The value of scooping and pouring and counting candy corn in preschool

If there is one area in my own professional development that I have come to appreciate more than ever, it is the value of sensory play.

I have always included sensory play in my lesson plans but it hasn’t been until this past year that I have really taken the time to sit down with the children and observe how much they really love it and the value it brings to their development.

Today, the children spent time scooping, pouring, spooning, and counting candy corn. We set out a big basket of candy corn and added some spoons, cups, and a few egg cartons for sorting and counting.

To help each child have their own work space, we gave them a tray to work/play on.

The boys and girls were equally engaged in their play. Sensory play is definitely not gender specific. Here are some of my observations about today’s sensory play experience in our prekindergarten class…

  • The children stayed focused on their play for far more time then they do with just about anything else we offered.
  • The children talked with each other about their play and talked with each other while they played.
  • The children shared their supply of candy corn with each other.
  • There was not any arguing or fighting going on – just happy sounds.
  • Some children preferred to just fill up cups – others liked counting the corn into the egg cartons.
  • Every child could choose from the variety of containers and decide how to use them.
  • None of the children tried to eat the candy corn. One or two children did ask if they would get to try a piece and were told that they can eat a “clean piece of candy corn” later in the day but that this candy corn was here just for them to have fun and play!
  • The children were quite competent at using the spoon to transfer the candy corn into the cups or just pouring from cup to cup.
  • The children liked having their own tray (space) to work on.

If you have been avoiding sensory play for any reason – let me encourage you to reconsider. The time spent in this type of play far outweighs any reservations you may have.

If you or your students are new to sensory play, keep in mind the following tips…

  • The more often your students participate in sensory play, the better they will get at using their fine motor skills to scoop, pour, count, sort, and so forth.
  • At first, it may seem overwhelming to you as the teacher but repeated opportunities for sensory play leads to more constructive play. So don’t give up after the first try – repeat the opportunity so the children can learn to positively engage in sensory play.
  • If you don’t want the children to eat the candy, then set a jar of candy (or other food items) in their sight and let them know that they will get a piece later in the day but that the candy on the table is just for play. They can learn the difference if you will take the time to teach them the difference.
  • Make sure you have a healthy supply of materials for the number of children who will be playing at one time.
  • Provide trays so children will have a space to contain the sensory and a space to call their own.
  • Make sure you have plenty of types of containers, spoons, or other tools for the children to explore.
  • Switch out the type of sensory items used or tools used so the children stay interested. Just like anything else, when something becomes too familiar – the children lose interest or the play becomes destructive rather than constructive.
  • TEACH the children any expectations you feel are necessary but don’t over do it – leave the opportunity open ended for the children to explore freely so it will be more fun.  That is why it is called sensory “PLAY!”

See more on sensory play from: Our World Wide Classroom and from When You Never Expect Two and from Preschool Lesson Plans!

By |2010-10-27T00:44:06+00:00October 27th, 2010|

About the Author:

Deborah J. Stewart, M.Ed. has been working and teaching in the field of early childhood education for over 30 years. Deborah currently owns and teaches in her own part-time, private preschool called The Children’s Studio. Deborah’s deep passion for teaching and working with young children is documented and then graciously shared with millions of readers around the world through her blog and other social networking communities. Deborah believes that young children learn best through play and exploration and embraces this belief in all that she does in her own classroom so that she can effectively and passionately share rewarding, real- life, tried-and-true practices with other teachers, parents, and leaders across the field of early childhood education.


  1. Molly October 27, 2010 at 12:47 pm - Reply

    Thanks for all the tips. Really good insight!

    • Deborah J. Stewart October 28, 2010 at 3:31 am - Reply

      You are welcome:)

  2. Stacie October 27, 2010 at 2:09 pm - Reply

    We love sensory play! This looks so fun!

    I was thinking of one thing since I have a little girl allergic to milk and eggs. You might encourage teachers to be on the look-out for allergens when using various items for sensory play (if they have anyone with food allergies in their classrooms). I have found the strangest things to contain milk and/or eggs — I would’ve never guessed they had them, so I’ve bought them and then regretted it! Needless to say, we’ve become pretty good label readers around here!


    • Deborah J. Stewart October 27, 2010 at 5:48 pm - Reply

      Absolutely a great reminder! We do have all allergies checked carefully but one can never be too sure!

  3. jennifer October 27, 2010 at 2:41 pm - Reply

    Where do you find they trays you have in the pics? I can’t seem to find them.

  4. Jessi October 27, 2010 at 7:43 pm - Reply

    Very fun! I love sensory play as well. I especially love this one, however I would probably see a dwindle in the supplies after a few days. Not from the kids, but from me! 🙂 Although, now that I think of it all their little fingers in it would probably just gross me out enough to leave them alone. 🙂

    • Deborah J. Stewart October 27, 2010 at 9:59 pm - Reply

      LOL – yes you would definitely think twice!!

  5. Scott October 28, 2010 at 5:16 pm - Reply

    When I read your title, one thing popped into my head. Then you mentioned it. An important value of scooping candy corn is…you might get to eat some!

    Sensory play is great. Thanks for the reminders of why I like it so much.

  6. Km October 30, 2010 at 4:39 pm - Reply

    Wonderful ideas!!!! This makes me want to dig into my sensory storage and play! And eat candy corn….mmmm mmmmm

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