We have been spending a lot of time lately working on sensory play with our kids. They love to get messy and a lot of the activities we have been doing are brand new to our one year old and our three year old hasn’t done them in a while because of how difficult it was to keep her brother from destroying everything. We tend to do at least one a day depending on what the kids want to do. I try and let them decide which activity to do unless I have something in mind or I don’t want to do laundry. Since the weather has finally started to warm up in the Pacific Northwest we have been doing a lot of sensory play outside with found materials.
Having kids work with their hands using a variety of materials is a great way to have them learn without it seeming like forced work. So many parents I talk to are amazed at how much we do with our kids but honestly it is super easy and it doesn’t cost much to set things up. Many of the set ups I made when our three year old was one we are still using and will continue to use for many years and the others (most of them) are ones where my kids ask to play with something and I throw a bunch of things in a bin and they play. My kids also find sensory play items in their own as well and unless there is a safety issue I usually let them play with it. We have been on a strict budget ever since I can remember so I have not spent a lot of money. They key is to not get caught up in all of the fancy sensory bins you see on Pinterest with very specific items included in them and to make sure and buy materials that can be used for many different activities. Every once in a while throw in something new or “new” to them (as in mommy hid it for several months) and it will keep them interested.
Our focus lately has been water play. In the winter we have dumped bath toys in the kitchen sink and I have had the kids wash them for me but I only like to use that activity for special treats (like when the kids have cabin fever) since it can get out of hand and cause a huge mess. The weather has finally gotten warm enough so that the kids don’t freeze when they get wet outside so we have moved to the front yard. We used to live in a townhouse with no yard but a decent deck that was shaded in the heat of the summer so in the afternoons I would get our middle daughter a big bowl of water and sit out there with her while she poured water out of her tea pot over and over again. She absolutely loved it. Writing this reminds me I have to find that tea pot so that the kids can play with it this summer.
Now that we have two kids I have had to get a little more creative. I usually give them our white dish pans that we never use for dishes. I bought them several years ago at Target and we use them almost exclusively for sensory play. The dish pans, a set of large sterilite containers similar to these and this set of sensory tools are by far the best sensory play items I have bought so far. The dish pans are the perfect size for keeping projects small but deep enough so that material spills way less often then something shallow like a cookie pan and the sterilite containers work well for when you want a little more room, especially if the kids want to sit in your material which is good for them as well.
Our one year old’s first time using the dish pans outside. He was content with two red cups leftover from planting seedlings. Both had holes in them but all he cared about was practicing scooping and pouring water into the bin.
I had to bring out both dish pans when both kids were outside last week since they each wanted to play in a different way. They used the red cups, beach toys and watering cans to scoop and pour.
Today I turned on the hose to water some plants I had moved and our son ran into the garage, dumped out the first white bin he could find and brought it to me to fill. It was super sweet. I guess he loves playing with water outside! The kids were a little bored with the same toys so I added some bubbles to the pan. Oh man. Our one year old loves bubbles. He was so excited I had to break out the large sterilite container I have for larger sensory play and fill that with bubbles. It also kept the water loss down since the waterwheel drained back into the container instead of on the grass. They played with bubbles for over an hour until both of them were cold and ready for dinner.
Here is some of the sensory play we did outside the last couple of weeks:
We have done some indoor play as well. My kids have been obsessed with their legos and our creative muscles have been working hard making stores, schools, houses, and many other creations.
Our son has just started to really play with them so it has been a lesson in sharing and taking turns for everyone.
There are many many other ways you can do sensory play. In the past we have used water beads, kinetic sand, gak, pinto beans, flax seed and many more ideas.
What ways do you use sensory play in your home?