The 5 Ws of Sensory Play

ARE YOU HOPING TO GET MORE INVOLVED WITH SENSORY PLAY EITHER AT HOME OR IN THE CLASSROOM? IT CAN SEEM A LITTLE INTIMIDATING WHEN YOU SEE SO MANY ELABORATE PINTEREST AND INSTAGRAM SET UPS, BUT SENSORY PLAY CAN BE ENJOYED BY EVERYONE! HERE ARE SOME ESSENTIAL TIPS from lucy of @findthelittlemind TO HELP YOU GET STARTED!

WHO:

YES SENSORY PLAY IS FOR KIDS, BUT IT IS SO IMPORTANT THAT YOU INVEST SOME TIME IN IT TOO. IT’S NOT A CASE OF SETTING SOMETHING UP AND WALKING AWAY TO PUT YOUR FEET UP AND READ A BOOK. YOUR KIDS WILL THRIVE OFF YOUR EXCITEMENT TOWARDS THE PLAY SO BE SURE TO BE HANDS-ON WITH THE MATERIALS AS WELL. SOME OF MY HAPPIEST MEMORIES WITH MY KIDS HAVE BEEN US ALL GATHERED AROUND A BIN FULL OF WATER, GIGGLING AS WE SCOOP AND SPLASH! SIMPLY SHOWING YOUR KIDS HOW TO USE THE MATERIALS WILL HELP THEM TO WANT TO ENGAGE, AND WILL ALSO ENCOURAGE THEM TO COME UP WITH NEW WAYS TO PLAY.

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WHAT:

SENSORY PLAY DOES NOT HAVE TO BE COMPLICATED OR EXPENSIVE. MY GO-TO SENSORY MATERIAL IS WATER! AT LEAST TWICE A WEEK I WILL USE WATER IN A BIN WITH A FEW EVERYDAY KITCHEN UTENSILS AS A SENSORY PLAY SET UP FOR MY TWO YEAR OLD AND SHE LOVES IT! JUST HAVE A FEW TOWELS READY FOR THE CLEAN UP! YOU CAN ALSO USE HOMEMADE MATERIALS SUCH AS CLOUD DOUGH, DYED RICE, CHICK PEAS OR PASTA, OR PLAY DOUGH. THESE ARE ALL GREAT BECAUSE THEY CAN BE STORED AND USED OVER AND OVER. THERE REALLY ARE SO MANY DIFFERENT SENSORY BASES YOU CAN USE!

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WHEN:

I GET ASKED THIS QUESTION ALOT- WHEN CAN I START DOING SENSORY PLAY WITH MY LITTLE ONE? I’M A STRONG BELIEVER IN YOU KNOWING YOUR OWN CHILD BEST. OBVIOUSLY YOU NEED TO BE VERY AWARE OF THE SAFETY ASPECT. FOR EXAMPLE, DON’T USE MATERIALS WHICH ARE CHOKING HAZARDS WHEN YOUR CHILD IS STILL PUTTING THINGS IN THEIR MOUTH. THE WAY I STARTED WITH MY YOUNGEST IS WHEN SHE TURNED ONE, I GAVE SENSORY MATERIALS IN ZIPLOC BAGS AND BOTTLES. HER SENSES WERE STILL BEING EXPOSED TO THE STIMULANTS, BUT THERE WAS NO RISK OF HARM (OR EXTREME MESS AND MELTDOWN!). CONTAINED MATERIALS LIKE SHAVING CREAM OR WATER (PLUS A GLO PAL OBVIOUSLY) WORK REALLY WELL FOR BABIES.

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THE SESOND ASPECT OF WHEN IS WHAT TIME OF DAY IS BEST FOR SENSORY PLAY? AGAIN THERE IS NO RIGHT OR WRONG ANSWER, YOU AS THE PARENT WILL KNOW BEST. MY ONLY ADVICE IS TO AVOID A TIME WHEN YOUR CHILD (OR YOURSELF) MIGHT BE TIRED, CRANKY OR HUNGRY! FOR US WE ALWAYS ENJOY OUR SENSORY PLAY AROUND MID-MORNING, BUT THIS WILL BE DIFFERENT FOR EVERY FAMILY.

