I’m Growing and Changing

Several months ago one of my co-workers and I had the opportunity to teach for a week in a child-care center. It was a classroom of mostly three-year olds and it was so good to “feel” the ebb and flow of the energy of children at play. We chose to organize our teaching around the topic, “I’m growing and changing.” We asked parents to send in a baby picture indicating their child’s length and weight at birth. We wanted the children to compare their birth weight and length with their current stats. To do this we measured and cut a string that represented their birth length and cut another that represented their current height. When we talked about the two measurements we used words of comparison such as longer than, shorter than, taller than, smaller than. 

Next, we made a sand baby that weighed the same amount that they did at birth (see instructions below.) As most things unfold in the classroom, this activity proved to have even more benefits than we originally planned. Our primary purpose in doing this was to give children the opportunity to work with tools (scales and scoops) and to use words of comparison. The children’s excitement and delight with the sand babies far exceeded our expectations. They carried them around, rocked them to sleep, fed them, took them to the doctor, gave them shots, listened to their heart beat and made birth announcements.

We quickly realized a benefit we had not anticipated—the sand babies proved to be a great self-regulation tool. When a child became upset or dysregulated, we suggested that they rock their sand baby. When it was time to gather for group time, we told them it was time to rock the babies to sleep. The children ran to get their babies and gathered on the rug. They so intently rocked their babies that you could hear a pin drop in the room. It was truly one of the best self-regulation tools I have ever hit upon in the classroom. The weight of the babies provided deep muscle stimulation that calms the central nervous system and rocking is usually a calming experience for most children.

It is important when planning this activity to be aware of any foster or adopted children who may not have birth pictures or information. If this is the case, you could ask children to draw a picture of what they think they looked like at birth and talk about the average weight and length of newborn babies. The sand babies can be made to weigh 7 pounds which would be a good representation. Try it out in the classroom and let me know how your children respond.

Materials Needed

  • Small scraps of fabric
  • Small scraps of muslin
  • Small plastic ball or tennis ball
  • Sand
  • 2-one-gallon size zip lock baggies
  • Duct tape
  • 12-18 inches of ribbon
  • Scale
  • Scoop
  • Baby blankets (scraps of fabric or purchased from the dollar store.
  • Dishpan for bed (optional)


  1. Make small pillow cases out of scrap fabric that are approximately 9 inches wide by 15 inches tall.
  2. Have children scoop sand into a Ziploc baggie until it reaches the desired weight.
  3. Duct tape the Ziploc shut.
  4. Put the Ziploc filled with sand into another Ziploc and tape shut.
  5. Put the bag of sand into the pillowcase.
  6. Cover a small ball with a square of muslin.
  7. Put the head inside the pillowcase and tie the loose ends shut, attaching the head to the pillowcase.
  8. Wrap in a blanket and put in the dishpan to sleep.

First, we had the children scoop sand into a gallon size ziplock bag and weigh it on a scale. When it reached the child’s birth weight, we taped the bag shut with duct tape and then double bagged it inside another zip lock baggie. We also duct taped the second bag. We then put the zip lock into a small fabric pillow case that I had made from some scrap material. I covered a small square of muslin around a plastic ball, put the inside the pillow case.

Dr. Barbara Sorrels

Dr. Barbara Sorrels is Executive Director of The Institute for Childhood Education, a private professional development and consulting firm for those who live and work with children. Dr. Sorrels holds a doctorate in Early Childhood Education from Oklahoma State University, a master's degree in Christian Education from Southwestern Seminary and a B.A. in Early Childhood Education from the University of Maryland. She served for over 5 years on the faculty of Oklahoma State University teaching in the Early Childhood Education program.   Dr. Sorrels has had over 20 years of classroom experience teaching children of all ages in child care, kindergarten and elementary school classrooms, as well as over 5 years experience teaching graduate and undergraduate students at the university level. She also founded and directed early childhood centers located in Washington, D.C. and Fort Worth, Texas.