Do you spend time foraging for materials that would be the pièce de résistance of any given sensory activity only to find those materials collecting dust on your art shelves months (or years!) later?  Me?  Guilty.  Majorly guilty.  I attend conferences and write feverishly as presenters give out suggestions for supplies that extend the learning of children in their programs, and then spend hours in the days following hunting them down online or locally only to set them on the shelf and look at them.  Look. At. Them.  What part of looking at a bottle of glitter glue, or staring at box of glow sticks, or creating in the presence of a wonderful bag of metallic balloons does any child any good?  It doesn’t even matter how expensive the materials were!  Often, the dust collectors set me back a couple of dollars at most!  Yet I typically fall into the trap of hoarding “my” supplies (who are they for again?) and doling them out sparingly – preferring to stick with safer and more known materials like play dough and paint.  And I even tend to guard those materials with the sharp eyes of a hawk. 

I have made myself a kind of new year’s resolution – although, admittedly a bit late – a purchasing freeze until I use the materials I have.  This experience was inspired by a dusty bottle of water crystals from Steve Spangler Science (open this link and watch the video — don’t tell me you aren’t tempted to add a jar of these to your shopping cart!).  Denita Dinger of the fabulous Play Counts blog originally shared this material with me back at a conference in October of 2010, so I can safely say that I have had this jar on my self for a year and a half.  I have hauled it along with me to share with other providers in my trainings, but only taken the crystals out with my own crew once or twice – and at those times, I was stingy.

Consider me Emily, Generous Bestower of Material Abundance!  We pulled out the water table, and dumped the entire jar of remaining crystals (it was about 3/4 full of rice-sized dehydrated polymers) into the tub.  I didn’t tell the crew what we were about to do, I just let it unfold.  One of the many perks of having small ones in the group is that I have amassed quite a collection of plastic formula scoops, which are only tiny, but have the added built in bonus of a pin-sized hole at the bottom, allowing water to slowly drip out of the bottom.  If there was ever a repurposed material to hang onto, formula scoops are where it’s at!  I added these to the table and we were set.

Commence water-table-and-water-jelly-crystal-expereince photo montage.

Tekoa is trying to pinch crystals on the bottom of the tub between her fingers, Addie is experiencing the pouring and dumping, and Cadence is discovering larger crystals that have started to rehydrate. Desmond is happy he can stand up to look inside!

Three cheers for multi-age groupings!  Present in this experience: 8.5 months – nearly 5 years old.


The number of explorers grows.

Henry is so persistently learning those incredibly tricky fine motor skills on his way to the water table.  One of the perks of the setup here at Abundant Life is that our indoor and outdoor space is on the same level.  Kids can work on shoes and socks right at the edge of the door (in warm enough weather) enabling those who want to take time learning sock-putting-on to grow their fine motor skills and persistence while honoring the needs of those who have mastered sock-putting-on to get to the water table!  I stay close by the door so those who are hard at work on their footwear don’t feel like they’re missing the party!

Cool water, happy kids!

Have you ever had to fish egg shell out of cracked eggs?  Gathering these small crystals off of the bottom of this tub isn’t quite that complicated, but it’s close.  Talk about fine motor skill heaven!
Look at the levels here: Cadence is on her tiptoes, getting the water as high as she can before she lets it fall, Christians is looking with her hands out, Henry is delicately stirring the water with his scooper, Simone’s hands are on the bottom of the tub (notice her wet sleeves), and Tekoa is under the table, collecting the spilled jellies.  Even though they are non-toxic, we decided as a crew that Desmond should not eat the water crystals, and we worked hard to keep them in the tub.
If you want to know how the crystals look when they are fully inflated, unfortunately I have no photographic evidence of my own to provide. The crew kept a close eye on how large these things grew (they ended up filling the entire tub!) but I neglected to capture it on camera!  Anyway, if you’re interested, the Steve Spangler link from above shows how big they can get.
So what about you? What materials do you save for a rainy day?
Thanks for reading!