Sensory play

I think sensory is important for babies and toddlers but I only ever went to one sensory class. I think they are great to get to know other mothers, for baby to explore and interact but for me they felt rushed. I decided to do sensory at home myself, letting baby explore at their own pace and having all the time they want or need. 

   Here are some examples of what we have been getting up to.......

These are boxes that are set up and you can grab when you have a spare half an hour with nothing to do. They are every day items from around the house or cheap to buy. 
  You don't want plastic, ideally as you are trying to recreate a natural environment for your children to explore. It should be calming and relaxing not full of artificial sounds and flashing lights. I do use plastic bottles in the shiny box but other than that it is nice to avoid plastic. 

Wooden box

So this is anything wooden from the around the house that's safe for baby/toddler. Remember you won't be leaving them alone with it. So if you feel comfortable for them to have it then add it. For example, with Bear and Buttercup we decided it best not to include the wooden meat tenderiser.

We have some ideas for you:

spoon,
sand timer,
small boxes,
finger puppets,
bracelets,
Rolling pins,
Honey spoons,
Rings,
Rattles,
Brushes,
Pegs.

Material

Mine and the Twins' favourite basket:

Dusters,
Scourers,
Sponges,
Make up gloves,
Old material,
Ribbons,
Juggling scarfs,
Flannels,
Tea towels.

Shiny

So for this I got some empty bottles and filled them with water and glitter in different colours.

I then got some card cut them into different shapes and covered it in tin foil. 

Other ideas:

Old CDs,
A tin dog bowl,
A tin moneybox with a few coins in,
A tin pencil holder,
Beads (xmas),
An emergency blanket.

All of these items will get baby/toddler to start problem solving. They will want to know what fits in what, what can balance on what, how they sound hitting each other, how they fill or pile, how they sound when they fall. I love watching the twins with these boxes and you only need one out at a time for them to stay interested and not overwhelmed. Would love to see what other things you find to add to your boxes. Follow us on Instagram and let us know ? 

Shredded paper

You will need:

Newpaper

Shred the newspaper into long thin strips and play.
When doing this activity the twins were 9 months old and loved it. They spent a good half an hour pulling at them and ripping them. We would place it on their head or rain it down either over them or in front of them. Buttercup was loving it on her head and would giggle as she pulled it off. Bear was much more into ripping it. At one point Buttercup had it on her head and Bear was trying to take it off her.  It was lovely to see their interaction during the playtime. We also added some of their cube hollow blocks, we filled them with the paper and the twins pulled it out. You could also hide toys in the paper and let them find them. 
   This activity helps their hand eye coordination as they try to pick up, rip, try and remove it from themselves or from other objects. It helps their strength as they pull at the paper to rip it. It helps develop fine motor skills which will help with writing later on. It also encourages a care free play, they can make a mess and relax while playing.

 It is a good activity if Baby doesnt like getting dirty and encourages movement for Baby. As a group activity Babies learn to play cooperatively and parallel and they can learn social skills in this sharing space. If you have older children get them invovled as well. 
   This is a quick and cheap sensory play you can do last minute if you have old newpapers laying around. Please watch your babies during this activity in case they eat any of it. After Bear attempted to eat it a few times we gave him his dummy while he played.

Sensory bags  

You will need:

Zip lock bags, 
Masking tape,
Fillings - water beads
             - shaving foam
             -buttons
             -beans dry or a tin of baked
                                                  -hair gel 

Place whatever filling you like in the zip lock bag. Masking tape over the opening and then tape it to your surface. 
  If you stick it to the floor this will encourage tummy time and crawling. If you fill with small items likes beans or buttons, this will promote fine motor skills and hand eye coordination as they try to pick them up through the bag. 
  They promote so many developmental skills and are so east to put together. 
They will encourage language, when your baby is old enough to talk they will describe what joy they are having, what they are finding in the bags and how it feels. 
  Science skills, learning the cause and effect and manipulating sensory materials. Social skills, sharing, playing and communicating. As well as just meeting their sensory needs. 

