It all started with dyed rice.
My daughter was almost two, and my youngest was just a wee little one. I was home on maternity leave and mindlessly scrolling on Instagram one morning when I saw a post with beautiful rainbow rice and a little toddler playing happily away.
I picked up a bag of rice and food coloring that day which began our journey!
For a few weeks, I focused on sensory bins and added different tools and containers. Then, the pandemic started.
We were a bit bored, and my daughter was getting older, and I knew I wanted to start exposing her to more than I was. So, I started making our sensory bins themed, and the rest is history. That decision led us down a path of lessons grounded and guided by the letters of the alphabet.
As we focused on more concepts and skills, I never stopped including sensory play in our learning explorations.
I’d be lying if I didn’t admit to loving the creativity it allows me, but I—more importantly—see the true value in them in terms of my children’s education and love of learning.
I am a firm believer in play-based learning, and sensory play helps me achieve that. While our sensory play started as less than intentional, it is now carefully and thoughtfully created. For instance, a lot of times our sensory play has elements that are used during our lessons (e.g. items to count, letters to reinforce).
The carefully and intentionally curated sensory play ensures that my children are engaged in our lessons and are eager to participate—sometimes a bit too eagerly!
There have been a few times that I’ve had to shoo them away as I finished setting up because they were so eager to jump into the learning experience!
Sensory play encourages and fosters their imaginative play while simultaneously allowing for the deeper exploration of skills, concepts, and topics.
In my opinion, sensory play should be an integral part of early learning.
If you look at my Instagram feed, you will quickly realize that it is the core of how I approach our learning experience. While I am just a mom trying to do her best, a quick web search will also show you that there are a lot of research-based reasons to add sensory play into your children’s learning.
If you are struggling with where to start, here are a few ideas:
- Create a sensory play set-up that encourages imaginative play with different loose parts and figurines.
- Build a sensory bin that connects to your lesson theme (e.g. a pond if you are learning about ponds).
- Add in number and/or letter tiles, printable cutouts, or loose parts to reinforce academic concepts, like letter, number, and color identification.
- Include play-dough with stampers that connect to your learning theme.
The possibilities are endless! If you don’t know where to start or are feeling overwhelmed by the endless options, just pick up a bag of white rice and food coloring and watch as the magic begins to take place!