Children are tactile learners. The more senses are stimulated, the better children retain what they learn. For this reason, it is important to me to engage in sensory play daily. I regularly make sensory bins for my boys to play with, and most of the art we do includes sensory exploration.
When the weather is nice we amp these bins into life sized fun to allow sensory stimulation from head to toe. Caution, this can be very messy, but we love messy play.
Whenever I set up an invitation for sensory play I lay out guidelines and set boundaries for the following reasons:
Clean up is quick
Self control is taught
Children have an area to focus on without getting overwhelmed
Messy play comes naturally to most children, and I prefer to give my boys an outlet for these experiences to maintain some order.
One of our favorite sensory activities is combining cornstarch and water to make Oobleck. (Oobleck is sometimes referred to as goop or slime.)
Last week I set up an invitation to make Oobleck in the play pool.
Cornstarch is, by far, the sensory material of choice for my oldest. He often requests to play with cornstarch alone, so any time we make Oobleck we spend awhile with the dry cornstarch first.
Tank, one of my twelve month old twins, saw the cornstarch fun and climbed in the pool.
After spreading the cornstarch around and rolling in it for a bit, the hose came on to add water. I keep our sensory play child driven to encourage them to think for themselves, problem solve, and work together. They quickly realized that since they had spread the cornstarch all over the pool, they had to gather it to mix with the water.
Tank enjoyed feeling the silky cornstarch and watching it as the water turned it to Oobleck.
My older boys (ages five and three) take great joy is showing their baby brothers the ropes. I love watching these sibling moments. Playing and working together is encouraged in our house. Upon occasion I also set up baby play to give the little guys freedom to explore independently. I also set up invitations for the older boys only, so they don’t have to worry about being too rough with the little guys. I think balance is good.
Obviously oral exploration is the first concern with sensory play for babies and toddlers. Oobleck is perfect for little ones who put everything in their mouths since it is just water and cornstarch.
For some reason on this particular day, my oldest had no interest in adding the colors. He wanted to get out when J-Bug was ready to pour.
We used Colorations liquid watercolor paint to add color, but this can be done just as easily with food coloring or even tempura paint for a thicker substance.
The beauty of using the play pool for sensory exploration is that clean up is a cinch. Just turn on the hose, and everything washes away!
I had to laugh…Awhile later JZ put on his goggles, grabbed a raft, and used a scoop to row through the water. It was too cute.
Three 16 ounce containers of cornstarch were used for this play time. In this case we washed away all the Oobleck since the boys had rolled in it with their entire bodies. Typically Oobleck can be saved in an airtight bag or container and stored in the refrigerator for reuse.
Oobleck is one of the many sensory activities we have experimented with in the Play Pool, and it was definitely one of the favorites!
Train Up a Child: Sensory Bins
Alissa Zorn is an author, and founder of the website Overthought This. She's a coach and cartoonist passionate about helping people overcome perfectionism and shame to build authentic, joyful lives. Alissa is certified through the International Coach Federation and got her Trauma-Informed Coaching certification from Moving the Human Spirit. She wrote Bounceback Parenting: A Field Guide for Creating Connection, Not Perfection, and is always following curiosity to find her next creative endeavor.