This Box is a good one for schools, to bring out in the summer term, or at home in the holidays. It is an excellent partner resource for exploring the topic of the sea, and contains many different beautiful shells as well as hand carved and painted balsa wood fish (which I made when I had more time on my hands!) I was lucky enough to find this beautiful box to keep the shells and fish in. This Box is another one for close supervision or older children, as many shells (and the fish) are easily breakable, which could lead to sharp edges, tears and no more shell collection! Having said that, I have let two and three year olds play with it and they were remarkably gentle. This got me thinking….how else do children learn to be gentle with delicate things, other than being allowed to handle them? I have found it interesting to notice the difference in the way older and younger children use this resource. Small children need to explore everything in a sensory way before they can go on to find out what else they can learn from materials. This is why Maria Montessori made her alphabet letters from sandpaper. Older children after the age of 6 or so begin to do a lot more sorting and categorising. What works very well to present this Box is making a seaside scene with a soft yellow rug and a piece of blue silky material, which not only represents sand and sea but protects the delicate shells and adds to the sensory element. You can then let the children explore whichever way they please. Some love to polish a shiny shell with a natural sea sponge, others like filling deep shells with glass pebbles or taking fish captains out in their shell treasure ships. Children love the idea that they can hear the sea in a shell. Filling large shells with glass pebbles is universally popular. The glass pebbles make a brilliant add-on to the shell box, as they are like deep sea bubbles and can be used in a multitude of ways to extend play with shells. ….from making transient art and collages…. …to feeding fish! And they are perfect for all that sensory scooping, posting and pouring that little children love to do. I have also used the contents of this Box as a great Circle Time resource in the Nursery. We had a shell pass-around session followed by each child choosing a favourite shell, discussions of the feel and texture of each shell and the wonder of their beauty, created by a loving God as the house of a tiny sea creature. It was a great opportunity to learn more about creatures that live under the sea and the many amazing different shapes, colours and iridescence of shells. As the years have passed, I have developed this resource by adding other props, and often like to present the Sea and Sand materials spread out on the floor as an open-ended play invitation, with little dishes of glass pebbles, shells, fish and other seaside objects alongside for the children to arrange like a giant collage or seascape. We also find this leads to Seaside storytelling sessions!

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