Sensory exploration is essential for young children, as they learn through their senses. I explain why in this article. This is an activity that is also used in art therapy with young children. At our CEFA Early Learning schools, we use it to teach an essential math concept to our youngest students: one on one correspondence. In mathematics, one-to-one correspondence refers to a situation in which the members of one set (call it A) can be evenly matched with the members of a second set (call it B). In this case, there is one marble for every one dot of paint.

This activity is very simple and inexpensive for you to do at home and I guarantee your child will enjoy it immensely! Give it a try and let me know how it goes in the comments below.

Best Ages for This Activity

Zero to three

How to Make It

What You Will Need

  • Marbles (these different colour ones will allow you to do the activity extension below as well) – you can get these at the dollar store or supermarket as well. You will have to stay close to your little one as they present a choking hazard.
  • A lid or other container so that the marbles don’t roll to the ground covered in paint
  • A blank sheet of paper
  • Non-toxic paint of one or more colours (make sure the colours also have the colours of the marbles if you want to do the activity extension.)

Let’s Get Started!

  • Set up the paper as per the picture, adding several drops of paint. Prepare a little basket, cup or containers with marbles to have by the side of the paper.
  • Invite your child to play a math game. You can say: “in this game, we place one marble on one dot of paint” and encourage your child to try. If they do not know what to do, demonstrate with one marble.
  • Stay close and supervise as it poses a choking hazard. Each time your child picks up a marble, you can say “one marble” and when they place it on the dot of paint you say “on one dot of paint” Children love repetition – celebrate each marble your child corresponds to a dot of paint! You can clap, kiss, do whatever you like!
  • If your child wants to continue after all the dots have been covered, you can add more dots of paint to the same paper (this will be a great fine motor skills practice for your little ones because the more dots and the closer together, the more it works on their fine motor skills and hand-eye coordination. Otherwise, start a new sheet J
  • Look at the extended learning opportunities below to extend this activity!

Learning Opportunities

Children S.T.E.M., particularly math. They will also practice the fine motor skills necessary for writing and fine movements. This is also an excellent sensory learning activity and has an art therapy and meditative, calming component. Encourage your child to describe how it feels to place the marble on the paint for added vocabulary and sensory awareness.

CEFA tip: Supervise at all times!

Extended Learning Opportunities

  • Once your child has placed all the marbles, encourage them to make a painting by moving the box lid so the marbles roll off the paint and all over their sheet of paper, making a painting like the image below. It will also teach your child the science of how the control of items creates a reaction (physics).

  • If your child likes the activity, try it again also corresponding each colour of marble to each colour of paint dot. You would then say: “one orange marble on one orange dot”. This is added math learning.






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