If you are a parent or caregiver looking for activities for young children, you’ve probably noticed that “sensory play” is all the rage on kid blogs and Pinterest. There are even entire websites devoted to sensory play for little ones, and while they are full of creative ideas, you may find yourself asking, “Does my child REALLY need sensory play for development?”

To answer this question, let’s look at what we know about sensory play.

 

 

WHAT IS SENSORY PLAY?

Sensory play is simply play that encourages children to use one or more of the senses.  Often called “messy play,” sensory play experiences focus on stimulating children’s senses of sight, sound, smell, touch, taste, balance, and movement.

Research tells us…

  • Young children rely on sensory input to learn about their environment.
  • Sensory play helps build neural connections that support thought, learning, and creativity.
  • Sensory play supports language development, cognitive growth, fine/gross motor skills, problem solving/reasoning, and social interaction.
  • Children’s exposure to sensory play opportunities is declining.

WHAT DOES THIS MEAN TO US?

The first three points on the list above are pretty self-explanatory. In a nutshell, sensory experiences are like food for the brain…they provide valuable input that allows the brain to build new pathways that in turn support growth in crucial areas of development.

The fourth point, however, is what sheds some light on the answer to our original question, “Is all this REALLY necessary?”  You may be thinking, “My parents didn’t do sensory play with me, and I turned out ok!”  The fact is, our little ones spend much less time outdoors than their parents and certainly grandparents did as children.  Since the outdoors is naturally full of sensory play opportunities, this has definitely had a part in the decline of sensory play.  Secondly, although children can definitely fulfill their need for sensory play indoors when given periods of unstructured playtime with stimulating materials, the truth is that indoor time is often monopolized by television, battery operated toys, or toddler/preschool programs that focus on drilling academics rather than fostering important play skills.  This has resulted in a generation of children who may not even know how to play when given the opportunity…how sad is that?

So in short, the answer to your question is yes, sensory play is crucial for your child’s development. And since children today are no longer given ample opportunities for naturally occurring sensory play, it is up to us as parents to be sure their needs are met.

BUT WAIT!!  

Before you rush out and buy the materials to recreate every zany sensory activity you ever pinned on Pinterest, here are some much less time-intensive activities that you can do to enrich your child’s “sensory diet” without losing your sanity as well.

  • Play with sand, mud, water, shaving cream, cornmeal, water beads, dried or cooked pasta, dried beans or lentils, etc.  Provide a variety of containers, kitchen tools, and small toys for your child to explore with.
  • Sing and dance to music.  Use child-sized instruments, scarves, ribbon wands, etc. to encourage participation and engage multiple senses.
  • Build with blocks, empty cardboard boxes, or canned goods.  Knock down your towers and talk about the loud noises.
  • Add essential oils or extracts to play dough and compare all the different scents as you play.
  • Pick out a variety of fruits and vegetables at your local market (try to choose some that are new to your child).  Have a “sensory picnic” where you encourage your child to touch, smell, taste, and play with all the different produce.
  • Go for a walk in your neighborhood or in a wooded park.  Let your child stop and pick up leaves, sticks, rocks, or whatever else interests him/her.  If you want, bring a bag to fill with your “treasures” to bring home and make a collage with, or just simply to show to another family member.

MORE GREAT STUFF JUST FOR YOU:

To learn how to use fun sensory play activities to help get your toddler talking, check out Building Language with Sensory Play. (Link to- http://www.two-daloo.com/sensory-play-and-language/)

For an entire gallery of  sensory play ideas, click HERE. (Link to- http://www.two-daloo.com/category/play/sensory-play-little-minds-tot-school/)

Stephanie HaassLittle Pnuts Early Childhood Activities Expert & Blogger, founder of www.two-daloo.com

 

Now that Spring is just around the corner, it’s a great time of year to explore colors with your Little Pnut.  Painting can be a wonderful way to introduce colors and color mixing, as well as a whole-body sensory extravaganza! Worried about your Little Pnut tasting the paint? Never fear! We’ve got you covered with this flour-based paint recipe – it’s easy and non-toxic but doesn’t taste good enough to keep your little ones coming back for more.  Let’s get artsy!

