Babies and young children learn through their senses. It might be the most basic of mechanisms, but it also provides them with wealth of information! Incorporating sensory experiences and using materials where your kiddo will engage one (or more) of their senses is a recipe for learning!
Besides being sensory-oriented, babies and young children are egocentric—they cannot see a situation from another person’s point of view…it’s all about them. PLEASE do not mistake this as selfishness! This is normal behavior for a kiddo! In fact, according to child development researcher Jean Piaget, the egocentric child assumes that other people see, hear, and feel exactly the same as the child does…notice the senses reference?
So, how does a child go from thinking the world revolves around them to being a compassionate, caring individual?
THIS is where PLAY comes in! As a baby, they observe and watch every move, expression, and/or utterance you make gauging how you’re reacting—as well as how they should—it’s all part of a learning loop!
When they become older toddlers and preschoolers it’s pretend PLAY! Pretend PLAY gives them the opportunity to role-play…to try out another’s point of view…their ideas, their feelings, their troubles. Pretend play is fantastic because it lets children practice social situations in a safe setting.
Younger children need a little more help in the prop and accessory department area than older kidlets that have had experience with pretend PLAY or make-believe PLAY. Older kidlets can imagine multiple uses for an item whereas younger children are still more concrete-thinking PLAYers. For instance, an older kiddo would have no problem seeing a small, red ball and substituting it for a poisonous apple from a wicked witch, but that abstract leap would be beyond the toddler set—they’d need a toy apple and a story to go with it as they build up a repertoire of tales, stories, and/or situations from which to draw upon later!
Kidlets draw upon and/or build on from earlier experiences…constantly assessing how any new experience compares to or contrasts with past experiences. They adjust their perceptions as needed—either via assimilation or accommodation. Giving your kiddo a lot of experiences helps them create their bank of knowledge.
And sense they learn via their senses-giving them experiences using their senses only makes sense…did that seem like circular logic? Well perhaps, but it’s true and it gets me back to my comment about using their senses!
There are a lot of store bought toys on the market that profess to do just that…use your child’s senses. But you don’t have to buy toys to do that—NO! You can make some homemade items that’ll do the trick too!
***Safety is of the utmost importance to me.***
Young children need close supervision with anything
that could present a choking hazard
Shakers: Great to highlight the rhythm of a chant or the beat of a song…or just to free-form making music any ol’ way! Homemade shakers are easy and inexpensive to make.
(6) 6 oz Dole juice cans
Duct tape—1-3 colors
Items to fill:
● Dried beans
● Rock salt
● Several pennies
● Empty (or drink!) rinse and let juice cans dry
● Remove paper wrapper from juice cans
● Wrap can’s middle with a strip or two of duct tape
Note: If you have more than one color, divide the cans up into even numbers for each color
● Add items to cans—one item/can.
Note: The more you fill the can the less sound it’ll produce—a good rule of thumb is between 1/4 and 1/3.
● Cut a circle just smaller than the size of the top of the can from the construction paper—this is going to prevent the items inside the can from sticking to the duct tape when it’s shakened.
● Cut several circles the size of the top of the can from duct tape (color matching the color of the band around the can) and place one on top of each other on the top of the can.
Optional: Sound-Matching Game
● Make a chart with 2 columns and 6 rows
● Under one column, glue samples of each item; one in each row. Leave the other column blank.
● ASK your child to pick a shaker, shake it, think about which item is inside making that sound and place it in the square alongside/beneath the sample square.
NOTE: You can make this a self-correcting game by gluing a small amount of an item to the bottom of its corresponding can. After your kiddo has all the cans placed, they’d turn each one over to see if it’s one the correct one. If not, they can see where it’s supposed to be—shake it and hear what that item sounds like.
Reflection PLAY-Ponder Packet
A Reflection PLAY-Ponder Packet is just one example of the types of PLAY-ponder packets you could create—other ideas might be Circle Shapes or Blue Items or Pet Needs. Store them in interesting boxes or bags so when you bring them out your kiddo feels like it’s something extra special they’re getting!
Let them examine the items. The idea here is not to rush them. Let TIME unfold….
See what kinds of observations they come up with—this is something that truly has no ‘right way’ to do it!
This was something that I made on the fly because ‘Necessity is the Mother of Invention’ and my grandbub was needing something! I’d gone through all his nearby toys and I’d just finished drinking a water bottle.
So…an empty water bottle with several bouillon cubes tossed in and he loved it!
The bottle—not to mention the cap (which was tightly twisted on)—has sections with texture and the cubes added just enough color, movement and SOUND! There you have it—with just this, his sense of touch, hearing, and vision were stimulated. I suppose I should include taste—as he did taste it—but… 😦
And by ‘tub’ I don’t really mean bath tub! I loved what we had at preschool because it was big enough to add lots of different types of accessories–tubes, funnels, scoops, spoons, cups, containers to move whatever ‘medium’ was in the sensory tub be it sand, colored rice, dirt, popcorn or flour –these are just some examples of what the kidlets would scoop, dump, pour, sift, dig, burrow,etc.
And, depending on the medium, there would be additional accessories. For example, in the Spring when there was dirt in the sensory tub we would add:
·various sized pots
·some laminated flower seed packets and
·plastic insects like bees, butterflies and caterpillars
But, as I said, you don’t need to get a sensory tub like the one at preschool…you could use a plastic storage bin of any size that works for you! Main thing is to allow your kidlet to experience the medium fully and change it (and accessories) out periodically…perhaps coordinating it to other PLAY activities/themes you have planned. This would be especially easy when using my Go PLAY Activity Cards!
Getting online might be the most convenient way to order up toys, but some of the most entertaining and enjoyable sensory experiences can be created for your kiddo inexpensively and with materials you probably have on-hand at home!
Let me know if you try any of the ideas above OR if you have your own favorite homemade sensory activity!
Yours in PLAY!