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Becoming a mom has really helped me grow in so many ways already. I never used to be able to handle clutter or messes, but now I’m a little bit more used to the fact that toys are just going to be on my floor except for days when I vacuum and days when company is coming over. I still have a hard time with things like Play-doh that leave a trail of dust and tiny bits everywhere. I just keep reminding myself, “Take a deep breath. This is so good for brain development.”
Sensory play is one of those things I had to adjust to in the beginning. It does get messy (note the pieces of rice scattered on the floor, many of which got stuck in between floor boards!), but sensory play is one of the BEST things you can do for your child’s growing brain.
Sensory play helps build pathways between all of the neurons in your kiddo’s brain, preparing them for more complex tasks later on and helping them have the tools they need for creative problem solving. Plus it’s amazing for developing fine and gross motor skills!
This sensory play activity was simple. I just filled a small plastic storage bin with some expired Minute Rice. I buried some of these colorful connecting links my son likes to put together and pull apart (plus chew on when he’s teething). I also threw in some measuring cups of various sizes (toddler math class!), as well as a straw to add a bit of a problem solving and inductive reasoning element to the game. (Why is it that you can use a tablespoon to pick up the rice but not the straw? They’re both long and skinny. What’s different about them?) A small variety of objects—a few different things, but not too many different things that they get overwhelmed—makes this the perfect little laboratory for your scientist to test some theories.
One big thing to remember with sensory play… if the play goes on long enough, your child WILL dump the bin of rice (or whatever else you’re using). Small children can only hold their attention span for so long. The average two-year-old can only be expected to concentrate on one activity for about 6 minutes before they get a little rumbling of energy that makes them change the rules of the game into something more exciting like Super-Duper-Rice-Explosion-Time. The average 5-year-old? About 15 minutes. Notice when your child is showing signs of restlessness (a little bit of extra wiggle in the pants) and have another extra exciting activity ready to go nearby so you can SWOOP, slide that bin of rice away and up high while they’re starting the next game.
If you want to start out with some sensory play with your kiddos but want something with a little less mess to ease yourself in, check out this sensory science experiment! We used water beads, which your kids will love playing with for hours and don’t make a mess at all except for leaving a tiny trail of water.
What are some of your favorite sensory activities? Comment and let me know!