As an adult looking at a child painting at an easel, you see the physical attributes of the child standing at that space putting color onto paper. You may also note other specifics, like the color being used, whether the strokes are circular or straight or how much of the paper the child is using. Adults often also “see” a representation, something you think the child might have created. It is the perspective of someone who has experienced this activity many times.
But when the toddler is painting at the easel, she is experiencing how much pressure it takes to make a mark, how it looks to put the colors together, how it smell as it goes on the paper and Oh! What the paint looks like on his fingers! The finished picture is almost inconsequential to the child at first, it is what they are experiencing, not what they have created that matters. It is not the product but the process that is important to a toddlers learning.
It is the same with blocks or a sand box or “dress ups”. Toddlers need to experience the activity using their senses and allowing themselves to fully engage, in order to learn.
When building with wooden blocks, it is the weight of the block or the smooth feeling in their hands or the loud sound when the blocks crash that is noticeable and appealing to the child. ( Of course the purpose for building is knocking it down! ) When exploring with sand, beans, popcorn or rice in a bucket, it is the feeling in his hands and the sound of it cascading that makes him smile. All our senses are in use during these activities and it is active engagement and imagination that drives the child to continue to play. With “dress ups” and kitchen play, delayed iimitation is at work. Pretending to be mom or dad and using the props as a representation of what they have experienced in their own life is essential. The child leads the play and we are only an added prop for their use.
In our newest Together from the Start Class, Imagination Station, there are 5 stations, (activity areas), that offer activities that excite the senses and offer the opportunity to engage individually and creatively. The toddlers explore paint, blocks, sensory table, dress ups and a kitchen area and learn how to transition from one to another. Parents learn about letting the exploration happen and children learn that it is ok to leave one activity and go to another. And of course we always demonstrate that things have a beginning, a middle and an end; so this class ends with bubbles, a great way to bring everyone back together.
Imagination station is now being offered to toddlers 24- 36 months on the third Tuesday of the month in Torrance. Call Kathie for more information or to register. 310-792-4597