Saturday, October 9, 2010

Floor Tape, How Do I Love Thee? Let Me Count the Ways (Preschool Edition)

A few years ago I went to the Indiana State House in Indianapolis to view "The Hundred Languages of Children," a travelling exhibit about the Reggio Emilia approach to early childhood education.  If you're not familiar with this approach it, among other things, considers the environment (of the classroom, and other spaces) as a 'third teacher'.

Of course, I was drawn to the part of the exhibit that focused on movement and dance as one of the "hundred languages" with which children express themselves.  There was a video that showed the children's first experiences with an old factory space-- a huge room empty except for two rows of large, white columns.  The children were running around and between the columns, peeking around them, and interacting with their friends, all movements and ideas that eventually turned into a formal piece of choreography. 

At the time I was just starting to think about creating a math/dance program for preschoolers and my biggest question was how could I encourage that kind of exploration?  It seemed unlikely I would be able to find an empty factory or other interesting environment and get a bunch of preschoolers there on a weekly basis.  And then it hit me -- I could create an environment out of tape.  I could define three-dimensional space using two-dimensional lines and colors.

By way of explanation, when I say 'floor tape' I am referring to two different products, both of them sticky.  First, there's painters' tape which is blue and low tack so it can come up easily off both hard surfaces and carpet (except when kids poke their pencils into it and it gets perforated, but that's a different story.)  There is also the floor tape that P.E. teachers use, which comes in lots of fabulous colors, the better to design with, my dear. 

So, why am I so passionate about floor tape?  Let's see...
  1. Straight Lines, Part 1: A simple straight line taped down a hallway becomes a pathway.  It also divides the space in two, and provides a chance to walk on it or jump over it.  Best of all, one can march (or walk, or skip, or slide, etc) rhythmically down it singing "As I was marching down the street, down the street, down the street..." 
  2. Straight Lines, Part 2: When my daughter was three her teachers put down a straight line of tape to help the class 'line up' before leaving the classroom.  A simple, visual learning strategy.  Later in the year I saw pictures of what else the kids had done with the line.  They had used their large blocks to build a wall the length of the tape and then lined up their animals and cars alongside it.  A wonderful example of how a simple alteration of a child's environment can deepen their experience and exploration of the space around them. 
  3. Floor tape can define and redefine the space it's in.  Large open spaces encourage a lot of endless running.  The minute you create a large rectangular box on the floor, with corners, you can now have enough of a visual to focus a preschooler's attention to IN (the box), OUT (of the box), AROUND (the sides of the box), CORNERS, and ACROSS, all age-appropriate math terminology.
  4. A simple taped perimeter can highlight empty space, as in "Find an empty spot inside the tape and make a shape."
  5. Tape two or more parallel lines down a space and see what happens when you sing "Down by the banks of the hankey pankey, when the bullfrogs jump from bank to bankey..."
Ultimately, I would love if every preschool teacher would just put down taped lines in their classrooms and then stand back to observe how the children interact with them.  Start with one straight line and go from there.  Let me know if you want to talk further about this idea --  I'd jump at the chance to see how far we could take this.


  1. I had to smile on reading this post. I have blue painters tape all over my classroom, in circles & straight lines -- and I change them into different configurations as needed. It really helps. I have to admit some frustration when the kids pull up patches of it & throw it at each other, but its usefulness far exceeds the small irritations!

  2. Ooooh, how do you make the circles with a straight edge? I'm totally with you on the pull-up-the-tape-and-toss-it-around issue...but it is so worth it! Glad to find another floor tape lover!

  3. I'll see what I can do about a picture for Tape
    Tales. My tape looks a bit ratty just now, and I don't know if I'll have time to refresh it twixt now & winter break, but we'll see... I don't make a continuous circle; it's a dotted line circle.


Thanks for reading. I would love to hear your thoughts and comments!


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