Sea shells, rocks and patterns

With the lockdown easing here, for now at least, we recently visited a beach.  The boys both had a wonderful time, with the little one particularly enjoying the freedom to roam over a vast expanse of sand with his football (and his Grandad in pursuit) and the big one had fun digging, splashing and collecting shells and stones.  We brought some of his extensive collection home as a reminder of our visit, although I did encourage him to leave the larger rocks!

Shell and rock collection

A week or so later, I gave them a wash to avoid covering the house in sand, and put them out on the table to see what he made of them. He wasn't interested for a few hours, but then he decided he wanted to take a look at his collection.

We talked about what was there, and the difference between the rocks and shells (he knew something had lived inside the shells). I asked him to tell me about the rocks and he told me their colours. I asked him about whether they were rough or smooth and he correctly said smooth, then we talked about how the waves move the sand and rocks around so they rub past each other.  I likened this to using sandpaper when he's helping us with work around the house or garden.

We had a look at the shapes of the shells and he found ridges and spirals as well as a shell that opened and closed. He liked the slipper limpet shells - of which there were many on the beach - and with having lots of different sizes we talked about how they make their shells bigger as they grow, and he could see lines on the shells which showed their shape when they were smaller. He's familiar with garden snails and the sea snail from the Julia Donaldson book 'The Snail and the Whale' and he thought one of the spiral shells must have been from a sea snail (I think the one he picked was a periwinkle, which is a type of sea snail). 

Some of his shell imprints in play dough

As he was starting to look less interested, I suggested using the shells to make patterns in play dough. He loved this and spent more than half an hour pressing them into play dough in different ways and showing me the shapes. Aside from being fun, the imprints also helped him focus on observing and describing the patterns and shapes of the shells. I hadn't expected this to provide so much entertainment but I'm sure we will do it again.  I liked it as, aside from being engaging and encouraging him to explore and describe what he could see, my 18 month old was able to join in too with his own play dough, one of the bigger shells and some other play dough tools and at the moment finding things they can both happily do alongside each other can be a bit of a challenge!