We recently explored in my toddler playgroup a sensory bin filled with chick peas, and it was so educational! Yes! Your heard well. EducationaI. And yes, I confess using food in my bins.
Here are my thoughts on this controversial topic for many. In my opinion, young children need to use all their senses as they are discovering and connecting with the world around them. I believe food provides such a rich learning opportunity as children smell it, taste it, touch it and even play with it.
Being a strong advocate of play and of learning through it, I think food is key in a child’s learning process, facilitating tactile and sensorial exploration and therefore greatly aiding in their development.
I mean, let’s not forget that food has been used to make dyes and paints; scientists, chemists and doctors have experimented with it to make products and medicines. So why withhold our early childhood from interacting with food for other purposes apart from its nutritional ones? World issues around food are far from a child’s cognitive understanding at such an early age. And this doesn’t mean that they wont be sensitive towards these issues as they grow up.
No judgement here. I respect those who choose not to use food in their classes. And in the end I think that what really matters is doing what makes sense to you. Finding your balance. And if you are using food, doing it in a way that supports a child’s development through sensory exploration which is so relevant in their early learning experience.
My balance stands in trying to use expired food as often as I can in my bins. And when it’s not expired, I try to use it as much as possible and in different ways. I dye it, I mix
It up with other stuff, I add water, I cook it, I make maracas with it.
But for example, I don’t use a tangerine to paint because I think it’s “cute”, yet I do see potential in cutting it open, putting it in a water bin, maybe exploring its seeds in a light table, smelling it and so on. So it’s not about using food for the sake of it, it’s about using it with intention. With educational and sensorial purposes to support children in their development.
I know this is a very sensitive topic and it can be very relative and connected to your beliefs and moreover to the environment where you are teaching. What may work for me, may not work for you. So that’s what I mean when I say it’s all a matter of balance and coherence. And all point of views are valid and respectable.