Sensory Table Galore

Slimy, Sorting, Silly, Story Telling Sensory 

IMAG0212Sensory tables are a must in early education, or life in general.  The mixture of play, sensory stimulation and cognitive development that you get from two little bins is pretty extraordinary.

IMAG0222They can be really messy and gooey, with a lot of opportunities to mix, stir, grab and discover 


Or dry, with moldable, spongy, rough and smooth textures to explore 


They’re wonderful opportunities to promote learning through play


And can help kids find comfort in learning through touch


You can also use them for fun watercolor activities that keeps the color from running off of the table 




And are always a wonderful idea for a play-filled, do-it-yourself clean up 



Temporary Drawings

Need a quick afternoon fix for boredom without the clean up?

Yarn Drawings 1After a long conversation about the art we make not having to last forever and the meaning of the word, temporary.  We sat down to discover how fun art making can be when we can erase it and start over again.

 Yarn Drawings 3We talked about the lines we were making, the scratchy quality of the sand paper and how we can bend and wiggle the string to make new shapes and images

Yarn Drawings2And a whole 45 minutes later, we had made many, many images and told lots of stories, filling our time with creative thinking and no mess art making  

Connecting Clay


Clay is one of those mediums that kids feel comfortable diving into.  They sit down and poke, pull, smoosh and roll the clay out on the table, exploring its texture.  


After sitting down as a class and talking about our new t-shirts, scrapes and adventures, we got to talking about this cold, smooshy substance in front of all of us. 


What does the clay feel like?

Is it “hot hot hot!” or cold?

Is it bumpy and hard or smooth and soft? 

Rolling it. Patting it. Pressing it. Tearing it.

We experimented with different ways of molding it. 


After forming shapes, we started building sculptures; 3D, amazing pieces of art with our clay. 

Stacking. Connecting. Twisting

Handing out straws that had been cut in half, we took these new, found objects and discovered how to connect the clay in different ways. We also used these new tools to add meaning to our sculptures.

Building mountains, submarines and letters


Some of the straw pieces didn’t bend, so we put our heads together and added small pieces of clay to the straws to make hinges and new connections.  

There was a lot of experimenting, manipulating and critical thinking going on in our art making process.


Once our sculpting was complete, we used spoons to drip and drizzle the paint over our work.  


Colors swirled as the paints mixed together 


And when class was complete, our studio was left with a colorful, clay based sculpture gallery

IMAG0246 IMAG0244 IMAG0243 IMAG0240

Animal Sculptures with Xu Bing

What’s better than being blown away by an art exhibit and using it to inspire students?

 animal sculp 1

Xu Bing’s Phoenix  instillation at Mass Moca was one of the most breathtaking, peaceful, interactive art exhibits I’ve ever seen.  So what better than to design an art lesson inspired by it?

Animal sculp 2Working in groups, we looked at pictures of different types of animals to decipher what the body of an animal looks like.

Animal Sculp 3We picked from a HUGE pile of recyclables (taking inspiration from Xu Bing harvesting all of his materials from construction sites in China) and got to work.

Animal sculpture 5After using masking tape to attach our animal heads to their bodies.  We finished with our first layer of construction and moved on to giving our animals a fresh coat of paper mache.

Animal sculptures 6We watched our animals form as we smoothed the strips over the bodies, covering up the miscellaneous recyclables underneath.

Animal sculpture 4Until they came to life.  Their bodies formed and we not only learned about a fantastically talented artist but we learned about form, sculpture, shape and size.

We made beautiful art as a communal group.

Tactile Textures

layering front picture

Who said art had to be clean?

No one probably, since most toddler, preschool and childhood art projects are just the opposite.  This one’s included in that mess

Toddler 1 Pictures Week April 22 2013

So…What did we use?

       1. Blue Glue

       2. Orange. Yellow. Red. Tissue Paper

       3. Yellow. Red. White. Construction Paper

       4. Orange. Dark Blue. Canvas and Thick Fabric

Texture layers 2

We layered and then layered some more

Texture layers 3

We painted on the collage pieces to stick them to the paper, we then painted on top of them and even painted our hands, turning everything BLUE.

