While learning about the letter O I thought it would be fun to explore opposites. I loved that all four of the kids could get involved in some way. We practiced acting out many of the opposite pairs, read many books, and tried to do some fun hands-on activities to help the kids remember opposites. By far the most memorable activity we did was exploring different substances and comparing how they felt wet to how they felt dry.
I’ll warn you in advance that this was MESSY. But it did keep my girls actively engaged for over two hours, and I think they would have played much longer if it wasn’t time for dinner. Truthfully I have typically avoided messy play in the past, but I am very quickly becoming a huge fan. There is so much learning, discovery and joy that can go along with a little bit (okay, sometimes a lot) of mess.
Wet vs. Dry Oatmeal
Our first exploration was with oatmeal. There was no real scientific purpose in this choice. I just grabbed something from the pantry. Both girls had their own pans of oatmeal. We felt the dry oatmeal and discussed some observations about its texture and smell.
Then each of the girls started adding water on their own. I didn’t tell them how much to add, and it was interesting to see them in action. Tinker who is almost 2 kept adding water until she ran out of water. Then she started transferring the water and oatmeal mixture back to the original bowl. Then she started transferring it to other bowls and the measuring cup. She spent almost the entire two hours happily playing with this wet oatmeal.
Lovey, who is 4, added a little water and stirred the oatmeal like she was baking something. She never actually touched it. She is a bit like me and doesn’t usually choose to get dirty on her own. Then she noticed I was getting another pan of something, so she was eager to see it.
Wet vs. Dry Cornmeal
I remembered seeing this wonderful cornmeal sensory activity from Hands On: As We Grow, so the next thing I grabbed from the pantry was some cornmeal. Tinker was still very content playing with her oatmeal, so Lovey explored this one on her own.
At first she started much the same way as she did with the oatmeal. She poured a little water, stirred it around, and told me a little bit about how the cornmeal was changing. As she continued to add water, I asked her how it felt. She looked at me, stunned, and said, “You want me to touch it?”
After a little chuckle, I said, “You can touch it if you want to see how it feels. It’s okay to get messy.” I think for me it was an eye-opening moment. Maybe she doesn’t really mind getting messy. Maybe she just thinks I don’t want her to make a mess.
And before I knew it she was all in! There was no turning back. She squished it and let it ooze all over, and I loved watching her soak up the experience. She moved the cornmeal around to make a pond. And what is a pond without some turtles? Before long there were miniature toy ducks and turtles swimming in the cornmeal pond. She was amazed at how they would sink down into the mixture and disappear. The opportunity to discuss so much great vocabulary was wonderful.
Wet vs. Dry Cornstarch
By now I thought the girls would be done playing, and I was planning to do another exploration on a different day. Instead Lovey said, “What’s next?” That’s when I remembered reading something about mixing cornstarch and water. This post about goop from Growing a Jeweled Rose provides a good recipe if you want to make some goop beforehand. It includes a couple extra ingredients, and leads to wonderful sensory play.
For our purposes I wanted Lovey to control how much water was added and witness the transformation firsthand. Again we started with a pan full of cornstarch and a container of water. She added water a little bit at a time and stirred. She was immediately surprised at how hard the cornstarch become at first. She kept adding water and then tried to dig into the mixture with her fingers. After working with the mixture for a bit, she was rewarded with this delightful substance!
To say she loved this is an understatement! She played and played and played, and the next day she asked for “more of that wet white stuff!”
And all Tinker would say as we tried to clean up was, “More play mommy! More play!” I think the mess was definitely worth it!
How do you feel about messy play? What other substances would be fun to explore to compare wet and dry?
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More Math and Science Activities with Fizz, Pop, Bang!
Fizz, Pop, Bang! Playful Science and Math Activities is designed to bring hands-on fun to math and science play. It’s full of engaging and powerful learning opportunities in math and science, shared through ideas that incorporate art, play, sensory learning and discovery, for a whole-brain approach.
It includes 40 educational projects and 20 printables including a set of build-your-own 3D shape blocks, engineering challenge cards and a range of math games.