The home is a child’s first school. Although this can be quite literally interpreted as true nowadays in the context of online and hybrid classes, this has always been true long before gadgets and technology transformed home into a “school.”
Remember when we used to speak in front of an electric fan’s spinning blades and listen to how robotic our voice sounds when we were kids? What about the time when we collected scented stationery and separated them from the unscented ones? Do we have memories of playing outside and collecting rocks, leaves, and bits and bobs in our little plastic basket, much to the frustration of our elders at home?
We were then exploring how the world works. Knowingly or unknowingly, we were activating our senses – seeing, hearing, tasting, touching, and smelling. This is called sensory play. Toys for sensory play may come with a hefty price tag. What’s a practical mom’s gotta do? D-I-Y! Many of the things available at home or our backyard may be used for sensory play, but not everything is made for them to explore and play with. It takes an intentional parent to think through and gather materials needed. Here are some ideas.
Materials: Egg shells, glue, paper with outline drawing, paintbrushes, watercolor or poster paint
Instead of colors from crayons or markers, ask your child to fill in an outline drawing with egg shells! (Your kids will need your help in placing glue on paper.) The egg shells will crack as soon as they are placed on paper and the experience will stimulate their senses of sight, touch, and sound! When your child is done with placing the egg shells, it’s time to hold the paintbrush and start coloring away! Using the paintbrush is a sensory activity in itself; add the different colors from watercolor or poster paint to stimulate the sense of sight, too!
Materials: 6-8 glass bottles of the same make and size, water, food color
Collect glass bottles of the same size, wash them clean, and pour water in each bottle, making sure that no two glasses have the same volume of water. Add color to the water using food color, while again ensuring that there is a distinct color for each container. Strike the bottles with spoon or fork to produce sounds, and sing along with the sound you produce!
Materials: small and short boxes, different types of soil, grass, dried leaves, pantry items, body care products
Nope, this is not the time to remind our child to “Wear their slippers or else!” Allow them to walk barefoot and experience different textures through their feet! You may start with placing different types of soil such as loam and sand in small and short boxes, then proceed with other things from nature such as grass or dried leaves. You may even use pantry items such as flour, or body care products such as creams and lotions. Remember to be present to assist your child in walking through these boxes!
Materials: tray, small containers, food or ingredients from your pantry
You don’t need an experienced chef to tell you that the senses of smell and taste are largely connected, so it just makes sense to allow your child to learn the two senses at the same time. Place small containers in a tray and fill them with food or ingredients of varied smells and taste. (Plus points if they have different textures and temperatures, too!) Ask your child to smell each one first and taste it right after. Older children may have this activity blindfolded.
Materials: bin, plastic container, or basket; small items of different textures
We’ve come full circle! Allow your child to experience your own childhood by collecting different things at home, in your backyard, or from nature. Place them all together in a basket or bin and have them sort, play with, and explore different smells and textures through it! Some items you can include from your pantry are pasta, macaroni, beans, and cereals. You may even take things from your personal stash such as cotton balls, buttons, and hair accessories. An assortment of things such as sticks, stones, marbles, and soft balls are a great addition, too!
Sensory play may be messy, but it’s where the fun and learning happen! Allow your child to enjoy and explore the mess they create at home once in a while. Trust us that they’ll remember these things more than when they just encounter them in printed materials. Here’s a friendly reminder to be present when they play since kids have the tendency to taste non-food items! Have fun learning at home!