Art and sensory to engage learning

By Kyla Hurt

The purpose of a trip to the basement of the Congregational Church of Christ on West College Avenue was to talk to Mallory Bendorf about advertising options. After agreement, though – I lingered. It was great. You see, I graduated with a degree in fine arts (moreover, I recall my father’s exceptionally pathetic attempt at a supportive response, as he inquired as to what one might “do” with a college degree in art). This room before me seemed a creative happy place – a place where I, even as an adult, would like to dawdle. I had stepped into a new “art and sensory” class for young children and their parents.

Mallory Bendorf was dubbed the name “Miss Mallory” in class. Standing back, my own senses were awakened on the outskirts of “Miss Mallory’s Art and Sensory Class.” It’s something new. Bendorf, or rather “Miss Mallory” (how I will refer to her henceforth) has already has sessions in progress. Miss Mallory describes the idea behind the class, “Parents accompany their 3-5 year old children to this fun, engaging and messy class! Each class begins with a story and a finger play or song. Miss Mallory will then introduce eight different art and sensory experiences set up in centers.” From there, there are 45 minutes of exploring and discovering. Miss Mallory thinks it is important to follow the child’s lead, so she asks a lot of open-ended questions to provoke thought and decision-making. The child can lead. There is no “right” or “wrong.” It’s about the experience and the process, she adds. Children are given the opportunity to seek out colors and textures and sounds – all those things of or relating to sensation or the physical senses. Miss Mallory notes, too, that she works on fine motor skills, encouraging strength in child motricity.

Throughout the class, there are three separate art activities, a “community canvas” that is worked on by any student at any time during the session, three separate sensory activities and a variation of Playdough each week. Again, Miss Mallory reminds that the activities are not product-based; they focus on the process and, plus all activities are developmentally appropriate for small children. “Parents and children should all come dressed to get messy, in clothes they don’t mind getting dirty,” Miss Mallory warns with a smile.

Near the end of class, the children and any parents or guardians come back together for a short closing! Then – and this is a lovely part of it all – everyone goes home and Miss Mallory takes care of all the mess!

Full sessions are 10 weeks long. Families choose from either the Tuesday or Thursday night session of each week from 6-7 p.m. Miss Mallory’s Art and Sensory classes are being held in the basement of the Congregational United Church of Christ. Miss Mallory is also holding some one-time classes, so that the child and family can determine if the full session is great for them. For more information, contact Miss Mallory at 224-306-9510 or via email at

About Miss Mallory: Miss Mallory has a Bachelor of Arts in Early Childhood Education and a Master of Arts in Education, both from Illinois College. She has experience in the classroom teaching pre-kindergarten, storytelling at the local bookstore and on the radio, and in a camp setting as an assistant director, as well as a counselor. Her passion is in helping children learn through fun and interactive experiences! Miss Mallory has created a developmentally appropriate and process-based curriculum to be used in this session.  

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About the author

Kyla Hurt is a capable boondoggler trained in the arts; she’s also an accomplished event coordinator with experience from museum fundraising to art festivals. She enjoys puppies, sunshine, and good radishes – and wit. Wit is good, too.

View all articles by Kyla Hurt

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