Bear and Buttercup loved these. In the pictures we had a dry bean bag and a water bean bag. I was trying to encourage tummy time as these guys hate it but as you see from the pictures it didn't last long, they preferred to play sitting up. You could see them trying to grab the items through the bag and also hit and pushing the items around. They spent a good 30 minutes on these bags and as they were in the middle of their toys I thought that was good going as they could of been easily distracted.

Flour play

You will need:

A truff tray,
Flour.

You will see under sight word games that this was actually set up for Button to write in and practice her sight words. However, when she was done writing and just wanted to play we let the twins have some fun too. 
  Button liked to hide their feet in the flour and they would then uncover them. They were only 4 months so very young. I sat them (one at a time) on my lap and let them feel some I was holding and rested their feet in it. This was a great start to different textures. They both found it enjoyable but I want to revisit this activity again once older.

Pasta play

You will need:
Cooked pasta,
Food colouring and oil (optional), 
Truff tray or large tub
(optional but does contain the mess).

Cook the pasta and drain. Add some drops of food colouring and oil and stir. Leave to cool. This is another a cheap and quick sensory play. You can even make the pasta the night before. I didnt dye ours this time as I was rushing but in the past I have dyed it and put it in a bath of water for Button. Hopefully I will do it for the twins and post it. 

So place the cooled pasta on the truff tray with your babies. The twins were 9 months for this one. They are Baby Led Weaned, so are used to eating pasta, but always stay with your baby in case of choking. We stripped the twins a little as well so they could really feel the pasta. Next time I will leave them in just a vest. 
  Bear was unsure at first but soon grew to love this activity, he ate a lot of it but thats fine. He became tired quite quickly as it was nearly nap time (Mummy's fault on the timing, I should have done it after nap time). Buttercup got straight in and enjoyed squeezing the pasta, we let Button get involved with this one as well and she was scooping the pasta up and over their toes to hide them. 
   This promotes hand eye coordination and fine motor skills. It develops all their senses as they taste it, feel it,  hear it drop and smell it. They learn to explore things freely with no rush or expectation. They learn to play together and share a space when exploring by themsleves. Its another activity where baby wont get too messy but can be slimy so is a good activity to introduce a little mess at a time.

Gloop

You will need: 

Cornflour,
Water,
A big tub.

This is such a fun sensory play and if, like Bear they want to eat everything, safe to do so. It's a messy sensory play but so easy to wipe off with a damp cloth or a quick wash in the bath. 
   This mixture is so fascinating to play with for all ages. I still love to squeeze it and run it through my fingers. 
   As you squeeze it, it becomes hard, as you release it, it becomes runny again.  The more cornflour you add the harder it will be and the more water you add the runnier it will be. We made it quite hard so the babies could hold it and then added more water so they could catch it running off our fingers. 
   It's such an easy one to clean up. Mop it all up with a damp cloth and dust pan and brush. 
   
  Bear loved it, he was holding the balls and throwing them, trying to squeeze it and catch the drips. He really got involved and was laughing. 
   Buttercup took some convincing. She was unsure about how it felt and was trying to explore the kitchen as shes not normally allowed to crawl around in there. 
  We stood Buttercup in it and even though she didnt try and get out she also wasnt too bothered by the experience. 
   We will definitely be doing this sensory play again

Edible playdough

You will need:

1 cup Baby rice cereal,
1 cup Cornflour,
3tbsp Vegetable oil,
1/2 cup Unsweetened Applesauce (you can substitute this for water),
Food coloring (optional),
Cinnamon (optional).

Mix the baby rice, cinnamon and cornflour together. Add the apple sauce the oil and food colouring and kneed. This is meant to keep in the fridge so I made it a day early. When we came to use it, it was rock hard and crumbled. We added a little water and it came back together fine. So i think I needed a bit more apple sauce. 
  The twins loved this sensory play. They did eat it a little but mostly played. Buttercup liked to hit it, trying to make it flat. Bear liked to try and roll the balls gran had made him. It was so interesting watching them work the playdough and play with it. They really worked on their pincer grip and gross motor skills.

