Here are five secrets that support sensory play.
You may have tried a sensory bin. Beans go in. They get played with. Beans go on the floor. You vacuum them up. Rinse and repeat, or you swear off sensory play for eternity. (I can see you nodding your head; that is why I am writing these five secrets that support sensory play)
We have an alphabet bean sensory bin activity, but if this idea has you running to the hills, don’t worry. There are plenty of alternatives to sensory play.
Furthermore, you may be thinking, where is the parent with a high bun in gym shorts picking up beans as the baby in the high chair smears yogurt all over their face on my Pinterest feed?
Why do we see perfectly curated toddler and preschool sensory ideas as we scroll the web?
For lack of better reasons, beans under the couch cushions don’t invite you to try a new sensory idea with your three, four, and five-year-olds. (don’t worry; it doesn’t have to end that way. I have how to introduce sensory play written here to help)
We, activity bloggers, know sensory play activates the brain and learning, so it’s equally important to include posts like this to better understand the benefits of sensory play.
The rest comes with time. We love sensory play now that we can see which ideas best fit our needs.
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Let’s Create an Environment You and Your Kids are Excited to Wake up to
Secret One: Sensory play does not have to include a bin and beans.
That’s right! You don’t need to make an indoor sensory bin if you prefer not to.
I will boldly predict that your child will rise above many occasions if they never have a colored rice bin to play with.
Here, we don’t do colored rice. I tried years ago and decided it was not for me. Instead, we freeze a lot of toys.
There are many variations to sensory play besides a plastic bin. – and we all know that sensory play is best when kept simple.
Although touch and texture are essential for brain development, we can do many other activities to encourage sensory play.
Variations to Traditional Sensory Bins:
- Cutting spaghetti
- Hand-eye coordination activities
- Mystery leaf rubbings
- Painting rocks
- Pom Pom activities
- Pom Pom measurements (a favorite)
- Sticker activities
- Adding mouth movements when learning to read
- Balancing on a log
- Balancing objects
- Listening to new sounds on a walk
- Riding a bike
- Taking a nature walk
- Using the swings
EXPLORING NEW TEXTURES AND SOUNDS
- Making a sound shaker
- Playing a musical instrument
- Playing with mud
- Smelling a new or familiar food
- Taking indoor toys outside
- Touching glue and water
- Water Play
Secret Two: Sensory supplies are all around you.
It is tempting to be roped in by toy companies stating they have the next IT toy for sensory play. Perhaps they do. Most likely, they do not.
In my experience, the best sensory supplies are funnels, measuring cups, water pitchers, and buckets.
If you want to incorporate more sensory play into your everyday life, look at the kitchen supplies you no longer use and items found at the Dollar Store.
Our favorite sensory supplies include:
- plastic storage bin
- spray bottles
- squirt bottles
- water with food coloring
Secret Three: Your child may dislike getting wet.
Because I have three boys, each child has a different sensory play approach.
First, let’s start with my oldest. His idea of sensory play was being able to pick up a paintbrush or feel the wheels of the trains making their way around the track.
Next, my middle is the shaving cream kid. He hears the word shaving cream or kinetic sand and darts over to play. Playing with texture is his JAM.
Now let’s go into my youngest, who disliked getting wet for the first four years of his life. Play with water? Yes. Get too wet? He was not having it.
Naturally, all three grew up with a different sensory play that best fit their needs and learning styles.
Tips if your child dislikes getting wet:
- PREP: Keep a change of shirt nearby to change when your child has reached the limit.
- TRUST: Trust that your child understands what they are comfortable with. Stick with those activities rather than force ideas they are not interested in.
- USE TOOLS: Offer a few tools that allow water play to be explored, such as a water pitcher or soup spoon.
- WATCH: Spend time watching other kids play with water without pressuring them to join in.
Secret Four: Sensory play does not have to be messy.
Both are activities I am down for some of the time. (they make pretty funny memories. Just remember to take a picture)
For the times I need a quick and easy idea with minimal cleanup, I turn to these sensory play ideas:
- EXPLORING: Collecting Nature
- FINE MOTOR: Cut the Playdough
- STICKERS: Decorate Elmer the Elephant
- TACTILE: Magnetic Tile Sticker Puzzle
As you look around searching for sensory activities, remember that some ideas are messy, and others can be put away in an instant.
Secret Five: Sensory play typically lasts longer than expected.
Remember we talked about messy sensory play vs. clean play? Well, typically, the messy play offers more bang for your buck.
I like to say if the messy play is longer than the cleanup, it was a win. – any cleanup shorter than the amount of time played does not get my five-star Yelp review.
Looking back over the last eight years of having children, here is a list of the sensory bins with the highest life expectancy.
- ART: Tissue Paper Anything
- BUILD STRENGTH: Pour to the Lines
- COLORED WATER: How to Recycle Markers
- FROZEN: Ice Skating Bears
- KINETIC SAND: Paw Patrol Meets Kinetic Sand
- WATER PLAY: Bear Soup
Outdoor sensory play supplies are our summer staple.
It is time to restock the outdoor sensory supplies and prepare for fun water play!
Summary of the five secrets that support sensory play:
- Sensory play does not have to include a bin and beans.
- Sensory supplies are all around you.
- Your child may dislike getting wet.
- Sensory play does not have to be messy.
- Sensory play typically lasts longer than expected.