When I came across a large bag of out of date porridge oats at the back of my cupboard, I knew they would be perfect for a sensory play tray.
Sensory and messy play activities are important in the early years as they help to stimulate and allow children to explore their senses. This activity was great for the children to explore their sense of touch by exploring a new texture.
We started by adding some numbered cups to the oats and the children dived straight in scooping and pouring the oats….
Later on, we brought the tray out again, this time adding some small world farm animals (and some wild ones too by the looks of it!). The children had fun feeding the animals…
And, finally, we then decided to add some water to change the texture of the oats…
The children weren’t put off by the change in texture and got busy stirring the water in and squeezing and exploring handfuls of wet oats in their hands whilst continuing to feed their animals.
Activities such as this that use the senses help contribute to brain development by stimulating the neurons in the brain to make connections, and help with development in all areas of learning.
Take a look at some of our other sensory play trays:
Our first day back at work after the Christmas break was one of our favourite Messy play Mondays!
Well, actually, not so messy, as this time we were exploring
Made with natural sand, Kinetic Sand is easy to shape and mould. The creative possibilities are endless! It flows through fingers just like real sand.It never dries out so you can play again and again and best of all it’s easy to clean up! The children as young as 18 months have really been enjoying it and seem to be mesmerised by it in a way they aren’t with playdough and clay.
It’s a fantastic sensory play material, the colours are really vivid and it makes for a lovely soothing and relaxing activity.
This week I created a winter themed sensory bag for the babies I look after to explore. Neither of them seem too keen to get messy so this was perfect for them both. Sensory bags provide a fun sensory experience without any mess. They are also more easily tolerated by kids who hate sticky or messy sensations on their hands.
I try to provide my mindees with lots of different sensory experiences to help them become more comfortable with new sensations.
Sensory play is, quite simply, any activity that stimulates the senses. This includes the five main senses of touch, smell, sight, taste, and sound.
What are the benefits of sensory play?
At birth, a child’s senses are not fully developed. Instead, they develop over time as children engage with the world around them. This means that babies, toddlers, and preschoolers learn about the world by touching, tasting, smelling, seeing, hearing, and moving their bodies.
Because young children’s senses are still developing, each new sensory experience builds neural pathways that grow the architecture of the brain. The brain growth that occurs through sensory play enhances children’s senses, and their enhanced senses in turn make them better able to use those senses for learning. For example, as children engage with various textures, they learn which ones are rough vs. smooth, which ones are hard vs. soft, and which ones are wet vs. dry. This awareness is a first step in learning to classify and sort objects.
Baby sensory classes are big business. As a home based childcarer I aim to provide lots of different things to stimulate all 5 of babies and toddlers senses (hearing, sight, touch, smell and taste) outside of expensive classes.
Babies love to put things in their mouths and I don’t discourage this as this is how they learn. All my toys are regularly inspected for cleanliness and safety.
I am to provide resources that offer a range of different textures, types, colours and shapes which will provide a lot of sensory stimulation for all the children.
These are just some of the sensory activities and resources I provide here at Aston Childcare (the safety and ages of each child is always considered before using any of the items listed) –
Playdough – adding things such as glitter or lavender
Small bean bags
Treasure baskets – filled with metal items, wood items, plastic items, ribbons
Touch and Feel sensory books
Cooking and baking sessions to explore taste and smell.
Outside basket – filled with fir cones, interesting leaves, twigs etc
Arts and crafts items such as pom poms and wool.
Paper and cardboard sensory bag with different types of card eg shiny, ridged, coloured
This week my mindees have been enjoying some Valentines Day related arts and crafts. Using tissue paper cut into different shapes we created heart shaped collages, lots of gluing and sticking was great for developing fine motor skills. We learnt new words such as “collage”. We learnt that Valentine’s Day, or St Valentine’s Day, is celebrated every year on 14 February and explained that it’s the day when people show their affection for another person or people by sending cards, flowers or chocolates with messages of love. We also enjoyed some playdough and some mark making and sensory rice play too.
Areas of Learning covered: Expressive Arts and Design, Understanding the World, Communication & Language, Mathematics, Physical Development and Personal, Social and Emotional Development.