Harvest sensory

You will need:

A bug bag of oats,
Dry fruit (I went for big fruits like apricots and dates),
A big tub,
Truff tray,
Spoons and scoops,
Tubs.

Pour all the oats in the tub and place the fruit around the oats. Have the tub on the truff tray to catch what falls out and have the spoons close by. Then leave your children to explore. 
  Bear dived straight in trying to scoop and flicking it everywhere, working on his gross motor skills. Buttercup had a cup and she was filling with little handfuls really working on her fine motor skills, and pincer grip. She was also working on sprinkling which was great for her to try and do at such a young age. It was mostly her just opening her hands or rubbing her fingers together. At one stage Buttercup got into the tub and Bear started dusting her off. 
   Button also joined in and was making them big tubs of pretend food and the twins would pour it out everywhere. She was showing them how to scoop and pour and they enjoyed having her there to copy and see what could be done with the oats. 
   They did eat a few pieces of dry fruit as they played.

Water play

As part of our harvest theme I decided to do some apple play. Apples and autumn go really well and always makes me think of bobbing for apples so I added some water to the bath and added whole apples, cut apples and some grapefruits for a different weight and texture. I also gave them a choice of different spoons to scoop pour and drain water from. 
   Both Bear and Buttercup loved this sensory play. They love a bath! Buttercup soon realised she could stand up and found the taps a lot more fun so I turned the cold on to a little trickle for her to explore. Bear got right involved with the apples and spoons. He didn't realise they were apples till near the end, once he did twig what they were he soon ate his way through the cut up pieces. 
   Buttercup did play with the grapefruits and tried throwing an apple out of the bath. She also tried stirring the water with the spoons. 
  Bear enjoyed the draining spoons and tried to place the apples on the spoons. He also liked to push the apples through the water. 
  It was fun to watch them explore and play individually in a small space.

Flour play again

The twins are now 16 months old so we thought we would try flour again. The first time round they could hardly sit up so it was mostly just holding the flour out in front of them to touch and putting their feet in it. 
  This time they are more able and independent, We gave them spoons and bowls to play with. Bear loved it when Button sprinkled it down in front of him. He tried to catch it and eat it. He also liked it when Button filled up a bowl or cup and he would pretend to eat it. A few times he did actually lick his hand. 
  Buttercup loved it, she kept covering her leg then wiping it again. She liked to have control, so when Gran covered her leg she got upset with her but then did it herself again. She also enjoyed stirring it and pouring it. She was in her element which was so lovely to see. She has come so far from the first sensory we did and she shyed away and didn't enjoy the mess or texture. Now she's getting excited when she sees the tray come out and is the first one to jump in.

Nature play

You will need:

Sticks,
Wood chips,
Toilet tubes, 
Balls or conkers
(All of these items are optional, you can basically use what ever you have).

Ross baker is a great site for arts and crafts but also a selection of natural items. We got a lot from there from pieces of bark to wood chips to sticks and stones. Button loved to play with these and actually continues to play with these items now but now she uses them to make zoos and farms. 
   Today I wanted the twins to focus on what could fit in the toilet tubes and what couldn't. Bear loved the balls and used them to balance or push through the tubes. He also enjoyed throwing them. Buttercup loved to pour the wood chips through the tubes to make piles. This was a brave one for Mummy to do as nothing was edible so she needed to watch both twins carefully. It was also nice for Mummy as Button and Gran had gone out and she had some one to one time with the twins and it let them really explore alone without Button helping or taking over.  
   When it was time to tidy up Mummy encouraged the twins to help, which to her surprise they both did. Bear enjoyed putting the sticks and wood chips away while Bear put the balls in and out of the box.

