Why We Use Sensory Play & Learning:
One of the most awesome things I have found about teaching Liam at home is the ability to try anything and everything. The sky is the limit when it comes to hands on sensory activities especially for a little boy who requires a great deal of visual and tactile stimulation. If he can touch, see, and hear the activity, he is much more engaged and willing to participate. Books, numbers, letters, & science concepts seem to come alive for him and he can remember all about what he has done, seen and heard! There are no limits at home, no set times, no level of mess is too much if we are learning and playing. I also have a true sensory seeking boy who has led me down this path learning much more than I thought possible about incorporating more of the senses into learning.
The opportunity to experience learning with a hands on approach is a valuable tool. The sensory experience provided by a bin full of rice, a mound of fresh play dough, an activity for pouring water, or a bag filled with pumpkin insides helps a child become a part of what they are learning. Handling the counters to learn graphing, helping to mix fresh play dough colors to learn colors, creating a sensory bin to illustrate a book, or using shaving cream puffs to learn letters is fascinating and fresh! Of course, not every lesson can be this unique but when paired with the worksheets and other types of lesson plans we still need to use, sensory play can boost the learning experience.
Here are some different sensory ideas for learning broken into subjects including: literacy & letter recognition, number recognition & early learning math, science experimentation, & discovery! Some activities incorporate a variety of skills because of their broad nature and are open for interpretation. I love pictures and think they are the best way to represent our sensory play. I wish I could show you each and every one!
We take books pretty seriously around here and do a lot of reading! We read to him all day. He reads to us his own stories and we encourage to sit and enjoy books on his own. We have really just started doing these so they are all fall themed right now! I love watching him play with the materials and use them in his own ways. I usually have some sort of specific activity we do as well to focus on skills. I like to build in as much free play opportunity as possib
Often we will create a sensory bin for a book. We read together and play with the story! I use sensory materials to help bring the book alive and to make my son a part of the book. He enjoys the play and the learning activities I incorporate into our reading time together.
We used fire safety week as a chance to work with letters, sounds and words in the form of a game. I was able to incorporate some gross motor work in for added fun.
I try to vary how we work on our letters and sounds by using different types of sensory materials. Some favorites are shaving cream and rice. I like search and find alphabet activities because he has to take some time and really look for what he needs. Teaching the ability to be thorough and focus on a task is very important! Water balloons are just a lot of fun and again putting some gross motor play into the activity helps him to focus better too. We do everything from walks around the house spying letters to practicing letter writing in cornmeal!
Numbers & Early Learning Math:
We use a variety of sensory inspired ways to work on counting skills, graphing, patterning, visual discrimination and accuracy. Every activity is a little bit different because there is always an element of exploration with it. This is how we have the opportunity to engage more senses, interact with the project and create new areas of growth and discovery. Ordinary marbles open to the doors to such possibilities. This one activity below included counting, fine motor, art, problem solving, patterning and so much more!
This is my personal favorite because I think it is Liam’s personal favorite. Often times, our science experiments include so many of his senses that he becomes incredibly engaged in what he is doing with me. I often find he remembers the most when I incorporate the greatest amount of senses! Often we talk about listening to the sounds, feeling the materials, seeing the reaction and sometimes smelling the spices or tasting the ingredients if we are baking! Our work so far has covered everything from life cycles, how a plant grows, sink and float exploration, nature study, how magnets work and fizzing chemical reactions. I am so eager to show him more!
Above, here we are exploring sinking and floating, pumpkins and lots of fizzing reactions with baking soda and vinegar. Below, we play with color mixing, magnets and our nature tray collected from a nature walk.
Simple invitations to discover, play time in the sandbox, trips to sunflower fields while we grow our own, and lazy days at the ocean encourage a sense of freedom to learn while engaging with the world around! When else can you play in the sink, make your own colored play dough, paint nuts and crush leaves in paint, examine the shoreline, feel a real dinosaur foot print, build on a mirror, plan a rocket ship and make an elevator, be a doctor and make pretend pies! Sensory involvement is all around us. If you look at things in a slightly different way, aim to be a little messy, and be a little bit more spontaneous, then learning opportunities are everywhere!
How can you incorporate sensory play into your daily routine? Make time to explore with your child!
My son and I explore the world together, whenever we want. He loves the opportunity to be a part of everything around him. His boundless energy and spirit led us to sensory play techniques to help keep him focused and engaged whether for free play or learning activities. You can find out all about these great activities by visiting us over at my blog, Little Bins for Little Hands. Pin some ideas for later or share what you like. Like us on Facebook and say Hi or subscribe to our email! Happy to answer any questions you have!