I don’t know about you … but as a 28 year old adult, I still love to feel play dough (OR … cookie dough!!!!) squish through my fingers! The sound of running water, rain or the ocean is still very soothing to me. Just the smell of coffee, peppermint tea, lavender or vanilla is immediately calming. Our senses play a HUGE role in our day to day life, more than we often realize, and because of this we ought to pay more attention to them in the lives of our children.
A few weeks ago, I wrote a series on the power of smell and during a recent S.A.S.S.Y. party we made peppermint playdough, both of which I received a lot of wonderful feedback. Smell is HUGE … but what about the other senses?
You will see in our Learning Suites a month long set of add-ins for a sensory tub. Sensory tubs are an absolute MUST for any child 1-5! We have learned (we, meaning researchers and early childhood professionals) that young children learn best through their senses, especially in the first 2 years. Babies learn about their world through textures, visuals, auditory stimulation (song and music!), scent, and of course … TASTE! The pictures you can capture while little ones are trying pureed green beans … priceless!
Sensory tubs are simply that … a tub filled with materials that your child can safely explore. Any tub will do … a simple plastic shoebox, a mixing bowl, whatever you have laying around your house! Fill that guy up with a “filler ingredient” … we suggest a variety of fillers …. rice happens to be our favorite (just keep a close eye on children under 3, as choking is always a concern!). For different seasons, you can switch it up … water in the summer, soil or corn kernels in the spring (gardens!), the possibilities are endless… dry beans are an option, but can be toxic if eaten raw, so please please please supervise your children if this is your filler of choice.
So then what? What goes in that filler? ANYTHING! Pick a theme, or don’t pick a theme … throw anything you want in there …. here is a huge list of different themed sensory tubs and ideas for what you can toss into yours. You also need to include items that your kiddo can scoop, dump, or pick up items with.. spoons, ladles, cups, bowls, plastic tweezers or tongs, magnifying glasses, etc.
Why are sensory tubs wonderful? Well, for one … remember me mentioning that I still love the way play dough feels in my fingers? Kids love that, too! Let them explore the different filler ingredients and find what they love and don’t love! It’s another way they can explore the world without ever leaving the comfort and convenience of home! It also develops fine motor skills as they practice using tongs or tweezers to pick up individual items. If you put in 2-3 of each item (ex: 3 jingle bells, 3 plastic snowmen, etc) … once they pick them out, a great follow up activity is to sort them into like categories, which helps develop this in their little brains. The last benefit that I’ll mention today, but there are tons more, is that it helps them understand measuring. You can tell them that the short and wide glass holds the same amount as the tall skinny glass, but when they find that out on their own through their sensory tub, it becomes real and theirs … they OWN that learning and therefore it becomes more concrete in their brains.
Here’s a photograph of a small winter themed sensory tub … it’s filler is teeny tiny styrofoam balls and it includes jingle bells, sparkly pom poms, felt wreaths, chenille stem pieces, foam snowflakes and pieces of fake fur.
My last thought is this … don’t be afraid to let your child or your home get a little messy! Let them explore what happens when sand and water mix! Will your floor get wet? Probably … but look on the bright side, that’s one less step YOU have to do to mop it up, anyway! Will your child’s clothes get dirty? Probably! But you’re going to wash them, anyway, right? Will they get mud all over their face? Most likely … but they’ll take a bath or shower eventually, yes? YES! SO, hey … why not jump in and get messy with them. They’ll love the fact that you’re willing to get a little crazy from time to time and you’ll bond even more over those silly memories and giggles!