Sensory lessons are an integral part of the Montessori Method. Sensory activities and materials are designed to help children to learn through their five senses. At a glance, we can easily see that children are learning to recognize and name colors, shapes, textures, sounds, and much more. These basics are important in their own right, but there's actually much more going on beneath the surface. Sensory learning is the foundation of early brain development. Starting from birth (and maybe even earlier,) children's brains are building themselves through sensory experiences.
"The child must possess within himself, from birth, a capacity - only a potential at first - of abstracting or taking off from particular things their essential qualities. If you watch carefully any small child, of one to two years old, you will see that he is not only interested in objects as a whole, but also in their qualities, such as roughness, smoothness, hardness, softness, colour, taste, texture, weight, pliability, and so on." ~Maria Montessori
Some of my favorite sensory activities are those that involve color, (second only after those that involve food!) So, when my little niece came to visit recently, I decided to try a fun activity that would teach some color mixing basics and hopefully result in a beautiful, colorful, fall decoration. Here were the steps we followed to make our Pumpkin Suncatcher:
Step One: Collect the following items:
- Colored cellophane in the three primary colors: red, blue, and yellow. I just used inexpensive cellophane gift bags and cut them into small squares.
- Clear, self-adhesive laminate. I found mine in the photo/scrapbooking section in the craft store.
- A stencil or picture of a pumpkin. This can be something you download and print, cut out, or draw yourself. Anything that gives the young child a visual of what a pumpkin looks like.
- Tape, scissors, and a sunlit window.
Step Two: Cut the colored cellophane into small pieces. I cut ours into approximately two-inch squares. Then I let my niece sort the cellophane squares into like colors. She had no problem with this and was ready to move on after about 30 seconds.
Step Three: I showed my niece that when you overlap two colors, you get another color. I.e., yellow and blue make green. Red and yellow make orange, and blue and red make purple. She experimented with this for some time. She was especially interested in layering more sheets of color to change the hue or brighten the intensity. Apparently, two layers of red and three layers of yellow make the ideal shade of orange for a pumpkin.
Step Four: While she was having fun experimenting with the colors, I got things ready for the next step. I chose a sunny window and taped the pumpkin picture FIRST. You want it under the clear laminate. I used a felt cutout of a pumpkin because it was on sale for just pennies, but I ended up wishing my pumpkin was just an outline so my niece could see the colors better. Oh well, live and learn! Hang a sheet of laminate, STICKY SIDE FACING OUT, over the stencil. Your sheet of laminate should be large enough to cover the whole pumpkin picture.
Step Five: Now it is time to let the child get creative! My niece started sticking on pieces of colored laminate and she didn't want to stop. This is where I wished I had used an outline because we couldn't really see the colors through our felt pumpkin.
So, I lifted the laminate and removed the felt pumpkin. Here is what it looked like at that stage:
Beautiful! But my niece wasn't finished. She wanted to keep layering on more colored cellophane. I saw that she was getting a little frustrated that only the first layer would stick (to the laminate,) so I got out some double sided tape and let her continue to her heart's content. I think it was about a half an inch thick by the time she was finished!
Step Six: The last step is to place a top layer of self-adhesive laminate, sticky side down this time, to seal your pumpkin between the two layers. Trim the edges, and--presto--a beautiful sun-catcher!