Saturday, February 12, 2011

Sensory Boxes

The first thing you should know is that these kept my 3 year old busy for 2 hours straight! It's hard to do that without using a TV as entertainment so I was very happy with this project. My goal is to try and get her to watch less TV.

Yesterday I put together sensory boxes. I got the ideas from an online search and added a few touches of my own. I made 6 boxes. Rice, cornmeal (aka sand), cotton balls, water with floral beads, paper cutting and beans. Emelia's favourites were rice and cornmeal. I added little plastic animals and some construction vehicles. I picked up some measuring scoops and spoons, funnels and a few other items. I got a pair of tweezers thinking it would be a great idea if she could use them to pick out certain colours of the rice and sort them into a mini muffin tin. She wasn't very interested, but I will try again another day. We also made play dough. I got most of the items at a dollar store. The rice and beans I got at the grocery store. Use whatever's on sale. You can use pom poms instead of cotton balls if you want to get colourful. Have your kids sort them by colour or size. Use whatever little toys your child likes. Maybe they like cars or farm equipment and animals, or maybe trains.

This project cost me about $25 including plastic storage boxes (with lids), all the contents and accessories. If you don't have $25 then all you need to do is take a walk outside! There are all kinds of things to see, feel, smell, hear and .... well probably not much to taste out there unless you're stealing fruit from your neighbour's tree, but that gives us an excuse to come home and make cupcakes! Just think of all the senses you'll use for that!

Here's a good article on why sensory play is important http://notjustcute.com/2010/03/24/a-handful-of-fun-why-sensory-play-is-important-for-preschoolers/ .





It's fun for them if you hide things in the boxes.
They can use their hands or spoons to dig for them
.

To make the rice, I took 1 1/2 cups of regular long grain rice and put it in a clean mayonnaise container with liquid food colouring and a teaspoon of vinegar. Put the lid on and shake it up. You can dry it out in the sun but to speed things up I put the rice on cookie sheets in a 200F oven for about 10 minutes. You can make and mix any colours you want. Try mixing the food colourings to come up with your own combination. It smells a bit like vinegar, but that's okay. We're supposed to be using our senses here!

Cornmeal all over the place.



Beans and split peas. Use any combo you like.
Better yet, use whatever's on sale!

Scissors and scrap papers for cutting.

Cotton balls. I got a pair of tongs to pick them up with.
For older kids, make a fishing rod with a string and magnet on the end.
Hide other magnets in the box and let the kids go fishing.
Someone reminded me that younger children may swallow small magnets
so don't go fishing if there's a chance of that happening in your house.


These are for vases. They start as little plastic beads and grow in water.
Be careful with these too. Make sure nobody tries to eat them.
  
For the play dough. Use 3/4 cup flour, 1/2 cup salt, 1/2 cup water and 1/2 tablespoon cream of tartar. I added 1 single serving packet of Kool-Aid to each. One cherry and one grape. You can also use food colouring or Jello. Mix the dry ingredients together then add water. You may need more flour if it's too sticky. Store in an airtight container. Use rolling pins and cookie cutters or other plastic utensils to play or shape into balls, snakes or other shapes. This play dough will also use your sense of smell. They smell like the Kool-Aid.

And one final word. Don't worry about the mess! You can always clean it up. It's totally worth it when you see how much fun your child will have playing with these boxes. Another friend gave me a tip. Put down a sheet to catch the mess, then take it outside and shake it. I'm sure that's much easier than vacuuming and I will try that next time we play!

Here are some other websites with ideas!
http://domesticsimplicity.com/2010/03/30/playingwithbeansandric/
http://www.lekotek.org/pdfs/packets/Messy_Play.pdf

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