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Look at It Go!

child engaged in messy play

About this video

Messy play is a rich opportunity for conversation with peers and teachers. Exploring open-ended materials invites children to observe, make predictions, and use complex vocabulary to describe their experiences. In this video, we watch Ann and Scott, age 4.5; Fawn, age 4; and Aaron, age 3, as they explore cornstarch and water combined with paint that makes a gooey substance. The teachers have included spoons and small figurines for the children to use as they explore the goo on their trays.

The children use their fine motor skills and enjoy the artistic appeal of mixing colors. This moment is enriched as the teacher talks with the children about the experience. Notice as the teacher scaffolds Ann, Scott, and Fawn by asking questions and introducing novel vocabulary to describe the substance, including words to describe what it looks like, how it feels, how it moves, and how it changes with the heat of their hands.

The teacher’s gentle encouragement captures the attention of Aaron, who is an onlooker to the activity. He comes to the table to see what the children are talking about. These moments strengthen children’s scientific thinking skills and ability to communicate about their observations, which provides a foundation for future science learning.



Ann: Well, you’ll see, okay? Don’t worry (Aaron). You like my project?

Ann: (Teacher), come see this.

Teacher: What?

Ann: You might want to see what I did.

Teacher: What did you make?

Oh my gosh. It looks like a stream.

Ann: (Laughs)

Ann: Your hands look like mud.

Teacher: And you have some paint close to your nose.

Scott: Look what I made.

Teacher: Oh, very cool.

Scott: It’s all over my dolphin.

Teacher: Those animals look happy. Those animals look very happy.

Oh, look at that. Look how it drips.

Can I touch a little bit of it? See how it feels?

Oh, it’s kind of hard.

Scott: I didn’t know you could touch it.

Teacher: Oh, yeah, use your hands by all means.

Look, but then it kind of melts. Look, it melts in your hands. It gets drippy. Isn’t that cool?

Ann: It’s (unclear).

Teacher: It changes, from solid to liquidy.

You want to touch it, (Aaron)?

Fawn: Look it.

Teacher: See, there you go (Aaron). There you go, there you go.

Watch it go. Watch it go.

It’s dripping now. I wonder why it does that. We’ll have to find out. Look at (inaudible).

Ann: Ahhhh.

Fawn: Look it, look at me.

Teacher: Watch, (Aaron), way to go.

Benchmarks and How They Were Met

BenchmarksHow They Were Met
Language Arts
1.B.ECa: Use language for a variety of purposes.
1.B.ECb: With teacher assistance, participate in collaborative conversations with diverse partners (e.g., peers and adults in both small and large groups) about age-appropriate topics and texts.
1.B.ECc: Continue a conversation through two or more exchanges.
We see children engaging in collaborative conversations with multiple partners. The teacher engages in conversation with the students and the students also engage in conversation with one another about the messy activity. Ann and the teacher continue a conversation with several exchanges about what the substance looks like.
12.C.ECa: Identify, describe, and compare the physical properties of objects.
12.C.ECb: Experiment with changes in matter when combined with other substances.
The children have combined more than one substance together and are exploring it with their senses. Ann compares the substance to mud because of the color and texture. The teacher models to the children how to describe the substance. She describes how the substance changes in her hands from hard to liquid. The teacher also talks about how the substance drips and melts. She encourages the children to use their hands to actively explore the substance so they can learn more about the physical properties.
Visual Arts
25.A.ECd: Visual Arts: Investigate and participate in activities using visual arts materials.
This visual arts activity allows the children to actively explore materials such as paint and glue. The children show their appreciation for the activity by showing continued engagement and conversation about what they are doing.
Visual Arts
25.B.ECa: Describe or respond to their creative work or the creative work of others.
Ann talks to her peers about her “project.” She uses this activity to express her creative side and then engages in conversation about her work. She tells the teacher, “look what I made” and asks a peer, “You like my project?” She also discusses what her work looks like and how it feels with the teacher. Another child asks what his peer is doing, which shows his interest in others’ creative work.
Social/Emotional Development
30.C.ECa: Exhibit eagerness and curiosity as a learner.
30.C.ECc: Show some initiative, self-direction, and independence in actions.
30.C.ECd: Demonstrate engagement and sustained attention in activities.
We see children express their eagerness and curiosity by encouraging others to look at their work. Ann tells her teacher, “You might want to see what I did,” and Fawn says, “Look it, look it” to express her excitement about what she did. The teacher also promotes the children’s initiative, self-direction, and independence. She allows the children to explore the substance in different ways. Some children are using spoons to play with the messy substance and others express interest in using their hands. The teacher models to the children that it is OK to touch the substance. She asks Aaron, an onlooker to the activity who is interested in the conversation, “You want to touch it?” and says, “Use your hands by all means.” The children engage in the activity for an extended period of time while showing their attention by talking to each other, asking questions, and actively exploring.

About this resource

Setting(s) for which the article is intended:
  • Family Child Care
  • Child Care Center
  • Preschool Program
  • Kindergarten

Intended audience(s):
  • Parents / Family
  • Teachers / Service providers
  • Faculty / Trainer

Age Levels (the age of the children to whom the article applies):
Related Illinois Early Learning and Development Standards:
Reviewed: 2019