Summer is here and that means the kids are HOME! Lucky for you, I have a wonderful guest post from my friend, Julie Friedman, from the Young, Wild, and Friedman blog. You may remember when I posted that Valentine’s themed play doh activity kit, well that was from Julie! Her summer activity kit launches Sunday, June 3rd at 8 pm (and they make great gifts!). Julie is so kind to give us a little preview of the kit and share a super helpful list of sensory activities you can do this summer.
Some of you may be wondering, “What exactly is sensory play, and why is it important?’” Personally, we first started learning about sensory play about 4 years ago, when my daughter was diagnosed with a speech disorder coupled with severe anxiety. One of our doctors recommended incorporating more sensory play opportunities in our daily routine, as it may help calm her anxiety and encourage language development. I am a total researcher, so I got reading, and was amazed at what I found! I immediately started making play dough, putting together sensory bins, and even bought an at home music class DVD that we used together. Evie was, as expected, an extremely frustrated child because she was not able to communicate, and using sensory experiences truly did help calm her frustrations. It has truly been incredible to see how her behavior and language have grown and improved through sensory play.
To give you a little more information, I put together the top 5 benefits of sensory play:
- Builds nerve connections in the brain that, in turn, enable your child to complete more complex learning tasks.
- Supports language development, cognitive growth, fine and gross motor skills, problem solving skills and social interaction.
- Enhances memory.
- Has been proven to calm kids who are anxious or frustrated due to different circumstances.
- Allows kids to learn different sensory attributes- hot, cold, sticky, dry, wet, etc. Develops their awareness of their senses in the most effective way possible- hands on!
Early on, sensory play can be beneficial for kids who are sensitive to certain food textures, like the slimy-ness of spaghetti or the mushiness of baby food. Allowing the child to explore that texture by touching, feeling, and playing with it in an environment with no expectations can help the child develop a better understanding of the texture, which in form develops pathways in the brain that says it’s okay to eat.
For babies, sensory play can be something as easy as blowing bubbles and watching them float through the air and then feeling them pop on their skin. Giving your baby some wrapping paper and letting them watch it change as they listen to it rip and feel the texture change from smooth to crinkled as they play with it. Or simply letting them feed themselves, and feel the different types of food between their fingers, smell it, taste it.
For toddlers, letting them explore with finger paints is messy, but definitely a great sensory activity. They can watch the colors mix and change and feel the wet and slimy texture of the paint on their hands. Water is another fabulous sensory activity thats definitely mess free (outside!) Scooping and pouring, discovering items that sink/float.
Preschoolers can enjoy sensory play by making shapes using molds with kinetic sand, squishing and rolling out play dough, or exploring with dry pantry items, such as rice or beans.
The easiest and best way to engage in sensory play is simply by getting outside! Let your child feel the grass beneath their feet, the cool breeze brush across their face. Listen to the birds chirp and sing, watch butterflies flutter and squirrels dart up trees, smell flowers and freshly cut grass, observe the shapes and textures of different rocks and feel the heat of the sun on their skin. Just by going outside all of your child’s senses are engaged… if only it weren’t so dang hot in Texas!
Below are 5 super easy and not super messy sensory activities for at home summer play!
If you have a water table, thats great, if not, a simple storage bin or large container works just as well! Fill it up with water and add funnels, measuring cups, bowls, whisks, squirt bottles, medicine syringes, eye droppers, really, whatever you and your kids muster up! Your kids will be guaranteed to be entertained! To add another sensory experience on top of just water- you can add ice, and point out how it melts and changes the temperature of the water.
For older kids, you can bring in another visual aspect to this by adding food coloring to the water and let them mix and explore new colors. We usually set up a tray with several bowls of water and add a drop of dye to each bowl. I let the kids mix the using an eye dropper or transfer with measuring cups or spoons. My 3 year old LOVES this!
Play Dough Kits by Young Wild and Friedman!
Young Wild and Friedman is our online shop that specializes in fun and simple ways to incorporate sensory play into everyday life. Play dough kits were created to provide the complete sensory experience in a convenient and prep free way! We release a monthly play dough kit made with homemade, nontoxic scented play dough, and other fun themed items. This month is our “Summer Kit” Which includes blue “water,” green “grass,” and cinnamon scented “sand” play dough, sea creatures, sea glass stones, mini umbrellas, beach balls, surfboards, palm trees, shells, drift wood, and a mini sand bucket! The idea is that kids can use this kit as in invitation to create whatever their little heart desires. Some kids will make a beach scene, others will use the stones to practice forming their letters in the dough, some will learn to count using the fish, or expand their language as they give the sea creatures voices and personalities! It’s an open ended invitation to play, learn and explore using all of your child’s senses while they do it. You can purchase kits at www.youngwildandfriedman.com – The next release is Sunday, June 3rd at 8pm! Snag one fast, because they sell out!
Water beads are SO. MUCH. FUN. They are pin sized balls that grow to about half in inch when soaked in water for 6 hours. They are basically gel marbles, and we love them!! We like to pour our beads in a large bin and add a different toy sea creature and fish. They are so fun to squish and watch them change from a hard gel ball to basically jello! We add scoops, bowls, and spoons to play and explore with these! Adults, get in there, because you will love them also! My husband is way into them!
Rice, Beans, Quinoa, Dry Pasta, Oats
Get a big tub and pour in your old pantry items! We add farm animals or dinosaurs, measuring cups, bowls, jars, funnels- any kitchen tool does the trick! If its hot outside and you want to do this inside, lay down a big sheet and put the bin on top of it. That way you don’t have to stress about the mess. When they are finished playing, fold up the sheet and shake it outside!
Pom Poms are the best! They make zero mess and are beautiful!! We will pour them out in a bin, on a tray on just on the floor! You can have your kids use tongs to sort them by color, which helps improve their fine motor skills and of course teaches them their colors and how to sort things by their visual properties. You can add silicone baking cups and let your kids make “cupcakes” with them, you can offer younger kids an empty water bottle and show them how to fill it up with pom poms- another great fine motor activity! You can even add pom poms to ice cube trays + water and freeze them and let your kids melt them out in their water table, baby pool or excavate them!! They dry right back to normal, so you don’t have to worry about ruining them. We do so much with pom poms, and I love it every single time!!
Follow along at @youngwildandfriedman for more fun and easy activities to keep you little ones busy and bright this summer!! Tag us when you play, we love to see what you guys have going on! Happy playing!
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Thank you so much, Julie, for guest posting! Don’t forget that the kits go on sale Sunday at 8pm on their website!
Make sure to pin this post for those dog days of summer!