Babies and young children learn through their senses. It might be the most basic of mechanisms, but it also provides them with a wealth of information! Incorporating sensory experiences and using materials where your kiddo engages 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 young (egocentric) child assumes other people see, hear, and feel exactly the same as they do (?!) Did you notice the reference to (some of) the senses?
So, how does a child go from thinking the world revolves around them to being a compassionate, caring individual?
PLAY is the WAY
THIS is where PLAY comes in! As a baby, they observe and watch every move, expression, and/or utterance you make. They’re gauging how you react—as well as how they should—it’s all part of a learning loop for them.
When they become older toddlers and preschoolers it’s pretend PLAY! Pretend PLAY gives them the opportunity to role-play. In role-play they can try out another’s point of view. Role-play let’s them test ideas, explore their feelings, or work out their troubles. Pretend play is fantastic because it lets children practice social situations in a safe setting.
A Toddler’s Not a Preschooler…
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 kiddos can imagine multiple uses for an item whereas younger ones are still more concrete-thinking PLAYers.
For instance, an older kiddo would have no problem seeing a small, red ball and transforming it into a poisonous apple from a wicked witch. That abstract leap would be beyond the toddler set. They first need a well (maybe a wishing well) to draw upon made up of tales, stories and/or situations that involve an apple. Then they could reliably retell a story with a toy apple. The imagination involved with creating a story line for pretend PLAY including props/accessories comes later.
Giving your kiddo a lot of sensory experiences helps them
create their ‘Bank of Knowledge’
Assimilate & Accommodate
Kidlets draw upon and/or build on from their earlier experiences. They constantly assess how any new experience compares to or contrasts with past experiences; making adjustments as needed. Adjusting their perceptions in one of 2 ways via assimilation or accommodation
Since children learn via their senses, giving them sensory 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–give your child sensory experiences. 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
DIY Learning Toys & Activities
Great to highlight the rhythm of a chant, the beat of a song–or just to free-form making music any ol’ way! Homemade shakers are easy and inexpensive to make.
(6) six oz Dole juice cans
Duct tape—1-3 colors
Items for fill:
● Dried beans
● Rock salt
● Several pennies
● Empty (or drink!), rinse and let juice cans dry
● Remove paper wrapper from juice cans
● Wrap the middle of can 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 to fill between 1/4 and 1/3 full.
● Using scissors, cut a circle out of construction paper just smaller than the size of the top of the can. This is going to prevent items inside the can from sticking to the duct tape when it’s shaken.
● 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.
2. 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: Make this a self-correcting game by gluing a small amount of each item to the bottom of its corresponding can. After your kiddo has all the cans placed, they’ll turn each one over to see if it’s correct. If not, they can see where it’s supposed to be—shake it and hear what that item sounds like.
3. Reflection PLAY-Ponder Packet
A Reflection PLAY-Ponder Packet is just one example of the types of PLAY-ponder packets you can create. Other ideas might be Circle Shapes, 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!
Once a PLAY-Ponder packet comes out let your kiddo examine all the items. The idea here is not to rush them. Let TIME unfold as it will….
See what kinds of observations they come up with. This is something that truly has no ‘right way’ to do it!
4. Rattle/Discovery Bottle
‘Necessity is the Mother of Invention’ is the saying and it’s very true in this case. This rattle/discovery bottle I made on the fly. My grandbub was needing something. I’d gone through all his nearby toys. Feeling inspired (by need!), with a just-emptied water bottle at hand, before I knew he had a new toy! It’s ridiculous how much he loved this because all it was was…
…an empty water bottle with several bouillon cubes tossed in!
The bottle, not to mention the cap (which was tightly twisted on*) had sections with texture. As you can see, the cubes added color. But they also provided potential movement and SOUND! There you have it! Sensory experiences! With just this his sense of touch, hearing, and vision were stimulated. In all honesty I need to include taste—as he did taste it… 😦 What are you going to do? It’s the way with babies.
*Later glued on
5. Sensory Tubs:
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.
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. A plastic storage bin of any size will work too. Main thing is to allow your kidlet to experience the medium fully and remember to change it (and accessories) out periodically. You might want to coordinate it to other PLAY activities/themes you have planned. This would be especially easy when using our 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!