Fall is one of my favorite times to teach preschool because I adore all the themed studies that are associated with this time of year, in particular the farm theme. A farm theme is always enjoyed by preschoolers and with only a few basic materials you can create a wide range of educational activities, such as this farm themed scooping and pouring fine motor activity.
Scooping and pouring corn kernels is a simple activity, yet my preschoolers loved it. During a day where we learned about tractors and seeds, we also got to explore corn kernels. Students put their hands into a bin of corn kernels and we used magnifying glasses to examine their shape and texture. Finally, students enjoyed some free play with scooping and pouring.
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- about a cup of corn kernels (we used kernels for making popcorn)
- small container, large enough to hold slightly more than a cup
- smaller container
- small scoop (we used the scoop that comes with baby formula)
Scooping and pouring tips
- Present the materials on a tray. We used a small and cheap cookie sheet from the dollar store, but a wooden Montessori tray would work wonderfully, or even a small plastic serving tray. Using a tray helps keep any spilled kernels contained, and prevents them from falling to the floor, which was especially important to me as I did not want my baby to happen across one.
- Model the activity. This prevents spills as well. When presenting this activity as an option for my preschoolers, I modeled how to properly scoop the corn kernels and how to turn my wrist to pour them into another container. I modeled how when we pour we pour close to the container, not from high above it. I also showed the students how to pick up corn kernels that had been accidentally scattered.
- Use corn kernels you don’t want to use again. Even with freshly washed hands, little grubby hands will be touching these corn kernels, so it’s best to use corn that you don’t actually want to pop into popcorn. Yes, I guess the heat of popping the corn would kill any germs transferred, but I still can’t bring myself to reuse the corn for any edible activity. Do keep the corn in a zip top baggie or container for later use in the same or similar activity. Corn kernels make a nice filler for sensory bins as well.
- Supervise your child at all times. Even if your little one is beyond putting things in his or her mouth, these kinds of children’s activities should always be supervised by an adult. This makes a for a safer activity, as well as a less messy one, too.
How this activity can be executed in preschool
I took under advisement all the tips I mentioned above when introducing this activity to my preschoolers. I presented the materials on a tray and modeled the activity, being clear as to my expectations. As students were exploring on their own, I watched their hand holds and grips on the small scoop, as well and watched which way the students tended to pour the contents from the scoop. Away from their body or towards their body? While pouring both directions develops the muscles in the hands and wrist, pouring toward the body will result in fewer spills. I joined in as a non-invasive way to model the activity, again and again.
I left this activity out during free choice centers. All of my students opted to scoop and pour for at least a few minutes, some students opting for more like ten or fifteen minutes. A few times the corn kernels were spilled among the tray, which reinforced another fine motor skill. Picking up individual corn kernels forces the use of the pincher grasp, which uses the same three fingers that are used for holding a pencil correctly.
Scooping and pouring corn kernels was a fun way to exemplify facts my preschoolers were learning about seeds and planting farms. This also paired well into a short discussion about harvesting, and where seeds come from. Being that this scooping and pouring activity included corn kernels, it also fits in well to any fall or autumn themed unit.
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I am Sarah, an educator turned stay-at-home mama of five! I am the owner and creator of Stay At Home Educator, a website about intentional teaching and purposeful learning in the early childhood years. I’ve taught range of levels, including preschool and college, and a little bit of just about everything in between. Right now, my focus is teaching my children and running a preschool from my home. Credentials include: Bachelors in Art, Masters in Curriculum and Instruction