Every Picture Tells a Story – Toddler Play with Balls and Tubes

toddler playThis photo was taken about eighteen months ago. It captures several toddlers who were offered something new to use with balls- tubes! We all know that the first time a new material or toy is given to a toddler several things may occur. The child chooses to interact with it or leave it be. Some watch other children or adults before making contact, carefully determining whether they will give it a go. Most bite or mouth something new, relying on the method they have had the most practice at for determining an object’s relationship to them. In a group setting, adults know that once one toddler uses the new item, most everyone else will try it. In this way we see that actions often speak louder than words; that engagement is a means of communication for toddlers.

The two children most prominent in this image demonstrated that even very young children make theories. They each explored the tubes, both independently and combined with a ball, for almost ten minutes. (For toddlers this is a long time!) Teachers noted some movements which suggested they were testing as they played. For instance, one child played at dropping balls down an upright tube. She released the ball with her hand positioned inside the tube as well her hand positioned above the opening and alternated these positions. Once the tube was full of balls, she knocked it over which sent them rolling out of the bottom and into the room. (This delighted everyone!)

The little boy in the plaid shorts moved one end of his tube upward and downward, changing its slope. This caused the balls inside the tube to collide with one another and tumble out at different speeds. The boy babbled as he played, perhaps commenting on his results. Occasionally, each of the children squealed and clapped for themselves, having accomplished a goal of which only they knew.

All of this is evidence of the scientific thinking that teachers witness throughout toddler play daily. When we take a closer look at how very young children explore and play with materials, our findings may surprise us. With some colder days still before us, it might be the perfect time to introduce some tubes to your children’s play with that wondrous material- the ball!

Happy Theorizing!

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