Those who know me will agree that messiness doesn’t bother me too much, especially when it comes to kids playing and learning. This activity is definitely a messy one, just to warn you! I have done this in my classroom a few times, usually when we’re doing some kind of farm unit.
When I have expired or stale dry food, I tend to keep it around for sensory play. I happened to have some stale oats stored in my craft closet for this very reason. I added the oats to the water table on the back porch for the boys to play with.
In addition to the oats, I set mixing bowls, a strainer, spoons, and cups near the water table. We have tons of outside/water toys on our back porch, so taking just specific items out of that pile helps focus the kids’ play. That’s not to say the boys didn’t get other items to play with in the oats!
When the kiddos started in, there was a lot of time spent filling cups and pouring them out. The boys seemed fascinated watching the oats fall back into the water table, as well as feeling the oats as they were poured.
They also had fun filling up the mixing bowls and stirring the oats for quite some time. I was especially entertained when Engineer filled a bowl to the brim, then went back and carefully skimmed the excess off the top. Can you tell he and I cook together quite often?
Little Hurricane really got into the oats. For some time, he just kept his hands buried in the oats. He had to taste them, of course, but decided he didn’t like eating the stale oats. There were tons of giggles from Little Hurricane as he poured oats all over the water table.
The language I heard from Engineer and Snoopy entertained me:
- “It feels kind of funny.”
- “I’m baking it!”
- “I’m making you a strawberry pie!”
- “We’re making you a mud pie. I’m making the mud. He’s making the pie.”
- “We need to finish this! We’re running out of time!”
- “I made pie cake!”
After about an hour with the dry oats, Engineer wanted to know what would happen if we added water to them. When asked if they wanted to see what would happen, an enthusiastic “YES!” was the response.
The boys went through the same process with the wet oats — filling and pouring with bowls, running their hands through the oats, and mixing the oats with spoons.
Little Hurricane had to taste the wet oats, of course. He then went on to grab handfuls of the wet oats and squeezed the water out of them. There was a lot of grunting while he did this!
Snoopy and Engineer decided to create dams with the oats. This seems to be a recurring them with those two! Both boys were excited to see that wet oats worked incredibly well as dams. Once the dams were built to their specifications, Engineer gathered and poured water into the top of the water table. Snoopy kept an eye on the water level, encouraging Engineer to keep adding water until it was filled to the brim.
The older boys’ commentary continued with the wet oats:
- “Ewwwwww! It feels like mushed bananas!”
- “The only way to make it stick is to pat it down.”
- “Water makes it stick a little bit.”
- “It looks like almond milk a little bit.”
- “I’m making ice cream!”
- “I did NOT expect this to happen!”
Yes, having oats in the water table was definitely messy (even more so after we added water)! For over 3 hours of fun, an extra mess wasn’t that big a deal to me.