Oat Afternoon

TulipTreeElm House Blog, tuliptree2 Comments

By Bee

The children have truly been enjoying the water work we have been doing on the light table the past few months. However, I’ve noticed that as the weather continues to chill, having wet sleeves is becoming more and more uncomfortable. I found myself curious as to whether the children would enjoy pouring and scooping dry ingredients as much as they enjoy water.

I grabbed our sensory bin and headed out to the garage. At Elm House we try to recognize and acknowledge our privilege as part of our anti-bias work. An oversight several months back meant that we had let a bag of oats expire. Wasting food is something we really try to avoid, as we know that food is an incredibly precious resource on our planet, despite the abundance our particular community enjoys. Rather than toss out the oats, we saved them in a bin in the garage for an occasion such as this one. We avoid buying food simply to work with it, as that isn’t mindful of the millions of people who go hungry each day. We want the children in our care to know that food is to be eaten and not played with, that even though we have a lot, others have little, and out of respect for them and our position we make efforts not to be wasteful. I explained that the oats we had were no longer good for eating, but that we could use them for some work before we had to compost them. This may seem superfluous when it comes to one and two year olds, but if we have learned one thing over the years it is that young people have an incredible amount of depth. Not only that, but they are full of compassion for both the people they know, and those they haven’t met yet. Our trust and respect for the children demands that we invite them to the table when it comes to global issues like hunger and waste.

After we talked and discussed our agreements around the oats (the tools must stay in the bin, the oats may not be eaten, and the oats may not be thrown) we got to work.

The children were instantly engaged. Hands were shoved deep into the oats and wiggled around. Big handfuls were grasped and released. The children seemed to move from grander gestures to more minute ones. First fistfulls of oats, and then an attempt to grab a singular one.

Space was shared very readily. The children were more interested in the oats than they were in having personal space.

A few oats were indeed sampled. When this happened we stopped, checked in about our agreements and why we have them, and then got back to work.


“Scooping, scooping.” the children chanted.

Tool were exchanged often. There seemed to be a lot of interest in pouring the oats into and out of each available receptacle.

Some children sat and watched others pour.  The learning that was happening surrounding volume, gravity, and mass happened to be available whether or not your hands were actually in the bin.

So many questions and conundrums arose organically through their play. How will I get my oats from the bin into my cup? Can I use the strainer to transfer them? Will the strainer fit in my cup? How do I pour them into my cup if the strainer doesn’t fit inside? Is there another angle I can try?

Speed was something else we experimented with. What happens when I pour the oats quickly? What if I take my time? How does that affect where they go? How does that affect the sound they make?

The children were incredibly focused while using the oats, which is an indicator to us as teachers that the oats still have many lessons to share with us. The next day we added eucalyptus oil to give the oats an olfactory impact. We have talked about adding glitter or pieces of tinsel as well. If it was up to you, how would you extend or alter this provocation? Let us know in the comments below!

2 Comments on “Oat Afternoon”

  1. I love this. I know the water work has really engaged ZC. On the last use you could add water to make them just a little mushy. Or heat them in the microwave so they are warm when the students start playing with them.

  2. Love this provocation, and also the scent that was available when I came to play. Adding glitter!! Yay! I love K’s idea about making them mushy to see them transform on the last use. You could use colored water and have the children do it to connect to the water play, use warm and cold water, put soap in it, other scents, etc.

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