Ice pom poms

You will need: 

A ice cube tray,
Water,
Pom poms,
Bowls and spoons for playing.

Freeze the water and pom poms in the ice cube trays. Once solid let your children play.
This was a lot of fun, all three Bs played for over an hour. Bear loved to stir them with his spoon and pretend to eat them; Buttercup wanted to hide them under her bowl or try and put them back into the ice cube tray one at a time; Button wanted to try and melt them to release the pom pom and so was squeezing them to add warmth and then mixing them really fast in her bowl. I was surprised at how little water there was in the end and that they didn't get soaked. They needed to change their bottom half but other than that they were not as wet as I was expecting as I had towels and fresh clothes at the ready. 
  The bright colours were great and as the pom poms started to stick out of the ice they were pinching them to pick them up. It was lovely to see them all play together and also just along side each other.

You will need:

Shaving foam,
Truff tray,
Water beads.

Using the foam, make a Christmas tree shape on the truff tray then decorate with the water beads as baubles. Let your toddlers play.
  This was a huge sucess, the twins loved it and played for a good 45 minutes. I would suggest having a bath ready and letting them play naked in just a nappy. This will help when it comes to tidy up time. It became very slippery so would have been easier if I didnt have to strip them down for their bath.  
    So Bear loved it from the start, tried grabbing the water beads and wondered where they had gone as he accidentally pushed them into the foam. He tried wiping it off his hands on to his thighs and got covered very quick. He soon realised that the water beads were bouncy and started throwing them around the kitchen. He ended up with foam everywhere. 
    Buttercup took her time to get used to it. She went to grab a water bead and was unhappy with how it felt. Gran tried putting some foam on her foot which she tried removing but ended up covering herself instead. She then started to really enjoy pushing it around the tray as if drawing or wiping it up. She found it a lot of fun to kick her legs into it and kept herself entertained doing this for a good chunk of time while poor Bear was being kicked in the process. He didnt seem bothered though and at some points even laughed with her.

Spaghetti painting

You will need: 

Cooked Spaghetti,
Paint,
Paper.

Place the spaghetti in front of your child(ren) and add some paint on top. Let your child(ren) mix it all in. They can pick the colour of the paint if old enough. Then when all the spaghetti is covered get the child to make a pattern with the spaghetti, just spreading it out really. Then take your paper and press it down on top of the spaghetti to get the print. 

The twins enjoyed this activity. Bear was a little slower to get into it than Buttercup. She really threw herself in and mixed it all up. Bear decided he needed to taste it a few times so be ready for this if your children are young. Button even joined it and it was lovely to do an activity where they could all have their own activity instead of sharing.
   The prints were great. Each twin has a A4 note book with a hard cover for painting or drawing. We used their books for this so we have a record of it. 

Tea bag painting 
"Firework painting"

You will need:

Paint,
Tiny bit of water,
Tea bags,
Black card.

Wet the tea bags and place one tea bag in each colour you picked. You need to do this from a height to get the full splatter effect. We placed our black card on the floor, Button stood on a chair and dropped her tea bags, the twins were in their highchairs. Buttercup loved it and dropped it perfectly, straight down on to the card. Bear was a lot more entertaining as he threw them all over the kitchen and Mummy and Gran laughed. He got a few on the card and in the end Gran was clever enough to pick up the card and hold it where we thought he would throw it. We had a lot of fun with this but if you dont like mess and think your baby might throw the tea bags maybe hold off till they are a little older.  

Pasta threading

You will need:

Playdough,
Dry spaghetti,
Dry penne pasta 

Make a small pile of playdough on the table in front of your toddler and stick the spaghetti into it. I did different sizes by snapping the spaghetti. Then give your toddler a pile of penne to thread onto the spaghetti and let them play. 

Bear loved this activity and really went for it, filling a whole spaghetti stick with penne. Buttercup found snapping the spaghetti a lot more fun. This is a great activity to encourage hand eye coordination. 

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