Although it’s officially the beginning of autumn now (here in the Northern hemisphere) according to the calendar, I’m not ready for summer to end quite yet! Today is a beautiful, warm and sunny day, just like yesterday, and I’m sure there will still be a few more of these to come. So while the sun is shining I’m going to share this little sensory activity we did earlier this summer, which also incorporates some very basic STEAM concepts (STEAM stands for Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics):
We took an empty ice cream tub and went out into our garden to collect some flower heads. We found roses, daisys and buttercups, and we talked about their colours, scents, size, textures, names etc. Well, as our Penguin is non-verbal, it was mostly me doing the talking, but I did encourage him to try to repeat some of the words, and he did help with the picking (practising motor skills), examined there smells and so on. We had also done a learning activity the previous day, in which we wrote the flowers’ names, identified their colours, which one’s the biggest or smallest etc. If you like, you could work more thouroughly on those concepts while collecting flowers (or other plant parts) for this activity.
We then went inside, poured some water in our ice cream tub (about 1-2 inches deep), and put it in the freezer.
A couple of days later, we took the tub out of the freezer and brought it back out into the garden to examine its frozen contents. Before taking the flowery ice block out, we put the tub on its side and let the sun shine throug the bottom of it while we enjoyed how pretty it looked. To be honest, this only lasted for a brief moment, as Penguin was very keen to get the ice block out. I did manage to get him to help me taking a couple of photos of the frozen flowers, before he grabbed the tub and emptied it out on our pateo.
He loved picking away at the ice while it melted. This was a great sensory experience, and an opportunity to really pay attention to what it felt like, as well as to what was happening. Here are some of the things we took notice of, and which you can point out if you do this activity with your child/-ren:
- The ice feels very cold, ice cold.
- The ground (paving slabs) feels warm (I had Penguin put his hand flat on the ground to really feel it). The air is warm too.
- The warmth is making the ice melt, turning it into water. “Notice over here, the ground is dry, but here (by the ice) it’s getting wet.”
- We put water in the tub, it turned into ice in the cold freezer, and now it is getting warmer and turning into water again.
- When water isn’t frozen, it is a liquid. It can flow and move in waves, you can pour it in a glass and drink it. And all the little parts that the water is made of, called molecules, can move when they’re not frozen. But when they get to cold, they get all stiff and can’t move. That’s what happens when the water turns into ice: It goes from liquid to solid. When the ice gets warmer, the molecules can start to move again, so it goes from being solid back to liquid again. (If you like to, you can add that if the water gets REALLY hot, it will turn into gas, in which the molecules are moving around freely all over the place.)
The words in bold letters are ones I emphasized and stopped at to give Penguin a chance to repeat them. I try to incorporate some speech sounds practice here and there, rather than having it as something separate. I think it makes more sense and is more motivating for our boy to work on communication as something that is integrated into other aspects of life and learning.
Next time we do this, we might use Penguin’s AAC app, and find some of the words on there, to ‘say’ them that way instead.
Apart from the changing physical forms of the water, we also looked at the little bubbles that had formed in the ice, and how the ice and the flowers caught the light from the sun. This was mainly just to really notice the beauty of it (a form of ‘mindfulness’, I guess?), but it also gives a chance to use descriptive language, such as “shimmering”, “glittering”, “shining”, “sparkling” and so on. Plus again looking at the colours of the flowers, and repeating their names once more. Repetition plays a super important role for deep learning, you know 😉
For the most part, I let Penguin get on with exploring the melting ice block as he wished, and he got some good pincer grasp practise while trying to pick out the rose petals from the ice. After a little while I suggested we picked it up and dropped it, which we did, and I also got him a trowel to whack the ice with.
An alternative to taking your frozen flowers out into the garden to melt would be to make part two of this activity part of bathtime. And you might like to make a few extra flower-filled ice blocks while summer is still here. I think it could be pretty sweet to get a sample of summer out of the freezer in a few months time!