Thursday, 14 March 2013

The Ins and Outs of sensory play

One of my earliest memories is of playing in the mud and making cakes, then decorating them with pebbles, flowers and everything else I could find. I remember having an outdoor "kitchen" of sorts, where I would brew all kinds of concoctions. My Mom understood the importance of sensory play. I am so thankful for the experiences I had as a child, and I would love it if my boys felt the same.

Kermit has a love-hate relationship with messy things, he loves to explore, but has a severe aversion to getting his hands dirty. Keeping this in mind, I have tried to provide activities to get him a little more comfortable with being messy.

But why is sensory play so important? From birth, children learn through sensory input. Not only does sensory play stimulate all five the senses, it is a great avenue for basic math skills, early literacy, fine-motor skills, gross motor skills, cognitive development, development of self control and creativity. And it is so much fun!

Now that I have you all excited about sensory play, where do you start?
Well, sensory play does not need to be expensive! A simple sandbox or water tray with a few tweaks, can provide hours of fun! I once filled my sink with bubbles and measuring cups, Tadpole played there for nearly an hour! You can add all kinds of toys and even a little food colouring to make things exciting!

Another avenue to explore when planning sensory play is a sensory box/bin/tub/table. When I set mine up, I start with a filler, I've compiled a list of my favourites, but you can add whatever you want.

Think about things that your children would enjoy, ask for their input regarding themes and work around their interests. I try to add things that will stimulate as many senses as possible. 

In my opinion, sensory boxes have the same allure for children as a junk drawer, they simply love exploring all of the little parts and treasures they find. Add some life skills practise by adding scoops, tongs, spoons, bowls or containers that need opening and closing.

Here are some pictures of the sensory activities we've done in the past:

Ocean animals and foam 
Cloud dough and dinosaurs

Rice, coloured with kool-aid, on  a light table

A giant ice cube with clear water beads and trucks to clear the "snow"
Bubble wrap and shaving foam
Green and blue water beads with empty easter eggs and spoons

a giant ice cube with little plastic dinosaurs,
ready for excavation!

Ice cream
Halloween (coloured cooked spaghetti)
If you need some more inspiration, have a look at the sensory bins  from Counting coconuts, she has been a great inspiration to me!
Happy playing!

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