“For a small child there is no division between playing and learning; between the things he or she does ‘just for fun’ and things that are ‘educational.’ The child learns while living and any part of living that is enjoyable is also play.” ~ Penelope Leach
Sensory play. I don’t know about any other parents but this type of play keeps my Little Feet entertained much longer then any other activities. Children use their senses to literally, ‘make sense’ of the world around them. They use all five senses: touch, taste, seeing, hearing and moving. In order to process the world they re-enact what they have seen around them. Have you heard your Little Feet playing and using sentences that you regularly use? This is them trying to use these words in the right context and understand them.
The world can be a big and scary place for Little Feet, especially as they try and understand how they fit in it. Using sensory play is an essential way for them to be able to explore how things work in a controlled setting. By that I mean, they can concentrate on one or two sensory senses at a time. As parents we understand that our children, when over-stimulated, need to take a step back from what they are doing and calm down. Too much of it can wire them and not in an endearing way! In the same way, a child that is lacking in a particular area can become difficult. Their concentration can become short, they may feel unsettled, bored and grouchy. Often in our busy-ness we don’t recognise that they could need more of a sensory element that week.
We moved house and county a couple of weeks ago and it naturally obliterated our routine. We haven’t been able to do many child-related things with Little Feet A and B. Little Feet A went back to school last week and it became clear Little Feet B was feeling unsettled. Nothing was keeping her attention for longer than five minutes, she was getting cross at a drop of a hat and was not being herself. One day, I was brainstorming a craft and had lots of tissue paper cut offs. Instead of throwing them away I chucked them into a plastic tub and grabbed a spare soap bar I had been keeping for crafts. I grated the soap and put a jug of water and a squeezy pipette for her to add on to the tissue paper and soap.
My suspicions were correct.
She had been missing some serious sensory play in her week. She played with this sensory bin for a full 45 minutes. This particular sensory bin is a progressive one, which is why I think she was so entranced with it. It went through various stages and states.
What is so fun about this particular sensory bin is that is involves, touch, smell, seeing and she even added moving to it herself! The tissue paper and soap evolve as the play unravels. The paper going from dry to wet and the soap going from sold to soapy liquid with the addition of the water. The texture goes from hard to velvety and slippery. By using soap we add smell and this scent spreads with the water. The movement then developed as we had some fine motor tools that she used to pick up the wet tissue paper and then let it drop and splash into the water making a large ‘plop’ noise (enter sound to the equation too!).
If you don’t have tissue paper you can use loo roll. I previously did this with Little Feet A when she was about Little Feet B’s age. It worked, but I have to say the addition of colour of the tissue paper and the texture of it made it a very different sensory experience. Having done both, i’d definitely say tissue paper is the way to go for a more visually exciting bin.
What you will need:
Tissue paper (loo roll works too)
Jug or pipette
Tear or cut strips of tissue paper or loo roll and tip into your plastic tub.
Using your grater, grate the soap either into a separate container or straight into the plastic tub with the tissue paper.
Allow your Little Feet to smell the soap and feel it with their hands. Talk about it and let them play with the gratings in the tissue paper to begin with.
With a jug or pipette let your Little Feet slowly or quickly add warm water to your tissue paper and soap.
Let them explore the texture. If you have any toddler fine motor skill toys then throw them in and let them have fun. You may be surprised how long it will entertain them for.
Note: If your toddler is still in the stage that they don’t like the feel of certain textures under their hands or getting them dirty then perhaps try this in a few months when their senses have matured and developed a bit more. I know if we had done this with Little Feet B a few months ago it would not have been successful.