In my previous blog post we established that sensory play is essential to a child’s learning and brain development, but what if you don’t have a water or sand table? Playful sensory activities need not be difficult or involve a lot of fancy toys or resources. Shallow inexpensive plastic storage totes make perfect sensory bins. You can put the bin on the kitchen floor or outside when the weather is nice. So now that you have the bins, what do you fill the bins up with? Uncooked Rice, dried macaroni, dried beans, sand, water, water with bubbles, water colored with food coloring, play sand. Add scoops, shovels and small containers to pour and fill with. You can add a variety of toys such as small plastic animals and dinosaurs, small cars and blocks to the bins. The possibilities and options really are endless.
|A & E playing in the sensory bin, filled with rice and construction vehicles.|
What about the mess? I understand as parents we don’t always have the time to clean up messes and sometimes it’s just easier to avoid the mess in the first place. I don’t enjoy cleaning up messes EVER, but over the years I’ve learned a few tricks and strategies to ensure that messy play does not get out of control. The most important rule is to restrict messy play to those occasions that you know you will have time to clean up afterwards.
|K finger painting with chocolate pudding.|
The next time you are at the dollar store stock up on disposable vinyl table cloths, spread them out and put them under your table or sensory bins. Large black garbage bags also work well for this purpose. Most of the mess will be contained to the tablecloth or garbage bags, roll them up afterwards and toss in the garbage, easy peasy lemon squeezey! Set clear rules before the activity about what the child can and cannot do, for example, ‘the play dough stays on the table’. Supervise closely, as children often become lost in their sensory play and forget about the rules, making it easy for messy play to get out of control.
When the weather is nice go outside to play and put the bins on the deck or lawn outside. When you are not up to dealing with a mess, let your child have a bath just for fun. Take them to the beach to play in the sand. Let them jump in the rain puddles after it’s rained. Let your child cook with you offering them tastes and smells of the different ingredients you are using. Sensory play is a chance for you as a parent to get creative and use your imagination too!
|coloured liquid paint frozen in a variety of shaped ice cube trays to use for finger painting.|
|J painting with his frozen paints|
Try and relax and smile while getting messy with your child. You might not like getting covered in sand, but most kids love it. Remember to have fun interacting with your child while they are engaged in their sensory activity. Get in there and get messy with your child. If there is one thing I’ve learned over the years is that not only is sensory play calming for children, but it is calming for me as well. Continue to have fun getting messy and discovering with your child.
|T & H experimenting in the in the water table with green food colouring.|
I hope you enjoy the included pictures of children at BELA discovering, learning and enjoying a variety of sensory play experiences!