WHERE:

FOR MANY PARENTS THEY FEAR THE MESS FACTOR WHEN IT COMES TO SENSORY PLAY AND I TOTALLY GET THAT. I WOULD RECOMMEND ENJOYING IT EITHER OUTSIDE WHEN POSSIBLE, OR ON A HARD FLOOR WHICH CAN BE EASILY CLEANED, SUCH AS IN THE KITCHEN. I WOULD ALSO DEFINITELY RECOMMEND INVESTING IN A FEW THINGS TO HELP MAKE YOUR SESSIONS LESS STRESSFUL. FIRST OFF SOME FORM OF MESSY MAT IS ESSENTIAL. THIS IS JUST SOMETHING TO COVER THE FLOOR OR TABLE WITH, YOU SIMPLY FOLD IT UP AND GIVE IT A WASH AFTER THE PLAY. MY TWO PERSONAL FAVORITES ARE THE BUMKINS SPLAT MAT AND THE PLA SMART TOYS MESSMATZ (SHOWN IN THE PICTURE BELOW).

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ANOTHER GREAT PURCHASE WE MADE WAS THE IKEA FLISAT CHILDREN’S TABLE (IT’S THE TABLE USED IN THESE PHOTOS). THIS IS THE HUB OF OUR SENSORY PLAY, AND IT IS ALSO SUPER AFFORDABLE AT $50. I LOVE THAT YOU CAN HAVE TWO DIFFERENT SENSORY MATERIALS SEPARATED IN THE BINS, AND IT IS EASY TO CLEAN OUT JUST BY REMOVING THE TROFAST STORAGE BINS. FINALLY, IF YOUR CHILD REALLY DOES LIKE TO GET MESSY, PERHAPS SOME FORM OF SMOCK IS A GOOD IDEA. I TEND TO PUT ONE ON MY TWO YEAR OLD IF WE ARE USING ANYTHING LIKE FOOD COLORING. AGAIN, BUMKINS IS OUR GO-TO FOR THIS, ESPECIALLY AS THEY OFFER BOTH SLEEVED (SEEN IN PHOTO BELOW) AND SLEEVELESS SMOCKS.

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WHY:

SO WHY BOTHER TO PUT THE EFFORT INTO SETTING UP SENSORY PLAY OPPORTUNITIES FOR YOUR KIDS? I COULD TALK SO MUCH ABOUT HOW SENSORY PLAY HAS HELPED BOTH OF MY KIDS, AND TO BE HONEST IT HAS ALSO HELPED ME AS A MOM. I LOVE THAT SENSORY BINS OFFER AN OPPORTUNITY FOR MY FAMILY TO PLAY TOGETHER, IN CLOSE PROXIMITY AND WITH FEW RESTRICTIONS. MY KIDS HAVE DEVELOPED SO MUCH CONFIDENCE TO APPROACH NEW SET UPS AND TO PROBLEM SOLVE, AS WELL AS GREAT FINE MOTOR SKILLS. MY SON’S KINDERGARTEN TEACHER EVEN COMMENTED HOW NEAT HIS HANDWRITING IS AND I AM SURE THAT HAS BEEN HELPED BY ALL OF THE FINE MOTOR TOOLS HE HAS USED IN SENSORY BINS! I FEEL LIKE MY KIDS ARE INQUISITIVE WHEN FACED WITH NEW CHALLENGES AND WANT TO BE HANDS-ON WITH WHAT IS IN FRONT OF THEM. AND I ALSO LOVE ALL OF THE VOCABULARY THEY HAVE DEVELOPED THROUGH OUR SENSORY PLAY CONVERSATIONS! IF I COULD ONLY USE ONE WORD THOUGH TO DESCRIBE WHY WE LOVE SENSORY PLAY IT WOULD HAVE TO SIMPLY BE ‘FUN’!

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I HOPE THIS BLOG HAS HELPED TO SHARE MY PASSION FOR SENSORY PLAY, BUT MORE IMPORTANTLY I HOPE THAT IT HAS SHOWN HOW ACCESSIBLE IT CAN BE FOR ALL PARENTS AND KIDS. HAPPY PLAYING PALS!

Lucy Baker