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

 


In a pinch for some unique Valentines for your Little Pnut’s school celebration tomorrow? We’ve got you covered. Here’s a cute DIY idea that your Little Pnut will have a blast making keeping them quietly entertained as they learn through play.

 

 

 

 

 

 

What You Will Need

  • Construction Paper in various colors or Valentine themed prints
  • Foam heart stickers
  • Pencils, 1 for each child
  • Scissors
  • Glue
  • Double-sided Sticky Tape

 

Get Ready…

Depending on the age of your Little Pnut you may need to assist throughout this activity. First you will want to set all your work out on a fairly large table so that you can spread your heart feathers out allowing the glue to dry. Help your Little Pnut select the colored sheets of paper that they would like to use for their heart feathers. They will need two sheets per heart to create a 3-D effect. This is a great way to teach your Little Pnut how certain colors combined can create different looks and help them to understand what colors work together. Your Little Pnut will also need to count out the pencils to ensure they have enough for each friend.

Get Set…

First you will need to start by cutting out the hearts. Selecting the 2 sheets of paper your Little Pnut would like to use for their arrow feather hearts, fold both sheets together so that your cut hearts will be the exact size. Slowly and carefully have your Little Pnut cut out hearts in various sizes. Cutting is a great exercise to further define and enhance fine motor skills and to introduce the concept of large & small. If your Little Pnut is too young to handle scissors alone help your Little Pnut with this step.

Play!

Once all the hearts have been cut out it’s now time to make the arrow feathers.  Using glue make a thin line along the fold of one heart adhering the second heart on the seam. Let them dry.

While the arrow feathers are drying your Little Pnut will want to create the arrow tips. Using two foam hearts of the same size, have your Little Pnut set the tip of the pencil in the middle of one heart then cover the pencil tip with the second. This will form the arrows tip.

When the arrow feathers are dry, you will now add the feathers to the pencil. Lay the pencil eraser side in the middle of one side of the hearts next to the seam. Taking a piece of double-sided sticky tape you’ll want to tape the pencil down leaving a bit of tape to cover part of the heart. Pinch the sides together to fold the pencil into the heart thus forming the feather part of the arrow. This should form the 3 wings of the arrow feathers.

There you have it, perfect Cupid’s Pencil Arrow Valentines! Now duck and cover…

Happy Playing!

Developmental Milestones:

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

Fine motor development, number recognition, shape recognition, color recognition, hand-eye coordination & cognitive development.

 

—Melissa Pia Bossola Beese, Little Pnuts Founder
 
 

Little Pnuts love to put their art on display, no matter what medium they have worked in. Today we have the perfect Valentines Day activity that lets them put their love on display just in time for that special day.

 

 

 

 

 

 

What You Will Need:

  • Poster Paint, preferably in Valentines colors
  • White Paper
  • Heart shaped cookie cutters or other heart-shaped items. We used cookie cutters, little heart-shaped treat boxes and sponges cut into heart shapes

Get Ready, Get Set..

Pour some paint onto a paper plate or into a shallow bowl. Tip: A small piece of cardboard makes a good artists pallet too. Then, let your Little Pnut dip their heart shapes into the paint and stamp them onto the paper until their little heart’s content. When they are done, set their paintings somewhere safe to dry.

Play!

Now for the fun part! Decide how to display your Little Pnuts art. Some ideas for you.

  • Hang it as is
  • Use it as wrapping paper
  • Cut out heart shapes for it and string together to make garland
  • Cut out heart shapes and tie them off individually with ribbon to hang around the house (that’s what we did)
  • Help your Little Pnut write a Valentine’s message or To  & From on the hearts and hand them out as homemade Valentines.

Happy Playing!

 

Developmental Milestones:

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

Fine Motor Skills, Focus and Concentration, Strategic Thinking, Color Recognition, Hand-Eye Coordination, Cognitive Development, Creative Play, Free Play.

—Jennifer Haas, founder of Plain Vanilla Mom.