Right now, our children are home a lot more than they would be and you might be worried about their socialization. However, school, classes, and play spaces aren’t just about socialization and there’s a lot we can do at home in approachable ways that can help foster learning. Giving children the opportunity to discover is what matters. The ways in which we can enhance this discovery experience is by trying to ignite their senses—finding ways to add to play and make it an entire sensory experience.
Here are some ways to integrate sensory play and keep your child learning:
Ever heard the mama mantra “just add water”? Well, it was just about the best mantra I’ve ever come across. You’ll be shocked by your babe’s shift in energy when you introduce water to the situation. There are so many ways to “just add water” but these are a few of my faves:
- Fill up a shallow bath, put your child in with lots of bubbles, and throw in a baby doll and some washcloths. Some pruney hands and 45 min later, we’d call it a success.
- Fill up a bin with water and take some floating objects and some that will sink and you have a science experiment.
- For infants that can sit up, fill up a bin of water and put in some ball pit balls. They’ll love swatting the balls around.
- Water fight! Get into the bath with your child and let them spray you down. It will be the most fun they’ve had in awhile, guaranteed.
Tape down strips of aluminum foil and play has a whole new layer of intrigue. This is especially great for babies still on their belly. They’ll really become enraptured by the shine and crinkle of the foil. Another way to do this is with lightweight metal bowls. Organizing toys in metal bowls or putting down a metal tray with metal materials on it is not only shiny but really fun to make noise with by banging and clanging.
Dried lentils, rice or beans are great materials for children to learn to pour, dump and scoop. Fill a bin or shoe box with any of these materials and watch as your child practices burying and finding their favorite toys. For a baby, you can fill ziploc bags with the dried grains or beans and watch as they explore the texture by throwing, banging, and patting the bags.
If you’re strapped for time or toys, turning to tape (yep, you heard that right!) is a quick and easy way to get your little one engaged. Here are a few of my favorite ways to use this household item:
- Tape grab: For an infant on their back who can grasp or a baby who can sit up, put pieces of tape hanging off a low table and watch as your baby grasps and pulls pieces off. You can also attach small toys to the hanging pieces and watch them pull the objects off!
- Create a maze: Put long pieces of tape down hallways throughout your home, or create a trail throughout your whole apartment. Then, walk the maze, hop it, skip it, jump it, and walk backwards on it.
- Create a hopscotch board: This one’s a no-brainer for older kids.
If you have any shoes on hand (you do), they are a great way to put your mini’s mind to work. Here are some activities that work well for older kids.
- Shoe match: Take your babe’s shoes out of their closet (or all the shoes you have with you), put them in a pile and ask your child to match them.
- I spy… Describe a shoe and ask your child to find it. Example: “I spy a shoe that is red with laces.” The descriptive literacy involved will make you feel really productive with little to no planning involved.
Ball Pit Balls
You know what I’m talking about…those balls that fill up the ball pit you went in as a kid. Turns out, they have more than one use! Here are a few fun ways to use them:
- Tape pull: Pull a piece of masking tape across the room and low to the ground. Stick the balls to it, then place your baby on the floor beneath the tape and watch as they reach to pull the balls off.
- Color coded ball throw: Take some cardboard boxes, tape colored pieces of construction paper to them, and have your child throw the same colored balls in the right box.
As parents, we are learning to be even more resourceful now than ever. All you need for these activities is a few staple items and an imagination! I hope they breathe new life into your mini’s play routine and set your mind at ease in times when they don’t seem to be engaging with their usual faves.