An old Chinese Proverb is one that many new teachers live by “Tell me and I’ll forget; show me and I may remember; involve me and I’ll understand.” Simple, simple, simple. So, so, so very true. How often do we tell someone something and simply expect them to remember? (Example : telling the husband to put his laundry in the hamper…) We can tell them over and over again (um, until it’s called “nagging”) and hope that eventually it’ll stick, but rarely does it. We can model this for them, but that really only works part of the time. Until we place the dirty socks in the hands of our significant other and lead them TO the hamper and guide them towards placing the dirty laundry in the hamper, it seems that there is little else that works (and, really, that only works part of the time, too).
You get the idea. We can tell our dear little children that when you mix sand and water, it will make mud, and they MIGHT remember it, but will they really understand? Most likely not. If you stand in front of your child and do it for them, thus showing them the process, their little brain will start clicking. But the real magic happens when you involve more than one sense (i.e. vision and/or hearing). When your child, either with intention or on accident, discovers how mud is made by actually mixing the dirt and water himself, that is a memory that becomes established in his long term memory. Why? Because it involved the whole person, it involved all of his senses (yes, he probably ate it, too and I bet he’s still digging dirt clods out of his nostrils!). His little brain begins firing off little connections and it becomes integrated into HIM … it feels delicious between his fingers, tastes, well, dirty, smells stinky and makes a crunching sound between his teeth. Your little person, because of this experience, can now talk about it, write about it, understand and make a personal connection with similar events in books (let’s hope he doesn’t read “How to Eat Fried Worms”!).
Often times, many parents (including myself) become lazy about bringing sensory experiences to their kids. It really is a pain to clean up the large mess from the water table in the kitchen, or to clean mud from every nook and cranny on their kid. But there’s a couple of things to think about.
One. When you decide that you might be brave enough to try that cooking experiment or other sensory activity with your kid, I want you to capture and remember the look of utter joy and elation on your child’s face. Just today we had our playgroup over and we fingerpainted with chocolate pudding. Can you imagine THAT mess? Ugh! But the total delight these kids had written all over their face was simply priceless and unforgettable. It only occupied their time for about 10 minutes, took me about 25 to scrub it all off the surfaces, and they all left their paintings here, but I know that it was completely worth it, simply for a terrifying moment for me as my daughter came racing towards me, covered in chocolate pudding, asking for a hug!
Two. Bringing sensory experiences to your children teaches them about the world around them. By simply offering them the opportunity to create mud in their back yard, you are providing an opportunity to teach them about the world far beyond their own home. Eventually, this simple mud experiment I keep referring to will eventually help them to understand what the beach might feel like after the tide has rolled out, leaving muddy sand to walk through. Though it might be a little (or a lot) inconvenient to you, it will mean a whole lot to them.
Three. It develops those motor skills that are so essential. Rolling, cutting, squishing playdough builds the muscles that are necessary for well developed fine motor skills. And it makes it FUN!
Four. Please read number one again.
Tell me and I’ll forget; show me and I may remember; involve me and I’ll understand. Go. Play. Experiment. Live like a child, with your child, and remember the feelings you once experienced as you dipped your hand into those nasty Halloween party plates that resembled brains. Create memories, create laughter, create your child’s imagination!