 
 
 
 

 

 

 

What You Will Need

  • 1 cup flour
  • Boiling water (1-2 cups)
  • Cold water (1-2 cups)
  • Food coloring (gel or liquid)

Make The Paint

Place your flour into a large, heat-safe bowl.  Heat your water until boiling and then add enough of the boiling water to the flour to make the consistency of peanut butter.  Stir well to remove lumps.  Use cold water to thin out the paint until you reach your desired consistency.  If lumps remain, you can pour the paint through a strainer to remove them.  A few drops of food coloring, and voila! Safe paint for Little Pnuts to explore!

Let’s Create!

There are so many fun ways your Little Pnut can play with paint.  For large-scale fun, spread a big piece of butcher paper on a table top or sidewalk (use duct tape to secure the edges) and let your Little Pnuts go! To keep painting experiences fresh, provide different “tools” each  – traditional painting tools like brushes can be mixed with non-traditional items like toilet paper rolls, q-tips, spaghetti noodles, and cotton balls for experimenting.  Try providing interesting “canvases” like fabric, bubble wrap, or foil instead of paper.  Remember, try not to focus on the finished product as much as enjoying the painting process with your Little Pnut – let them make the decisions about how to paint their masterpieces and you will be fostering creativity, independence, and a lifetime love of art and learning!

 

Developmental Milestones:

This activities focuses on the following Developmental Milestones for your Little Pnuts:

Fine Motor Skill Development, Hand/Eye Coordination, Focus & Concentration, Creativity, Sensory Exploration, Language Development, Problem Solving

 

—Stephanie Haass, Little Pnuts Early Childhood Activities Expert & Bloggerwww.two-daloo.com
 

 

 

 
 


 

In the mood for a winter play activity, but no snow in the forecast?  Never fear! Your Little Pnuts will love playing with this peppermint-scented cloud dough so much, they won’t even miss the fluffy stuff!  Scented cloud dough only needs three ingredients and the possibilities for creative sensory play are limited only by your imagination. 

 

 
 
 
 
 

 

 

What You Will Need

  • A large plastic container
  • Flour
  • Cooking oil (we use olive oil, but vegetable oil, canola oil, and coconut oil work, too
  • Peppermint essential oil (optional)
  • Assorted kitchen tools, containers for filling/dumping, cookie cutters, small toys, pinecones, etc. for playing in your “winter wonderland”

Making the Cloud Dough:

Place your container on a low table or on the ground where your Little Pnuts can access it easily.  Add flour and cooking oil (stay away from baby oil – it smells nice but can be toxic if ingested or inhaled) in a ratio of eight parts flour to one part oil.  Add a few drops of peppermint essential oil if desired.  Have your Little Pnuts help you mix the oil into the flour with their hands, a spoon, or even a whisk.

Let the Fun Begin:

Encourage your Little Pnuts to explore the cloud dough with their hands and feet, kitchen tools, and/or toys. Use your imagination…gently press the dough into balls to make snowmen, or if you are brave, have a “snowball fight!”  Flatten the powder with your hands and use cookie cutters to stamp holiday shapes.  Use pinecones to make “trees” in your tiny winter landscape.  Measuring cups and ice-cream scoops are the perfect tools to make pretend food with your cloud dough.  You can even use a stick or a cotton swab to draw or write letters in the dough.  Open-ended play activities such as this are wonderful opportunities for language enrichment– talk about how the dough feels and smells and describe your play as you go.

Variations:

Try using various essential oils to and/or spices to add different scents to your cloud dough.  Pumpkin pie cloud dough would be a fun autumn activity; lavender-scented cloud dough would be very soothing. If you are concerned about Little Pnuts ingesting the dough, be sure you buy “therapeutic grade” essential oils as they are the only ones that are edible.

