Last week I spent time with amazing bloggers and friends. We talked about a lot of things. One thing that stuck out to me was our general agreement on the approach to sensory activities, or activities in general. Believing that an activity with kids is more often than not about the process, and that we must involve kids in that process. This post is about how we approach sensory activities.
So here is my beef with the myriad of ‘sensory tubs' floating around the Internet (including my own sensory tubs): they are too contrived and structured for kids to truly benefit. Sounds silly, right? I know. Don't get me wrong, I love a good sensory activity. However, I believe there are more effective ways to develop senses, to organize the environment, and to lay a foundation of learning for children.
Thoughts on Sensory Activities
- Go outdoors for sensory activities. Nothing trumps a sensory experience in the great outdoors, even in cities.
- Think about the irony in doing a “spring time” sensory tub. I'm guilty and look back wondering how I didn't see it. I created a sensory tub filled with seeds and soil. Now that my kids actively love to garden and get their hands dirty in learning and digging, I can say to my new mom self: “build them a garden. Take them through the process of cultivating,'tilling, planting…that's the true sensory experience.”
- Make kids a part of the whole process from idea generation to creating to playing to exploring to pick up! My kids love to do projects with baking soda, vinegar, corn starch…I dare you to name any messy substance and they love experimenting with it. So we work together to come up with our plan. Ask questions like “what do we need? How much? Where?” Is helpful in building executive functioning skills and completes the sensory experience.
- Join in the sensory experience with your child! We adults forget to play and man, does it feel awesome to get our hands dirty! Lifts the spirits and centers me.
- Take the activity where the child needs to go. The activity doesn't have to stop at some directions you found on a blog. Think about how you can take it a step further. Ask “I wonder” questions and encourage your children to experiment and create with their sensory materials. They could create art work or experiment with additional materials and substances, for example.
- Make sensory experiences part of every project. If you're doing a end product focused activity (like this Poppy Craft or this Bear Craft), make sensory part of the process. For example, have the child tear the paper, use glue with her fingers, use a variety of textures mediums, etc. In other words, make it about anything but the end product that gets plastered on the wall.
How do you approach sensory activities with kids?