The sensory table is an area of the preschool room that children go to because, as the name implies, they are drawn in by the many appeals to the senses. Few activities I have done in the sensory table have drawn as much widespread interest as popcorn kernels. My guess is that it’s because it draws in the sense of hearing, as few other media do. It literally calls the children over to explore. Every time those kernels fall, they rap against each other, or against the plastic bottom, making almost as much sound as popcorn actually popping!
I began my popcorn-as-a-medium collection with the help of my two-year old, who managed to spill quite a bit from our pantry onto the floor…and mix it with the rice…and the flour. Well, no use crying over spilled milk, or grains, so I sifted it out and added it to the sensory table. Along with the popcorn, I included paper-towel tubes, funnels, clear tubing (from Home Depot) and my sand mill, along with several scoopers (from laundry detergent, dishwasher detergent, and infant formula containers for a variety of sizes). The children loved filling the paper towel tubes to the brim and then lifting them up, letting all the kernels drop to the bottom, rapid-fire like rain on a tin roof. Without even knowing it, they experimented with math principles of size, volume, and circumference, as well as motor skills as they scooped and poured the hypnotic golden grains. I even included a small funnel, which I knew would likely not allow the large kernels to pass through, just to create the questions that would lead to learning. Pour a little popcorn into your sensory table and see what concepts your children tackle!
For more Seeds & Plants activities, click here.