Sensory Play

Winter Sensory Play

We have been cooped up in the house A LOT over the past week- between snow, ice and sickness (I feel a future post on staying well coming, haha), we have had a lot of “down” time. Now, most might find this time with a toddler (or two) hard to manage, but with the right activities it can be quite enjoyable. I wanted to share a few of my favorite winter sensory activities that we have been enjoying over the past few weeks. Not only are these activities great for he cold months ahead, but they are great for kids of all ages. Not sure why sensory activities are so important?!?! Check out my original Sensory Thursday post.

Snowflake Soup

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This has been the BIGGEST a hit at our house!!!! All you need is water, foam snowflakes, and a few “tools,” and I GUARANTEE that your kiddos will have tons of fun. I literally put some water in one of our sensory tubs (I did cold water for an added effect), mixed in some foam snowflakes and some peppermint oil (again, for added effect), and it really was as simple as that. The kids loved mixing the “soup” with slotted spoons, strainers, etc. The added peppermint oil made the sensory experience that much more incredible. T loved “smelling” it! Word to the wise…. We are talking about toddlers, babies, and children that will be playing with this “soup,” so I would highly recommend putting down something to protect your floors and/or carpet from splashes that will inevitably escape the tub. We have a picnic blanket that works great. Whether you serve a warm or a cold “soup,” it will be thoroughly enjoyed by your little ones.

Activity differentiation….

  • For babies- the simple act of “playing” with the water is all the sensory experience they will need. As your baby is sitting up, he or she can hold some of the tools to further explore the soup.
  • For toddlers- T and her friends have loved catching the snowflakes with slotted spoons and strainers to “catch” the snowflakes. I have also used this opportunity to discuss the colors of the snowflakes and have the kids notice the scent of the soup.
  • For bigger kids- This would be a great way for older kids to sort the snowflakes by colors, sizes, shapes, etc. Basically, there is so much that you can do with this simple activity, so have fun!

Sensory Snow  

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Now I know that a lot of you are sick of the REAL snow that you have been getting, but down here in Georgia, we don’t get a lot of snow. Snow is such a great sensory tool. It is a different texture, and is a great way to teach about the differences between hot and cold. If you are like us and don’t get a lot of snow, or it is too much to bundle the kids up for the five minutes that they (and you) will want to be outside, bring the snow inside! The great thing about these recipes that I’m going to share with you, is that there is no melting factor like with real snow, and they can be made from ingredients that you most likely already have around the house. Win-win!!! Now for the warning with this activity… While it is SO MUCH FUN for the kiddos, it creates QUITE a mess. Don’t say that I didn’t warn you! Seeing how much fun the kids have makes it all worth it to me, but I definitely recommend taking precautions to ensure an easier clean up. We typically do this activity in just our diaper, and on our big picnic blanket- can easily be shaken out and washed. Remember this… Messes create memories!!!

Here is the first of the two recipes, and this one happens to be my favorite….

A box of baking soda

A can of men’s shaving cream

A drop or two of peppermint oil

I highly recommend mixing it in the container you are planning on using during your sensory play. I use an entire BIG box of baking soda, but I never end up using the whole can of shaving cream. Just pour the baking soda into your sensory tub, and then slowly mix in then shaving cream until it reaches the consistency that you are looking for. The peppermint oil is the last step, and is definitely not necessary. I just think that it makes the mixture “smell” like snow. A drop or two should suffice. I don’t know what it is about the shaving cream, but it makes the mixture cold, so there is no need for refrigeration. Let loose, and let the kids enjoy this ultimate sensory experience.

Activity differentiation….

When doing this activity with babies and little ones who are inclined to put things in their mouth, I would recommend using this second recipe. While I personally do not the texture as much as the first recipe, It is taste safe.

A box of baking soda

Olive oil

Follow the same procedure for mixing the sensory snow as described above, slowly adding the olive oil to the baking soda until you reach the desired consistency. Enjoy!

“Hot Chocolate” Sensory Tub

I love doing themed sensory tubs, and this one was a big hit with all of the kids. I simply used a 4-pound bag of brown pinto beans, cotton balls (for the marshmallows), and T’s aluminum tea set that she got for Christmas. It is so simple, yet so much fun on a cold day!

Acitivity differentiation…..

  • For babies- Like the snowflake soup, the activity of digging through the beans and cotton balls, will be perfect for them. No differentiation needed.
  • For toddlers- This is a great opportunity to talk about the difference between the different textures- the HARD beans and the SOFT cotton balls. Also, let them use the tea set to fill and empty the cups with beans. This is also a great way to introduce imaginary play by having a tea party and pretending to drink the tea and have a tea party! Imaginary play is a HUGE part of social development and helps kids to build their creativity.
  • For bigger kids- Use this as a counting activity- have them count the beans and/or the cotton balls as they put them into the cup. Encourage them to explore imaginary play as well. This used to be a part of many Pre-K and Kindergarten curriculums, but has been cut in recent years. Seriously such a huge part of development, so definitely encourage this with your little ones.

Snowballs” Sensory Tub

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Another incredibly simple, yet highly effective, sensory activity that you can do with materials you already have in your house- cotton balls. Cotton balls are seriously one of my favorite sensory tub fillers- they look like snowballs, they are soft, and they are CHEAP! You can mix in a variety of other items, for a simple tub that can be used again and again. I mixed in some letter blocks for a texture contrast- hard and soft, but you can use whatever you would like.

Activity differentiation…

  • For babies- Simply allowing them to feel the cotton balls and any other tub fillers in their hands is great. You can also rub the soft cotton balls on their cheeks, arms, legs, etc. Just let them enjoy this exploration of different textures, as they is all they need at this age.
  • For toddlers- Depending upon what you fill the tubs with, there is so much you can do. Since I filled mine with letter blocks, we use this as an opportunity to talk about the letters on the blocks.  You can also talk about then difference between hard and soft. I absolutely love using these tools for the kids to “pick up” the snowballs and other tub fillers, which help them work on their fine motor skills.
  • For bigger kids- You could easily have the kids sort the materials in the tubs- hard and soft, by color, the possibilities are endless. You could also create counting mats (literally just a piece of construction paper with a number written at the top) and have the kids count out that number of snowballs. Don’t forget that the sensory development and experience is still good for them too.

 

Hopefully this post has given you some ideas how you bring the fun, and learning, inside on even the coldest of days. What is your favorite winter sensory activity to do with your little ones?!?!

Thanks for following along,

Stephanie

 

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