I mentioned here a few days ago that I wasn't having any luck getting kids interested in using sandpaper. Not that sanding wood is any great shakes but it's a real woodworking skill that children should be able to manage, and one from which they can learn about relative texture (rough, smooth, smoother), pressure, friction and all kinds of other concepts in physics. Plus I've seen with my own eyes children enjoying the process and feeling proud of the sawdust they make, so I know its not impossible.
I've tried just regular sandpaper, cut to the right size for their hands. I've tried making sanding blocks with kids by stapling sandpaper to hand-sized rectangular prisms of wood. I've tried giving them wood with paint as a target to eradicate. But nothing has motivated more than a few swipes.
Of course, a classroom like ours is something like a Moroccan souk in that each of our half dozen or so stations "competes" side-by-side for the business of the prospective "customers" who are shopping there. Sanding might well be a perfectly acceptable activity in and of itself, but when the alternatives are things like a balloon cage or making a tape dragon, it could just be a marketing problem.
So I stepped up my game this week by bringing in my little vibrating "mouse" sander. (Note: I would not consider a belt sander appropriate for preschool -- I've known too many adults who've injured themselves with those. The fact that this tool achieves its ends through rapid vibration, with no exposed moving parts gives it whiff of danger without actually being so.)
It's a one-hand tool for adults, but just the right size for two preschool hands. We used a relatively course grade of sandpaper and let 'er rip. The sound alone drew a crowd, who donned safety goggles to await their turn with the sanding machine.
This piece of wood was once covered with a thick coat of red house paint:
And this black paint on an old piece of Ikea shelving didn't stand a chance against our sanding prowess:
The best thing about this Black & Decker tool is that it isn't quite loud enough to require ear protection, a fact that Connor's mom Laura is probably happy about since she spent an hour and a half out there at the work bench helping children run the thing.