It might seem odd to write about sensory play on a blog for a basketry and furniture business - maybe it is. But sensory play consumes my life and if you have kids, I’m willing to bet you’ve either heard or googled the term at least once.
Not only does sensory play support the development of fine and gross motor skills, it has been shown to aid language and cognitive development; improve memory; and enhance problem solving skills. All of which is amazing - but sensory play is also the holy grail when it comes to soothing an anxious or frustrated child!
With two young kids (1 and 3 years old) who are regularly consumed by big emotions, sensory play is THE go to calming strategy for us all.
I unashamedly worship the parent bloggers; educators; DIY enthusiasts; and anyone who has ever taken the time to upload their ideas and recipes to the internet for me to retrieve. Collectively these contributors have made parenting that little bit easier for me and play time exponentially more fun for my kids.
So, in the spirit of giving back I want to share my favorite sensory play finds with you all. Everything I’ve pulled together is meant to be cheap, easy, and most of all, rewarding for you and your kids.
Water is the cornerstone of sensory play. There is nothing better than filling up the sink, throwing in a few random kitchen utensils and letting your kids go for it. BUT, if you want to get fancy here are two of my favorite 'no recipes needed' activities;
Hot & Cold
This is great for babies and toddlers and is as simple as the name suggests!
1. Get two water bottles, fill one with icy cold water and the other with hot/warm water.
2. Stand back and watch them explore.
Pro tip: You can begin introducing the words or signs for hot and cold.
Inky Swamp
1. Fill a tub or container with water (ice cream containers work great) and some food safe coloring to create a dark swamp (the darker the better).
2. Place various household items into your swamp, spoons, match box cars, rocks, essentially anything that will sink, and let your child fish them out!
Pro tip: For older kids have them guess what items are before they pull them out, or paint numbers/letter onto rocks and invite your kids to line them up in order.
If by some miracle you've made it through parenting without having to listen to 'Let It Go' on repeat for hours on end, well ... good for you. If not, you might want to get a pencil!
If your kids are anything like mine ice cubes are the ultimate in fun. My one year old could play with a large block of ice forever and, like water, playing with a simple ice cube can be extremely satisfying. But there are a few easy ways to make ice a little more magical:
Colored Ice
Drop food coloring into your ice tray and add water. Once frozen place the colored cubes on a clear or light colored tray, as the ice begins to melt the colors will swirl around, mix together, and become amazingly fun to play with.
Pro tip: Add popsicle sticks before freezing to make ‘paints.’
Ice treasure
Freeze your Frozen figurines, LEGO pieces, colored rocks, anything you can think of into large ice cubes/ice balls. Your kids will happily play with their ice until it is sufficiently melted, and they can claim their treasure!
Pro tip: Encourage kids to come up with ideas to melt the ice faster and really let our their inner scientist.
My daughter and I made this together last weekend, and it was a hit! Made from baking soda, sugar, corn starch, cream of tartar, and water, you end up with is an icy, crumbly, snow like sand that is perfect for play. Naturally we put Anna, Elsa, and the gang in ours and helped them have a snowball fight!
You can find a detailed recipe for snow on Instagram at @mothercould which is a LITERAL gold mine of ideas, and I highly recommend you follow this page immediately!
That babies and toddlers love to play with random household objects is not news to any parent! But a simple discovery basket will take this natural curiosity and focus it in a way that sparks learning and experimentation.
The idea here is to gather natural as well as manmade objects from around the home and let your little one explore themed collections, uninterrupted, with all their senses (and yes, like it or not this includes taste! So consider popping your items in a sterilizer before and after).
I really have to give my sister credit for getting me onto this one, in fact she shared a great article that I’ve attached below. In it, the kind folks from The Imagination Tree give a great explanation on how to use discovery baskets, detailed suggestions for themed collections e.g. reflective baskets and textile baskets, along with suggested items to include. I recommend having a read!
The final favorite on my list is another one I picked up from @mothercould, so if you didn’t follow them earlier do so NOW! I promise you will not regret it.
These blocks are so amazing! You can find the recipe on their instagram feed and all it calls for is clear gelatin powder, water and food coloring. My eldest stacks them and wobbles them and sorts them into colors, while my youngest loves to squish them with his feet (and knock down his sisters towers). Don't worry, they are 'taste safe' but they certainly don't taste good! Ruined dinner appetites or sugar highs will not be a problem!
And that my friends is a wrap! I hope this small collection of ideas will bring you and your kids as much joy as it has me and mine. There are so many amazing ideas out there - So please, do the online parenting village a service and share yours! We would love to hear from you, email us, jump on our instagram or facebook @beyondfunctionph pages and give us your sensory play recommendations!
Happy sensory play time!
Love Jodie xoxo