A great activity to try at home with your child – all you need is a trough of coloured sand and some plastic animals. We call it ‘The Treasure Trough of Ocean Wonders’. When we set this up at JINS, the children were enthused to get involved! They dug in and rummaged through the sand to find a variety of aquatic animals, while forming and connecting curves and horizontal, vertical and zig-zag lines in the sand, that form the basis of all letter shapes.
The children squealed with joy every time they found a unique aquatic animal, logged deep in the sand. This piqued their curiosity and was an opportunity for our teacher to help them identify different species that live in the ocean. When doing the same at home with your child, use this opportunity to educate your child about the marine world and their individual characteristics. Encourage your child to sift through the sand, grip each animal and learn to sort by colour. This will help develop your child’s sensory and fine motor skills.
This activity encourages children to explore mark making led by their imagination. Mark making is the first step towards developing writing skills and crucial at this stage of early learning. In an active play-based activity such as this, children feel confident to express their thoughts graphically. Big shapes and crooked lines will gradually form smaller letters, alphabets and numbers as their hand-eye coordination and manual dexterity matures. Through kinesthetic learning the child associates the language of the mark or letter shape with the action of forming it, this is essential for any motor action. (Kinesthesia is the knowledge of where each body part is and the direction in which it is moving. It is an important component of motor control for legible handwriting.)
Once children realise that marks can be used symbolically to carry meaning, in much the same way as the spoken word, they begin to use marks as a way to make their thinking visible.
For this reason, mark making is crucial to support the developing concepts of mathematics and language in relation to play. Sometimes children make marks for the pure physical enjoyment of the activity. At other times, children may take delight in using their mark making to tell stories and express their feelings through pictures and symbols of increasing sophistication. A sensitive and observant parent must recognise that children make marks for many different reasons and that development along this journey is complex, depending as much on confidence, motivation and dispositions as on their physical skills or ability.
As part of the Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) Programme of England, the JINS Early Learning Specialists curate immersive and enjoyable mark making activities throughout the year. The objective is to create a positive and enabling environment for better learning. The Treasure Trough of Ocean Animals was a big hit with our little learners at JINS! Amidst excited and curious giggles during the activity, our children realised only too quickly that these animals, indeed live in the ocean, rushed to fill water in bowls and pour it into the trough for their marine friends to thrive!!! Ah, how we love this empathy 🙂
This exemplifies our principles of child-initiated learning, and how a simple activity can explore different avenues of learning, fueled by a child’s imagination. Try this fun activity at home and tell us all about it!