Classroom Environment · Improving my Teaching Practice

Water table: staying unruffled and a little negotiation

Water Table

On Monday I put water in the sensory table with a large strainer, some small bowls and two scoops. I put in enough water so the children could easily pour and scoop the water. I had just read the post by Janet Lansbury, 9 Best Ways to Stay (Mostly) Unruffled With Toddlers , so I felt good about putting water out and staying unruffled.

In my post, My sensory table mission: check in #1, I talk about the children pouring the water from the table onto the floor. It gets pretty old repeating “keep the water in the table please.” So on Monday I started off expecting this to happen. When it did I would tell the children “you can pour the water into the bowls or the scoops. If you pour the water onto the floor I will close the table and you can try again later.” If a child poured the water on the floor again I followed through with what I said. I closed the table and told the child “you can try again later. The water stays in the water table.” That morning I did a lot of opening and closing of the table or having a child leave and then come back. It felt great! I felt like my expectations were appropriate, I stayed calm, I stated the expectations clearly and I was consistent.

There was one child who spent a lot of time at the water table that morning and I really enjoyed observing her work so carefully pouring the water. I most often sit back and watch the children play but on Monday I joined in at the child’s request. Since I have been thinking about negotiation lately and how I would hate to be ordered around all the time and never get to do the ordering myself, I let the child tell me what to do (since I had been telling her where she could and couldn’t put the water all morning). I truly believe that letting the child take the lead and tell me what to do positively affected both of our experiences with the water table that morning. This child usually ends up pouring water on the floor but Monday was different and it didn’t happen as much as it usually does.

I think this experience felt so great to me because…

  • My expectations were realistic
  • I stated the expectations clearly
  • I was consistent
  • I stayed unruffled
  • There was a respectful dance of negotiation

One of my followers commented on, My sensory table mission: check in #1 and suggested that I put a small tub out in the classroom so the children can move water between the tub and the water table. I hope to try this out someday. If you have any other suggestions about materials for the water table, please share!


3 thoughts on “Water table: staying unruffled and a little negotiation

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