The children are resting. There are a few quiet moments before they begin to stir. I set up a provocation. Water has been a big hit lately, and with the temperature cooling outside, I decide to run it hot so that it is pleasantly warm by the time it is used. How to spice it up? One of the children mentioned a bath earlier, how about an Animal Bath? I mix dyes to get a brown, place the animals inside, and set the bins on our light table.
The children are groggy, but when I mention water, their footsteps quicken. A slight smile tugs at the corner of JS’s mouth.
JS looks at the bins and back up at me. His brow furrows. “Why?”
“I thought you might enjoy giving these animals a bath.”
“Well, they are a little dirty in that muddy water and need some help. I know that you love to help others, and thought you might want to wash them in the warm soapy water.”
He smiles and gives one sharp nod.
JS slips his hand in the water. His eyes widen in surprise.
“Do you like it? I enjoy warm water when it’s chilly out.”
JS picks up an animal as MB crawls over and pulls herself up using the edge of the light table.
MB observes JS intently. She makes no move to touch the water, or the bin. Her body is relaxed and her mouth is slightly open. I can feel how closely she is watching.
JS grabs an ocotpus.
“An octopus. It lives in the ocean. You can see it has many tentacles.”
“Yes. Eight tentacles.”
“I see you washing that octopus. You are being so gentle and thorough. I wonder what you will do with it once it is clean.”
MB vocalizes and bounces her body up and down. She is asking for a turn at the table.
“Sure, this activity is available to you, MB. Let’s move to the other side of the table so everyone has space. I’m going to get you a stool so it is easy to reach over the bins. I will be right back. Thank you for waiting patiently.”
I grab a stool and return.
MB is indeed waiting patiently on the other side of the table. She makes no move to grab the bin or its contents, seemingly confident that her desire to play will be met momentarily. I put down the stool.
“MB, I’m going to pick you up and put you onto the stool. Ready?”
I wait until I see MB tense her body, a signal to me that she has braced herself and is ready to be moved.
“Here we go!”
I pick up MB and move her over the stool. I lower her until her feet touch, and am surprised when she buckles her knees.
“Whoa! I thought you were going to stand up?! That surprised me! Engage your legs, mama!”
MB laughs as I touch her feet to the stool again. Her knees buckle. I lift and lower her again, only to be met by more buckled knees.
“MB, I thought you were interested in working with the water. It will be much easier to reach if you stand on this stool. You stand on our chairs a lot, remember? Your legs are so strong! Lock those knees and staaaaaaand up.”
“Strong.” JS echoes and encourages.
MB locks her knees and stands. She grabs the edge of the light table, and bounces her body up and down a couple of times, getting a feel for her weight on the stool.
“Now you can reach!”
MB looks at me, her eyes a question.
“Yes. You’re ready now, MB. You may play in the water.”
The words have hardly left my mouth before both her arms are in the bin. She grabs a hippo and merrily smacks it against the surface of the water.
Her right hand quickly locates a sponge, an item we have yet to use in the classroom thus far. She clenches her fist and her eyes dart from the splashes her hippo is making over to the sudsy water being forced from the sponge.
“Mmm. You’ve noticed that there is water in that sponge. You can use that water to wash the animals. Or you can just squeeze the sponge, it is up to you. Please keep the sponge over the bin as it holds SO MUCH water.”
“Whhhhhhyyyyy?” inquires JS.
“Well, that’s what makes sponges such great tools. They pick up and hold water for us, then let it go as soon as we ask by squeezing it. I asked for the sponges to stay over the bin so the water doesn’t go on the floor.”
“Why?” he asks again.
“I’m trying to protect our wooden floor from the water, and our nice dry socks from getting wet! Many people feel uncomfortable in wet socks.”
MB picks up an elephant and lets out a squeal of delight. I am unsure whether she is pleased by the animal itself, or the sheer heft of it. She splashes it in the water repeatedly. I make an elephant sound. Both children look to me and laugh.
MB sets the elephant aside and picks up a similar animal.
“Ahhh” she yells as she offers it to me, arm fully extended.
“For me? How thoughtful of you! It makes me feel so nice when you share with me, MB. Thank you!”
She gives me a tiny grin before fishing in the bin for something else.
I notice that the bubbles have filled both bins from the constant motion of the water.
“Children, I am going to empty one of these bins and get fresh water.”
“Why?” JS wants to know.
“I think you might enjoy being able to see the water again. Right now both bins look the same. Life is more interesting when we add difference!”
I dump the bin, add warm water, and debate leaving the water clear. I can’t resist color, and give into my personal desire to add some blue dye.
I bring the bin back and place it on the table.
“Blue water!? Why?” asks JS.
“Hm. I thought we needed water without bubbles, and I just really wanted to add blue. I like it! Maybe that is the clean water now. What do you think?”
“Blue!” he shouts back. Then he shakes his head. “Nooooo. Pink.”
“Oh! You were thinking you wanted some pink water?”
“Pink water.” He nods to confirm I have understood him.
“Thanks for letting me know what you need, JS. I think I can get us some pink water.”
I take the other soapy bin to the sink and dump the water. I add a tiny amount of red dye to fresh water, and hope this will satisfy JS.
“How does this look?” I offer as I set the bin down.
“Pink! Pink water. Special!”
“Pink water is special water? Hm. You must be right. I don’t often see pink water. How curious.”
MB and JS move animals back and forth between the bins of pink and blue water. They are at ease with one another, and share the activity readily. On the few occasions that they grab the same animal, they both let go and find another one.
Soap from the previous bins swirls around the very bottom. I add one drop of green dye to complete the colorful scene.
I sit back and smile as I watch the children continue to work together. I wonder what they are thinking. I am content not to know.