Sensory play is a very important aspect in learning especially with young kids. Sensory play is a simple concept. Whenever your child's sense of touch, smell, taste, sight, or hearing is used during play, that's considered sensory play. Digging in the dirt, washing dishes in the sink, tasting a special treat, or walking the dog can all be considered examples of sensory play.
According to Educational Playcare, here are 5 reasons why sensory play is beneficial:
- Research shows that sensory play builds nerve connections in the brain’s pathways, which lead to the child’s ability to complete more complex learning tasks.
- Sensory play supports language development, cognitive growth, fine and gross motor skills, problem solving skills, and social interaction.
- This type of play aids in developing and enhancing memory
- Sensory play is great for calming an anxious or frustrated child
- This helps children learn sensory attributes (hot, cold, sticky, dry)
One easy way to bring sensory play into your child's daily life is by creating a sensory bin. This can be as simple or as complex as you want it to be. Here is how to create your own at-home sensory bin plus 6 ways to fill it!
Here are the main items you'll need:
-Bin with lid, any size that you prefer. It can be small for one kid or as big as you need for multiple kids to play with at once. Don't forget the lid for easy storing!
-Tools for scooping, dumping, and grabbing. These can be items that you already have at home.
Once you have chosen your bin, its time to fill it! There are many different ways to fill a sensory bin that will keep your kid interested and busy. One of my favorite places to buy items for our sensory bin is our local dollar store.
Alphabet Soup: The easiest way to fill your bin is with water! You can add boats or scoops. Our favorite way is to make Alphabet Soup. Scoop out a letter and say it's name!
Create a Car Wash: Gather some water, dish soap, a couple toothbrushes, and your favorite cars to create a car wash. This one is sure to keep your kid busy and having fun! You can even skip the cars and use your favorite dinosaurs or farm animals!
Water Beads: These are sure to be a hit! Water Beads do take time to soak and grow to size but they are always worth the wait. The slippery gel-like texture is fun to scoop and squeeze. Add animals or letters to create a search and find activity.
Cotton Balls + Pom-Poms: Cotton balls can be easily squeezed with tongs and the soft texture is enjoyable for kids which makes them a great addition to your sensory bin. You can add colored pom-poms and cups for sorting practice. Using recycled materials from home like toilet paper rolls or egg cartons to place the cotton balls in makes for good fine motor skills practice.
Shredded Paper: I love to hide bugs and creatures in shredded paper to challenge my kids to see how many they can find! Paired with tongs and a magnifying glass, kids have fun trying to search for everything they can find.
Pasta: Funky-shaped pasta is a fun addition to have in your sensory bin! You can use it plain or add color to it by mixing dry pasta, a tablespoon of rubbing alcohol, and several drops of food coloring in a gallon sized baggie. Let it dry on wax paper overnight.
Some of our other favorite sensory bin ideas are kinetic sand, rice, colored water, shaving cream, and beans. The possibilities are truly endless. Sensory bins are a great tool for development, practicing fine motor skills, and learning. We would love to hear about your favorite sensory play ideas! Share them with us @thepreschoolbox!
Lastly, please make sure you are always monitoring kids of any age as many of the items could pose as a choking hazard.