of protecting it against other children trying to add water into it.

Perhaps Axiom 8 is the one that being outdoors allows a level of freedom not possible inside:

“Children will fill any and all containers with the medium or materials provided. Children need to empty any and all filled containers.”

The children really value and need to see the water splash onto the ground. It is a source of fascination that something contained can be spread so far and takes on a new life when emptied onto the ground.

Given that I have been mulling over next week’s activities and reflecting on the play that happened, it has been useful to have a framework to consider. I’m planning to put a photo on the interactive whiteboard inside of last week’s activity to stimulate discussion and shared planning for another water wall. I’ll bring in a range of equipment and will see which the children want and who is up for making a wall. As usual, it will be yet another step in the experiment of being a teacher. Every time I go into school, there is an element of unpredictability and unknown. It is definitely a uniquely adventurous way of working. So next week will have more surprises in store, even with me taking into account the axioms.

Thank you very much Tom for your Axioms and innovative approaches to sand and water play.

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{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Tom Bedard September 9, 2012 at 00:52

Juliet, you are welcome. Wow, why does it sound better when you show and explain the axioms?

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Juliet Robertson September 9, 2012 at 07:33

Ah the grass is always greener on the other side! I don’t think it is especially so and I’m sure readers of both our blogs would agree.

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Juliet Robertson September 16, 2012 at 15:45

Quick feedback:

Last Friday’s session was very productive. The use of photos and props prior to going out did interest most of the class. All of them rushed out to the outside space happily taking the equipment. None ran the other way (which is an option in that the outdoor space is not directly outside the classroom).

Some of children helped build the water walls – we had two going of which one was entirely child-led and organised. The velcro was also use to lock the gate to stop anyone getting out. The child who did this was extremely proud of his handiwork.

We experimented having the water down low – and it all got knocked over and emptied within a minute. The refill went up high – just high enough for the tallest ones to be able to turn off and on which was interesting to watch them discover how to do this.

I had brought along a big, medium and small container for children to use as collecting vessels. This choice seemed to work well too.

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