Updated: Sep 12, 2020
There's a reason that educators and therapists love using sensory play - it's a great tool for developing important skills like fine motor movement, independent observation and exploration, pretend play and imagination, problem-solving, and language.
And of course, they're fun for kids! Do you notice them getting bored with their toys? Grab a large bin, tub, or tray (a plant or boot tray works great) and check out these fun ways to recreate and reimagine playtime with materials you probably have on hand:
1. Dry foods. You can create this by adding anything from your cabinets. Here we filled a water table with dried lentils, dried pinto beans, dried rice, and dried elbow pasta. Let your kids use kitchen utensils, smaller containers, and items like toilet paper tubes for some fun filling and spilling, flipping and flopping, digging and dumping! Note to parent: Make sure to adjust the items and ingredients as needed for smaller toddlers to avoid choking hazards.
2. Soap and water. Kids just have a fascination with washing things, so let’s capitalize on this while we still can! Fill your container about 1/4 to 1/3 full with warm water, then add a few squirts of soap at a time to reach desired bubbliness. Tip: use a mild baby shampoo to achieve bubbles. This will avoid any burning if accidental contact with eyes occurs. Then, throw in play kitchen toys and food, other items like funnels and smaller containers, scrubbing materials such as sponges, or wash cloths, and they're off!
3. Nature. This is a great option that requires zero preparation. Simply make a list of some outdoor items that your kids can collect (ideally things that don't have to be "picked," like fallen leaves, pine cones, flower petals, rocks, etc.), and set off on a scavenger hunt. Once they've gathered all their materials, add them to the bin and pour in some water, if desired. They can create a mini "backyard," or even a prehistoric landscape for toy dinosaurs!
The beauty of these bins is that they can be shaped into whatever most excites your child. You might even implement a theme according to their particular interests, like outer space, pirates, construction, rainbows, or the ocean. The key is to add a variety of physical materials to stimulate the senses. Have fun!