I’ve written and talked many times about the importance of sensory experiences for toddlers and preschoolers. Children use their senses to learn about the world, regulate their bodies and behavior, and connect to the environments in which they live and play.
A variety of sensory experiences enriches your child’s life with new developmental opportunities. So here are a few mediums you may not have tried before:
Macaroni or Rice Bin: A container full of dry, uncooked pasta or rice makes an excellent medium for sensory play. I prefer pasta macaroni elbows for the maximum fun and easiest clean-up. Throw in some plastic animals, a cup, and a spoon to enhance the play possibilities.
Pom-Poms and An Egg Tray: I learned this one from a fellow Special Instructor, Gwen. She lets children experience manipulating the fuzzy pom poms into separate egg-cups of the egg tray. And what’s great about this activity is that it’s something that’s easy to put together with what you already have in the house. Pom-poms can be purchased at the minimal expense from your local dollar store.
Putty: Combine liquid starch (used for laundry) with washable school glue to create a thick, sticky putty that is completely washable. Children stretch, break, bend and roll the putty for extended periods of fun!
Shaving Cream: This can get kind of messy, so I recommend having your child in the bathtub, with or without water, while playing with shaving cream. Use a large Tupperware, aluminum pan, or flat serving tray. Spray a dollop of shaving cream onto it and allow your child to manipulate with fingers. S/he can also trace pictures, letters, and numbers into it.
Flour: Flour is soft and gentle to the touch, and many children enjoy this medium greatly. I keep a covered pyrex dish full of flour on the kitchen shelf, and my school-aged daughter uses it to practice her spelling words each week. Don’t worry about the snow-flurry style mess; flour brushes off clothing and surfaces fairly quickly. Just make sure to keep it dry; wet flour becomes a crusty, sticky dough that is much harder to remove!
Oobleck: An old family favorite that is named for one of Dr. Seuss’s creative works, Oobleck is just a combination of corn starch and water. The texture is unique; part liquid and part solid, you can scoop it up by the handful and watch it ooze back out through your fingers. Oobleck is sure to elicit screams of delight.
Kudos to all you Moms out there who are not afraid of a little mess. You understand that in the long run, the memories and experiences that are built from these activities far outlast the mess that comes along with them. So don’t forget to take pictures, and enjoy the moment with your little one. And maybe even join in. Hey, you’re never too grown-up to play in the rice bin : )
By Chaya Glatt