Texture layer 5

We layered until our hands were covered, our papers weighed a ton and our collage pieces were stuck to our pages

Texture layer 4

Leaving us with…

texture layered last pic

Yarn Hangings with Yvette Kaiser Smith

A mishmash of wonderful art making happened with this lesson

yarn hangings 4

Art history, sensory exploration and sculpture were all used in this lesson.  We took inspiration from Yvette Kaiser Smith’s crocheted, fiber glass, wall hangings and worked in groups to make our own Smith hangings. Yvette Kaiser Smith

We used plates covered with saran wrap as our base to make round wall hangings.  Similar to Smiths round crocheted, fiberglass ones

We talked about the patterns that we saw in Smith’s hangings, and how her fiberglass had to intertwine to stay together.  We looked at how she left holes in certain parts of her art pieces to create new patterns and thought about how we could twist and turn our yarn to do the same.

yarn hangings 2

Instead of crocheting, we used watered down glue to soak our yarn in as we twisted and layered our pieces.  We explored our sense of touch by feeling the sticky, gooey consistency of the glue between our fingers.  We pushed the pieces of yarn into the bath of glue and then ran our fingers down each piece to ring out any excess.  We talked about our likes and dislikes of the feeling the glue had on our hands.

yarn hangings 6

Understanding this as a 3D sculpture project was difficult for the artists.  There were a lot of questions about how this is 3D when it looks like it’s flat.  We talked about the yarn as a separate material and if the yarn had different sides, making it 2D or 3D?  This helped explain the idea of sculpture or 3D artwork.

yarn hangings 5

We used layers of different colors and manipulated our yarn to make patterns and textures in our wall hangings.  We bunched, twisted, straightened and curled.  And when they were finished we put them to the side to dry

yarn hangings 3

They take a while to dry, I would say about a week, so patience is definitely needed.  When they’re dry or close to it, the plate can be flipped, the saran wrap peels off and these beautiful wall hangings can be hung up by themselves or layered with others.  They also look beautiful in front of windows

yarn hangings 1

Worlds Together

Working together on art, we work on process and progress.

In our world art making, we explored what the world looks like, the different textures and surfaces that exist and the many layers that make up our earth.

Saran Wrap Worlds 3

This is what we did. We used recycled cardboard for our base, cutting each piece into a circle.  Then we covered the circles with saran wrap, taping it off in the back.  As the layers grew throughout the week, we covered each one with a new layer of saran wrap.  This preserved the original layers so you could see them behind our new paints and textures. The final layer was covered with saran wrap and our worlds were complete!

Saran Wrap Worlds 2

Introducing materials gradually always promotes the exploration of process.  I put blue paint on the table first, asking what our blue paint was suppose to represent in our round worlds.

This led to stories about water, fish, the ocean, lakes, how the water in our landscapes change when the seasons change, etc. Once one layer was painted and done, we moved onto the next.

Through covering our painted layers with saran wrap, we were able to preserve the progression of our work, understanding and learning about the idea of building through paint and art.

Saran Wrap Worlds

To add in texture to our layers, paints with salt and paints with flour were introduced, gradually.  We talked about what the green paint with flour could represent.

Artist:”The paints bigger. It grows!”

We discovered that thicker paint was able to be molded into small 3D mounds and we could build onto those mounds  with more paint.

Saran Wrap Worlds 1

I always find it amazing how conversations can start through art.  The stories of how the world related to each student, individually and their experiences in the water and on land were told throughout our art making.

Artist: “I play in the green paint sometimes”

Teacher: “What is the green paint?”

Artist: “The woods, I play with sticks in the woods with Dad”

Children learn through being able to relate learned information to their own experiences.  We knew what these “green and blue” areas were because we’ve spent time and built memories in these areas, giving them more importance because they were more relatable, more touchable.