Cotton Ball + Sandpaper

For this week’s update, we wanted to highlight our ongoing exploration of Cotton Balls and Sandpaper! Let us explain…


Recently, the Purple Room teachers have been curious about ways we can reframe the sometimes abstract concepts of social/emotional learning to be more embodied for our little learners. Children in this age group process information with all five of their senses and use their whole bodies—not just their brains—to learn. As 2s and 3s begin to work on identifying and working through their emotions (big and small), it can be helpful to continue to connect these concepts to physical sensation in order to process them.


We began this exploration by inviting the children to feel mystery objects in our covered sensory tray. Our hope here was to get the children comfortable with focusing on their sense of touch and experiment with not relying on sight. “What do you feel?” we asked them. It turns out, engaging only our sense of touch is tricky and a little scary! Many of the children were understandably hesitant to reach their hands into the tray without peeking. Who knows what Taylor, Teah and Becca may have hidden in there!? 🙂 Most preferred to remove an object from the tray first before making observations. “I feel green!” one child exclaimed, “I feel something smooth!” another chimed in. This was a welcome reminder for us teachers that children often do not interact with materials the way we might predict or imagine and to continue to observe and reflect on the children’s choices. Nevertheless, our Purple Room friends were getting more and more comfortable making observations about materials, both visual and tactile.


In the next few days, we began our introduction of cotton balls and sandpaper during Morning Meeting. We introduced the materials by inviting the children to pull from a mystery grab-bag filled with cotton balls and pieces of sandpaper! The children were very excited for their turn to pull and many even covered their eyes with their hands to prevent peeking. Once every child had one of the two materials in hand, we developed a list of words to describe the objects together. “Bumpy,” “rough,” “sandy,” and “ouch” were used to describe the sandpaper, while “soft,” “cozy,” “cloud,” and “good” were some of the associations with the cotton balls. For a few days, we focused solely on the ways these objects felt, revisiting the concepts in order to give the children time to process what was being introduced.


Later in the week, now familiar with the materials, we invited the children to associate these sensations with actions! “What are some things that feel soft, cozy and good?” we posed. “When mommy gives me hugs and kisses!” “My lovey!” “When they tuck me in!” “Movie night!” “What are some things that feel rough? What are some things that hurt?” we asked. “It hurts when my sister grabs toys out of my hands!” “When my sister pinches me!” “When they yell in my ear!” The children made the connection!


The next day we worked collaboratively with the children to create artistic visuals of our new concepts using—you guessed it—cotton balls and sandpaper! We have continued to use these multi-sensory connections in our interactions with the children throughout the day by labeling actions we observe as either “like sandpaper” or “like cotton balls.”


In the coming weeks, we hope to incorporate language about what we can do when we treat others with “sandpaper” actions. We will work with the children to repair hurt feelings and remind them that we all make mistakes but it’s what we do next that really counts.


Have your children mentioned cotton balls and sandpaper at home? How do you discuss big feelings with your little ones?