To add color to your cloud dough, try adding crushed colored chalk,  powdered gelatin or drink mixes.  Make it sparkly by adding fine glitter.  Of course, just plain-ole’ cloud dough is loads of fun, too!

Developmental Milestones:

This activities focuses on the following Developmental Milestones for your Little Pnuts:

Fine Motor Skill Development, Hand/Eye Coordination, Focus & Concentration, Vocabulary Development, Symbolic Play, Sensory Development, Social Interaction

 

—Stephanie Haass, Little Pnuts Early Childhood Activities Expert & Bloggerwww.two-daloo.com
 
 
 


Looking for a fun activity for the kids’ table this Thanksgiving? Your tots will love making these cute little turkeys using pinecones and play dough! Give your Little Pnuts a fine motor workout with this fun and easy activity.

 
 
 
 
 

 

 

What You Will Need:

  • Large Pinecones for the turkey “bodies”
  • Miniature pinecones for turkey “heads” (large acorns, pom-poms, or just a ball of play dough would work, too)
  • Play dough (any color)
  • Feathers and/or pipe cleaners (cut in half)
  • Google eyes
  • Small triangles of construction paper or craft foam for “beaks”

Making the Turkey:

Take a large pine cone and show your Little Pnut how to poke small pieces of play dough between the scales.  Next, take your feathers and/or pipe cleaners and poke them into the play dough, creating the turkey’s colorful tail.  Then, make a face on your turkey’s “head” using small bits of play dough to stick on google eyes and a beak, and for the grand finale, use a larger ball of play dough to stick the head onto the body.

For younger Little Pnuts, you may want to make the turkey’s head ahead of time and hot glue it onto the turkey’s body before doing the activity.  Older Little Pnuts will enjoy doing the whole activity themselves!  Be creative with your materials – have your Little Pnuts help you think of other items that could be used for the turkey’s feathers. Some we thought of include colorful pasta, cut-up straws, popsicle sticks, etc.

Developmental Milestones:

This activities focuses on the following Developmental Milestones for your Little Pnuts:

Fine Motor Skill Development, Hand/Eye Coordination, Focus & Concentration

Stephanie Haass, Little Pnuts Early Childhood Activities Expert & Bloggerwww.two-daloo.com
 
 
 

Whether it’s the first time you are dropping your Little Pnut off at school or a skill you’ve practiced for a few years now, it’s always difficult to say goodbye on that first day of the new school year, perhaps even more so for you. Now is the time to wipe away those tears of sadness (or relief) and relish in the knowledge that your Little Pnut is embarking on the adventure of his life.

Your Little Pnuts are about to have the time of their lives. With so many new skill sets to be acquired and mastered and so much knowledge to be absorbed your Little Pnuts are now beginning to develop a deeper love for learning about the world beyond their immediate surroundings.

In preschool, your Little Pnuts will also begin to foster relationships with other Little Pnuts, some of which may last their lifetime.  They are further establishing their social skills, interacting with more depth and thoughtfulness. They are learning to take turns, practicing patience as they wait for their chance to try something or play with something, all the while developing focus and concentration. They are learning more and more each day in an environment that is fun, playful and engaging. Your Little Pnuts are now enjoying learning in a social setting—with friends.

At home you will begin to notice your Little Pnut having an increased desire for you to read even more to them. They will begin to interact with stories and to ask unending streams of questions while you are in mid-sentence. Their curiosity is never-ending, absorbing the most amount of knowledge in these years versus the rest of their lives. It really is true, they really are little sponges at this phase in their development.

We as the parents of preschoolers should enforce this love of knowledge as best we can. Conscientiously answering that endless stream of questions with true facts and knowledge. We must challenge them to learn about both winning and losing and how to be motivated to always strive for the best. We must prepare them for their future success so they will know and understand that with hard work and determination they will accomplish what they set out to do.

Preschool is put in place to help your Little Pnuts engage more practically with the world around them and to begin to flourish as little beings. Congratulate them as they are about to conquer the world.

Preschool is fun!