Kids love to be hands on with their learning, which is why sensory play is such a powerful form of play based learning. Many parents assume that sensory play will be messy and therefore avoid it at all costs. Sure some of it is, but it really doesn't have to be! Here's some of our favorite ways to engage your kids in sensory play- minus the three hour clear up!
Before we get started there is one top tip that we must share- contain the chaos! Invest in some sensory bins or trays- you won't regret it! We tend to use storage containers from Walmart or Target like this which cost only a few dollars, or if you want something bigger the IKEA SAMLA box is ideal! If you are wanting to work on a smaller scale, plastic trays are great for sensory play too. We love the IKEA SMULA trays as they are only $1.99 each!
1. Keep things simple!
An important aspect of sensory play is to not over complicate things. It can be tempting to spend a long time setting up a beautiful invitation to play, only to be frustrated when your kids either just aren't that interested or they destroy it within seconds! We try to follow the simple concept of one sensory bin filler and no more than two play components. For example, this could mean shaving foam with toy airplanes. Literally just squirt the shaving foam in the tub, and add the little toy airplanes to create a 'flying in the clouds' scene.
Alternatively you can keep things even simpler by just using water! Fill a storage tub with some water and raid your kitchen for fun scooping and pouring utensils. We guarantee your kids will love it!
2. Set some boundaries!
Many parents we speak to fear that their kids will simply tip the sensory bins all over the floor. We can't guarantee that this won't happen, but we will say that make sure you are present and involved. It's almost like you need to invest some initial time to 'train' your kids how to use sensory bins sensibly. That doesn't mean barking orders at them and constantly telling them 'no!', it just means showing them how to play nicely. We always remind our kids that if they aren't sensible, there will be no materials left for future play.
It really does help to play with your kids. Don't just dump the tub on the floor and walk away. Sit and play together, discuss what's in the tub, and share creative thoughts. You can see just how much fun sensory bins can be with your kids in our Making Perfume for Mom blog!
3. Fun for all ages!
You might avoid sensory play with your youngest kiddos but they are actually the ones who will likely be most engaged! Of course you need to be careful about the materials you include with regards to choking hazards, but sensory play is great for helping babies to learn about their surroundings.
A fun tip is to actually sit your baby inside the storage tub with the materials! That way they are contained, as well as the tub's contents! Here's a fun activity we did with our one year old which was simply Mega Bloks and pom poms. This little lady had a blast exploring the fluffy pom poms and trying to squeeze them inside the blocks.
Likewise, kids can never be too old for sensory bins. Children will always be intrigued by new sensory materials to explore. Ice play is fantastic for older kids- adding a science element of how to melt the ice or smashing it open with different tools. The picture below shows a confetti ice activity where older children had to find ways to melt the ice and release the confetti. This is where STEAM activities and sensory play can be closely linked. You can even challenge your older ones to create their own sensory bin!
4. It's not expensive at all!
We love sensory play because it is incredibly cheap to enjoy! You will be amazed at how many different sensory bins you can make from everyday materials that you most likely already have in your house or back yard! Here's a few examples:
Lentils and Diggers
5. Add something new!
This tip is key. If you add a new material to your sensory bin, your kids will be so intrigued and will no doubt want to get stuck in! This is great for encouraging explorative play and developing their inquisitive nature. It can be as simple as adding rose petals to water play, spices to potion making, a new kitchen utensil to explore, or even add some coloring to water to make a themed scene such as an aquarium. Anything new will immediately get your kid's attention!
We hope we've given you a taste of just how fun sensory play can be. You will be amazed at how long kids will play with containers and water! Don't over-think it, just throw some materials in a storage bin and Make Time Together with your littles by enjoying some sensory fun!
Creative QT designs quality + innovative toys that declutter homes and inspire creative play. Founded by parents of five, Adam and Dana Sue Hinkle, Creative QT’s vision is to empower parents and encourage a culture of families that Make Time Together. All products are designed to enrich families’ lives through active, creative play and play based learning. Creative QT products are laboratory tested for compliance with CPSC requirements and are free of lead, cadmium and phthalates so you can play with confidence. So, go ahead … today is the day: be your kid’s hero.
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