Saturday, September 10, 2011

For Want of a Smock...The Lesson Was Lost

I'm a terrible child care provider. My kids go home with clothes so terribly dirty, I'm sure their parents consider purchasing shares in Procter and Gamble. Actually, maybe I should purchase some of those shares... But, I digress. It's not that I intentionally want the kids to GET messy. It's not that I don't own any smocks, either. I do. In fact, I have hand made at least a dozen colourful red and yellow smocks out of plastic table cloths and duct tape (a daycare provider's best friend, right??). I have even gone so far as organizing things so that the smocks are stored conveniently next to the art table. Even so, I am not consistent in using them.
The way I see it, when the weather is nice and we're doing a lot of our messy art outdoors, smocks are kind of hot. I don't mean fashionable, I mean uncomfortably WARM. I wouldn't want to wear one. So IF I offer a smock (and we've already established that you can't count on me to offer one), if the child declines, so be it. The activity goes on, they can participate and get messy. We're all happy. I have asked parents to dress them in comfortable, washable, play clothes.
So today it was clay day. I brought out real clay, not play dough,not play clay, not plastercine, but real, from the earth, squishy, slimy, water soluble CLAY! Definately qualified as an especially messy activity and I DID bring out the smocks, only to have them rejected after the first two minutes. But the play must go on!
Some kids were a little unsure about this new stuff but my youngest was totally absorbed in the activity. (She was also happy to keep her smock on.)
Most of the kids came and went from the activity, squishing and smashing and watching it completely dissolve in the nearby water table, turning the water a rusty brown, then going off to do something else and coming back again later. To keep things interesting, I added plates and plastic knifes, then later spoons and a bowl of sand. All morning long, my buddies kept going back to the table, trying it out for a while, and washing up at the water table.

In the afternoon, my buddies were surprised to see that some of the clay bits were now as hard as rocks! Amazing! I asked them what had happened and some knew that it had dried out, but didn't know how to make it soft again. They were quite interested in observing how even the hard bits would slowly dissolve in the water and become soft again.
Left out overnight, thhe clay supply dwindled and more of it got hard. Some of the smallest bits crumbled into dust when touched.
The clay was still holding the interest of some of my buddies. Over a two day period, they had seen it firm and hard to squish, then they saw it get softer as they worked with it. They saw it dissolve in water and saw it get rock hard and then soft again. They even saw it crumble to dust. So many fantastic discoveries. They got pretty dirty in thhe process, but I really think it was well worth it. Smocks or no smocks!

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