As a past teacher and now a mom, I understand the importance of sensory play. Some kiddos learn best by being hands on, and incorporating sensory play is a great way to allow them to do just that – learn hands on. If you’re wondering about the importance of sensory play, read on and learn!
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What is Sensory Play?
Sensory play is any activity that allows your child to use any/all of his/her 7 (yes, I said 7!) senses.
What are these 7 senses? They include:
- Vestibular – Movement and balance
- Proprioception – The knowledge of where are body parts are in relation to the rest of us and how they move.
Why Sensory Play?
Sensory play is important for a few reasons;
- Emotional Regulation: Did you know that a lot of times kids who have meltdowns are craving sensory activities? It’s true! Trampoline jumping, pushing chairs, playing in sensory bins. All of these can be helpful and can help avoid tantrums if added to your daily routine.
- Safe Exploration: Sensory bins allow for kids to explore new textures in a safe and controlled environment. You’re right there with them while they’re exploring the items and you can be there to guide their play.
- Develop Motor Skills: Sensory bins/bags oftentimes use fine motor skills. Strengthening fine motor skills from the start is so important. It helps build muscles to assist in life skills such as writing, using eating utensils, hand eye coordination, tying shoes, etc.
- Encourage Learning: Some children do not learn well from rote memorization (ie, flashcards, repetition, etc). When incorporating sensory play, you can teach them other skills (letters, numbers, colors, math, etc) without them even realizing they’re doing it.
- Visual Development: This is especially important in infant sensory play. Exploring sensory items in bins or bags, you can incorporate bright colors which helps stimulate babies’ visual development.
- Keeps them busy!: Isn’t this the most important part?!
How To Build a Sensory Bin
- First, you need a base:
- This is the sensory part of your bin.
- Please be mindful of this part! Nothing your littles can choke on your will fit in their nose if they are of the
- Food is okay, but don’t pick something that will spoil if you plan on reusing the bin.
- If you think you found something great, try to freeze it! This usually buys you some extra time.
- Some examples of bases:
- Water beads
- Pom poms
- Small pieces of tissue paper
- Dry pasta (color them using this tutorial from Typically Simple)
- Dry rice
- Dry beans
- Cut up drinking straws
- Then, you need a learning tool:
- What skill do you want to work on? Letters, numbers, colors, sorting., animals and their sounds, body parts. etc.
- If it’s sorting, don’t forget some small bowls or cups to do the sorting when they fish the items out of the sensory bin.
- This part is super easy to switch out—it’s the extra educational tool!
- Some learning tools include:
- Plastic animals
- Foam letter puzzle
- Laminated pictures of letters, animals, etc.
- Plastic bugs
- Plastic shapes
- Finally, you add some tools:
- This one isn’t necessary but can add a challenge.
- Add tweezers, tongs, plastic spoons, etc.
- Be creative, but safe!
- Some examples of tools:
- Plastic spoons
- Small bowls
- Plastic Easter eggs
- Measuring cups
- Measuring spoons
And of course, you’ll need something in which to put it all. You have a few options:
- A plastic bottle: This is great for infants or toddlers that will make a mess but can still be entertained by visual toys. Make sure you remove the label and it’s a good idea to hot glue the lid to the bottle after filling it.
- A plastic resealable bag: This is another great option for infants and toddlers. Make sure you take out all the air possible and it is a good idea to put it into another bag and tape it shut with packing tape or duct tape.
- A box: This will get messy! But there are a ton of different options.
- A cardboard box: Big enough to fit in is good too. If you have a child who needs even more sensory output, they can sit inside the bin and dig around.
- A plastic bin with a lid: One that can sit on a tabletop works for just hands or you can do a large one for more exploration.
- A baking pan: If it’s a one time activity (water, shaving cream, etc) this is a great vessel!
Some extra tips and tricks for Sensory Play
- Exercise other skills: If you have a specific skill you want to work on with your kids (letter recognition, colors, shapes, etc), think about how you can incorporate sensory play into it to get your kids more engaged.
- Large motor activities: Any sensory bin can incorporate large motor (ie, running, skipping, hopping, etc) activities as well. Put the bin one one side of the room and a sorting mat or cups/bowls on the other side of the room or a little farther away (if you’re playing outside). This allows a high energy kid to let off some extra energy!
- Keep the bins as a special activity: If you’ve just had a baby and need a few minutes to nurse or get them down for a nap, take out a sensory bin for your toddler/older kid to keep them busy while you tend to the baby. Do you cook dinner every night? Tape some sensory bags to your sliding glass door for a quick activity where you can keep an eye on them and still get your stuff done.
Try out some bins and come back and comment – let me know what you’re doing and what your kids are loving! Head over to Instagram and tag me, too!