On Monday we made some fantastic coloured rice. Using Basics white rice, food colouring and vinegar we put the ingredients in to a bag, tied a knot and got massaging the colour into the rice. This was a great sensory activity as we squished & squelched the bags until all of the colour was combined evenly. We discussed which colours to use, the smell of the vinegar and the feel of the rice in the bag.
We then left it on a tray to dry and when ready we came back to make marks in the rice using our fingers and paint brushes. Messy play materials like this rice are wonderful for mark making (quite literally the earliest form of writing, where a child makes marks and symbols) and early writing which was the aim behind this activity. You can use all manner of things to write and make marks with – fingers, lolly pop sticks, cotton bud sticks, chopsticks, paint brushes and the feet of toy dinosaurs. We swirled and zig zagged in the rice and had great fun!
My mindee will not sit and write on a plain piece of paper. It does not interest him yet, so I need to find new ways to make writing fun for him and this is just perfect for igniting his interest unaware that he is in fact learning!
The Benefits of Sensory Play (source: HIGHSCOPE | Extensions, VOLUME 25, NO. 5)
We know that young children are oriented toward sensory experiences. From birth, children have learned about the world by touching, tasting, smelling, seeing, and hearing. Sensory play also contributes in crucial ways to brain development. Stimulating the senses sends signals to children’s brains that help to strengthen neural pathways important for all types of learning.
As children explore sensory materials, they develop their sense of touch, which lays the foundation for learning other skills, such as identifying objects by touch, and using fine-motor muscles. Children can work with materials that have many sensory attributes — they may be warm or cool, wet or dry, rough or smooth, hard or soft, textured or slimy. Discovering and differentiating these characteristics is a first step in classification, or sorting — an important part of preschoolers’ science learning and discovery.
A lot of learning can occur while children are doing what they do best: playing and exploring! Consider the following benefits of sensory play to children:
Cognitive development. Even before children can speak, they are developing an understanding of things in their environment by actively exploring them with all their senses. As they become more verbal, they are able to describe similarities and differences in what they see, hear, taste, touch, and smell. For example, each time a child explores sand, he is confirming his previous explorations and discoveries that sand is dry, gritty, and so forth, and he will eventually notice other materials that share those same characteristics.
Social skills. Working closely together at the sand and water table gives infants and toddlers opportunities to observe how peers handle materials, try out the ideas of others, share their own ideas and discoveries, and build relationships.
Sense of self. As they directly experience things themselves, children explore and communicate preferences, making sense of the world around them. For instance, they discover that they enjoy the feel of dry sand or that they have an aversion to slimy things. When caregivers acknowledge and accept their preferences, children learn that their feelings and decisions are valid.
Physical skills. Children develop and strengthen new motor skills through shaping, molding, scooping, dumping and splashing— these actions all support the development of small and large muscles. For instance, holding a scoop to fill and dump sensory materials works many muscles used in other parts of the children’s day, as when they hold a cup or spoon at mealtimes.
Emotional development. Sensory experiences can be very calming for many children and can help them work through troubling emotions, such as anxiety or frustration. For example, working with materials that require pressure and manipulation, such as play dough, can help children release physical energy or tension. Likewise, sensory materials lend to children’s expression of positive feelings, such as joy and excitement.
Communication skills. Through their choice of materials and actions during sensory play, children have opportunities to communicate both verbally and nonverbally. While splashing in the water table, a young toddler may display a look of surprise as her hand makes contact with the water or squeal in delight as she is able to make the water splash repeatedly. A caregiver’s responses to the efforts to communicate help children know the message they are trying to convey has been received.
This morning we turned our hands to making Gloop! Gloop is an interesting mixture with a unique texture to explore and play with. Playing with Gloop is a fabulous sensory and science activity to learn about the concepts of what a solid and liquid is.
With the rain beating down outside, it seemed like the perfect day to break out the playdough! It takes just minutes to prepare and is incredibly therapeutic, not only for children but for a busy mum and childminder too!
I’ll be adding some more colours to extend our play in the coming weeks.