Young Minds

Thoughts of an early childhood teacher…

Picnics and tea parties! (with maths and colour-mixing…)

I was chatting to someone recently about “kid-people” and how easy or difficult it is to “entertain” a 3 year old when you’re looking after them….

I had to look after my niece for an hour and she is a BUSY girl. She always must be doing something and it is hard to keep up with her. Well, because it was sunny and Aunty Jo wanted to lie in the sun, I tried to think of an idea that would allow this to happen….

Note: it was a particularly gorgeous January Perth morning when I did this with my niece – you might not be as lucky!

I got an old sheet, her tea set, a large transparent jug and some food colouring and I announced we were going to have a picnic! We took our bits and pieces out onto the grass and she started to set up the picnic. As she did this I took a moment to close my eyes and soak in the warmth!

I then asked her what colour we should make the water. She enthusiastically announced PURPLE! as if no other colours existed. So, because I didn’t have purple dye, we tried mixing some colours. I let her do this part and I counted the drops with her to make sure she didn’t put too much in. Of course, unintentionally, she did anyway.

We made one colour, then another, then another and then what seemed to be a dirty purplish kind of colour. But the colour we made wasn’t important – it was the discussions we had during this. We remarked on the colours we were making and decided what colour we could add and then commented on how that changed the water.

She spent the better part of an hour pouring this water amongst the cups and then using those cups to pour into other containers and then back again. At one point she poured from a teacup into a sugar bowl and I could see her brows furrowing as she realised that it wasn’t all going to fit. She kept right on pouring though!

This was a great mathematical activity for her to do without even intending on it being “learning”. But then again, a simple episode like this proves that play is indeed learning for these little ones. We used words like “too much”, “not enough” and “more” and “less”. All of this mathematical language is important to communicate at this age.

So as I was at my parent’s house on this day, they got home, came outside and laughed at the “mess” we had created and the fact that my niece still looked insanely busy (although sitting down) and that I was lying down getting a bit of a suntan!

And in answer to your question – yes, she did try to drink the water.

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