Exploring the Senses with Dried Beans

I’ve been making a conscious effort lately to prepare some activities just for Sarah. Don’t get me wrong, she’s definitely not left out, just a second child I guess. So along with the purple lavender goop we did earlier this week, this activity was just for Sarah.

Exploring different sounds with dried beans is a typical Montessori activity; scooping the beans and letting them fall into a container is a wonderful sensory activity for little people. For this activity I chose dried 4-bean mix, a wooden tray, some glass jars, a small metal bowl and a small wooden spoon. I thought the three different containers (wood, glass and metal) would all make a different sound and Sarah would enjoy scooping the beans with the small spoon.

I had hoped to use larger beans like lima or butter beans but they weren’t available at our supermarket. Sarah still puts most things in her mouth and I thought the 4-bean mix might be a little small, but as it turned out, she was too busy playing and didn’t try to eat any. Also I really like the different colours, shapes and textures in this mix; I think it’s quite beautiful.

Sarah was immediately attracted to this activity and after a short demonstration,

These are beans. I’m scooping up the beans with the spoon. I’m dropping them into the jar. They make a nice sound, don’t they?’,

Sarah was away. Scooping and dropping, swishing the beans with her hands, filling up the jars, shaking the jars. She tested each of the containers and seemed to enjoy the metal container the best. Sarah dropped one bean at a time, then a handful at a time. She poured the glass jar into the metal bowl and back again.

My understanding of Montessori would be that, should Sarah drop some beans on the ground, I should show her how to return them to the tray, and that this important step be encouraged. I agree with this in part, but I have also seen what can happen when I let her explore, manipulate, test without interruption. For this type of exploratory activity, I think that as long as she is engaged in purposeful activity (not deliberately making a mess) I let her play freely.

And play freely she did. I think we will play with this again tomorrow.

Irresistible to three year olds too it would seem (Jack thought it would be a nice idea to add the egg carton). Such a simple activity. They are always the best, aren’t they?


6 thoughts on “Exploring the Senses with Dried Beans

  1. Dear Kate,

    Just wanted to confirm that based on my training (ami a to I – in process) you should never interrupt the child when she is engaged/ concentrating. After she is done, you can show her how to clean up but not during the activity. The only time when you would show her during is if she is doing it maliciously or not concentrating. For instance, she might get bored and start throwing the beans and it will be obvious that she is not fully engaged. Then you can say “I see you are done, let’s clean up” or something to that effect. I hope this helps 🙂 lovely blog! Found via howwemontessori.

    • Thank you. That is very helpful and reassuring. I don’t like to interrupt Sarah when she is engaged. If ever I do, she doesn’t seem to return to the same level of concentration as before.
      Thanks for the suggestion.

  2. You’re welcome. I forgot to mention you should interrupt if it poses danger or is unsafe but of cause that is intuitive.

    You are right once concentration is broken, it is really hard for the child to reestablish it. Children are driven by an inner drive to take what they need from the environment especially during sensitive periods. Especially at age 0-3, we might try to teach them one thing but they choose to focus one another. This is when we follow the child and allow her absorb all she needs.

    Can you tell I am excited about the subject? Once I get started, it is hard to stop.

    Trust your instincts. They are usually right.

    This is my last comment for the day at least!

  3. Pingback: Mirrors & Buttons: A Reggio-inspired Activity for Sarah | An Everyday Story

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