Play: Holiday Sensory Box
Sensory Boxes are something I have read a lot about, but hadn’t tried out until now. They come out of the Montessori-style of learning, which, among other things, emphasizes all of the senses in learning. Sensory boxes can be used by kids as young as 6 months (see my friend Bethany’s blog). It’s a great way to promote fine motor skills and hand-eye coordination. My 2.5 year old daughter is very tactile, so I had her preferences in mind as I constructed it.
For my first box, I choose to make it a winter/holiday theme.
The first step is getting a box to use. Many suggest a large, under-the-bed storage container, but for this one, I just had a smaller tupperware container (which was sufficient for Aly).
Next, I choose a filler, which makes up the base of the box. I had some holiday beaded garland that I got at the local grocery store for $.25, so I broke the string and used them to cover the bottom. Other filler ideas are dried oatmeal, dried beans, split peas, colored rice, dried pasta and cotton balls.
The fun part (for me) is what comes next. I had the challenge of finding objects that Aly would like to explore/play with. I wanted each thing to have different textures, while staying with a general color scheme.
- I found some textured snowmen, bells and pompoms at the dollar store.
- I had some lacing cards tucked away for a rainy day, so I choose the one that looked like a gingerbread man.
- We have some morning activities coming up that use paint samples, so I choose some that went along with the color scheme AND a little texture.
- The stocking and candy cane beads were included on the garland.
- My aunt gave us a box of crafty stuff awhile back, and the blue rubbery rings were in that. I have no idea what they actually go to, but they had an interesting weight about them that I thought Aly may enjoy.
- I added a pipe cleaner because it’s bendable and perhaps she would want to practice beading with it.
After the box is made, it can be presented to the child to be explored. A big part of this is not instructing the child. Perhaps the first time with a box, you may want to explain (or remind) a child not to put things in their mouths or just give encouragement to do with it whatever they want. I reminded Aly to try and keep the beads in the box (since we have a toddler). Many teachers and parents who do this lay out a blanket or shower curtain so the child can feel freer to make a mess!
If I had to do this box again, I would have put it in a larger box and then added some wintery/holiday figurines. Aly is really into imaginative play with people and animals right now, and I think she would have enjoyed a few of those in there.
Aly was surprised and delighted when she saw the box. “Mommy, this is beautiful!” and had a great time exploring it. I also gave Ada (1 year old) a chance to explore under my constant, careful supervision. I let her play after breakfast (to ensure her belly was full and she wouldn’t be as likely to try and eat the beads) and I had her keep her pacifier in the entire time (an extra barrier is always good). She loved using her little pinchers to pick up the beads, and she liked taking out and examining each item, excitedly gabbering to me about them.