There is a Local Materials Exchange that I love to frequent for supplies. It is a unique place where surplus materials are sold cheaply and are saved from the landfill, so in my book it is a love/love situation for both economical and environmental reasons. On my last visit they had grates for sale. I had never considered using a grate as an exploration tool in play, but this grate had such a wonderful mirrored surface I knew the kids would love it.
We actually have been playing with it for a couple months and I am just getting to a post about it.
When we first started to play with the grate, the children filled it with buttons and gemmies.
Because of the reflective surface, the children started to gain an awareness of the different dimensions of the objects, and the refracted images of their hands, faces, and tweezers as they reached and looked into the compartments. It is a great sensory experience where they are perceiving themselves and objects from different points of view.
After exploring for some time with gemmies and buttons, the children then started to place pom poms in the compartments. The pom poms are easier to grab with the tweezers, but still challenging and a great hand-eye coordination builder.
Now they are challenging themselves to get more than one at a time!
We then took it to the light table to have a different perspective.
Another thing the children love about the pom poms, is that if they are tossed into the air, they bounce into the compartments of the grate.
I love how this simple grate has become the source of so much play and exploration.
Through the presence of a simple stimulus the children are gaining hand-eye coordination and perception skills, and cognitive development through the senses.