First of all, if you have spent anytime on Social Media (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest), chances are that you have come across at least one picture or post about sensory bins. Right now, they are all the rage. And understandably, what could be better than something that feeds our kids sensory needs and keeps them occupied and busy at the same time!
Sensory play is a way of bringing learning to life for younger children. We know that younger children learn through play and they have amazing imaginations. Sensory play allows them both of these opportunities at once.
A study published in Contemporary Issues in Early Childhood found that children (this study was specific to American kids) spend less time outside than any previous generation. And, the major contributing factor to this was screen time. Sedimentary activities, like long periods of sitting during learning times, were correlated with a desire to engage in similar activities at home.
So, when children spend a good part of their day being still, they develop a desire to continue to be still, increasing their desire for screen time. The study’s recommendation was that children need to spend more time outside as the physical play engaged in when they are outside it’s relieving to stress, anxiety and depression. All diagnosis’ which are on the rise in our kids’ generation.
Although my children spend a lot of time outside, there are times in the day when we need to be inside. Especially my youngest two, as they aren’t old enough to be outside unsupervised yet. So, what is a mom to do? Provide stimulating imaginative play opportunities for our kids while they are inside!
Sensory play provides an opportunity for:
As Stephanie from Two-Daloo put it,Sensory experiences are like food for the brain! Click To Tweet
Sensory play doesn’t have to be expensive or complicated to be effective. In fact, chances are your kids make their own sensory experiences on a daily basis.
Sensory play comes in many different types and forms.
Different materials can be used to explore with hands (and often feet, and then the rest of the body). This tactile sensation helps kids develop spacial awareness and understand how different materials feel. Materials great for this types of play include:
These are just some of the most common suggestions. Anything your children can handle, run their fingers through, pour, scoop, mould, and touch in any way will do.
Another fun way to increase your sensory stimulation is to draw in the other senses. Also, the sense of smell is a fun and easy one to trigger. Essential oils can be added to play dough, shaving cream, water, etc. to provide a scent. Dried herbs can also be fun to add to these types of materials.
Young children often love to explore new things with their mouths. Taste is a great way to invoke sensory experiences. Using materials that children can put in their mouths to feel and taste is a wonderful way to incorporate this type of learning. Food can also provide an excellent sensory experience. You can set up a tasting bar, or just introduce new things during meal times for your kids to look at, feel, smell and taste.
Getting out into nature provides an easy source of sensory input as well. There is so much to look at, listen for, smell, touch and even taste (though with taught caution). Therefore, if you are looking for some ideas to get out into nature with your children, take a look at my posts on nature study – like Spring Nature Study on Ponds | Charlotte Mason Style or Spring Nature Study – A Lesson on Plants | Charlotte Mason Style.
If you’ve searched Pinterest at all for anything sensory you will have seen all the wonderful sensory eye candy that you could create for your kids. We’ve made a few of our own sensory bins and they really are easy to make and my kids have really gotten into them – literally.
If you haven’t already asked it, you might after jumping in without the right expectations.Doesn't sensory play make a mess? How do I get my kids to keep it in the bin? Click To Tweet
There is actually a bit of behind the scenes work that needs to happen for your kids and you to have a sensory experience that isn’t stressful and work creating to mom.
So, after hours and hours of research, I decided I was going to make a sensory bin for Mickey Blue to keep him occupied while I made breakfast in the mornings. (This was part of revamping our daily schedule which you can read about here (Why I burned my daily homeschool schedule!!) and here (Why I burned my daily homeschool schedule! (Part 2)).
I took out some boring old white rice (uncooked) and placed it in a small clear rubbermaid container with a few scoops. Mickey played sweetly with it for several minutes, and sure he had taken to this whole sensory bin thing like the genius he is, I turned my back to make breakfast.
When I peeked back over my shoulder to make sure my toddler was continuing to play nicely, I found him sitting in the sensory bin on top of the kitchen table. DRAT! It didn’t go as smoothly as I had imagined. So, I headed over to the bin to redirect him. Only, once I got closer I found that half the rice was all over the table and floor. The other half? Well, it was nicely soaking up the cup of water Mickey had poured into the bin before climbing in on top of it. (EW!!)
Susie over at Busy Toddler has a great tutorial for teaching your kids how to use a sensory bin without making a complete mess (because there will always be a little bit of a mess). You can read all of her suggestions in her post Introducing Toddlers To Sensory Bins.
I came across her post about a month after this incident. I had written off sensory bins as something my kid wasn’t designed for. However, she gave me hope. And now, we play with sensory bins, A LOT! It does work. I love having just a few rules (for us we use 1. Sensory things stay in the bin 2. Our bodies stay out of the bin) to keep it easy and consistent. We’ve had fun exploring all sorts of different sensory materials and activities to go along with our daily lives, holidays and unit studies.
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Stay tuned for the posts to come on the bins we have made and how we use them! Want to make sure you don’t miss these? Sign up below to subscribe to my blog and get all my new posts in your inbox!
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