When you work with a lot of children you will find that some really like to get into the materials. They are the ones that always seem to have paint on their bodies and play dough in their hair. They are whole body explorers and boy, do they explore.
You will also find a good number of children who prefer to not get their hands dirty and while it may look like the whole body child is playing more and getting more out of the process it only appears that way. The child who prefers things orderly, or perhaps is sensitive to different textures is also playing...and learning. It just manifests differently. They are both playing fully and processing as they work.
These two photos were taken moments apart on the day I first introduced baking soda and vinegar to the children. All of the children were engaged and excited in the investigation. As the fun grew louder and um...bigger, one of the children began to back away. This child often enjoys getting elbow deep in paint but the noise level during this activity was a bit too much. I did not want this to be a defining moment where this child might abandon investigative activities due to noise and perhaps carry that around with them so I asked if they would like their own tray to work on in a different area of the classroom. They nodded that they did and a happy child trundled off to a quiet corner to investigate at their own pace.
Much of my work as a teacher is simply observing. To an outsider it might appear that we aren't really doing much at all but we stand or sit and we watch. We constantly make mental notes as to what works, what doesn't work. Who prefers quiet, who loves to sing. Who likes to build, who enjoys puzzles. We watch and observe and take photos and document all that is going on so that we can prepare an environment that meets the needs of all of the children. Some children need to be challenged in their play, others need to build confidence. As we observe we figure out who needs what and it is truly a joy to be a part of it all. Each day brings new discoveries and each group of children makes the classroom feel brand new.