Exploring natural materials through a sensory approach

Step 1: Explore a natural material with all your senses 

Children learn and develop understanding of the world by using all the senses. They look, taste, touch, hear, smell, and use their body to make sense of the world. To cultivate good exploratory talk with children, we must be aware of this part of the child’s perspective, and that the adults easily can revert too heavily to verbal initiatives. Using your senses to interpret different materials can therefore be a good activity to approximate the child’s view of the world, and thereby understand more of how to act together with the child. 

  1. Go outside and find an object (a stone, pinecone, plant, or similar)
  2. Use your senses to experience and explore the object.
  3. Examine the material first by yourself. Touch – smell – listen – look at the material you have chosen (you can even taste or imagine how it would taste).
  4. Think through what new features you became aware of doing this exercise.

This is not meant to suggest that the labels and names of species are not important, but rather to increase consciousness about how a child may experience different materials. 

Watch this video where the task is demonstrated.


Step 2: Try it with a partner! 

You need: 2-4 different objects, for instance nuts, leaves, branches, shells, mud, etc. 

  1. First examine the material by yourself. Touch – smell – listen – look at the material you have chosen (you can even taste or imagine how it would taste). Try to convey an idea of the material you have chosen to your partner without using words, such as by using gestures, facial expressions, movements etc. Then your partner does it the other way around with a different kind of material. 
  2. Now you explain the object by its characteristics (link to observation). Do not name the object, just try to explain it by its characteristics. 
  3. Reflect together over whether you discovered anything new with the material you examined, and how this knowledge may be useful in dialogues with children.