What images come to mind when you hear the phrase “sensory activities for kids”? Do you picture bins of colored rice, cloud dough, or maybe children covered in edible paint? I think of these things, but I also see my almost three-year old son grabbing fistfuls of wet leaves, stomping in mud puddles, and eating the blackberries that grow on the edge of our property.
With the snow now gone, my dear little Peanut has been having a marvelous time rediscovering the plant life that has been covered all winter. Watching him explore nature, I’ve wondered, are we complicating sensory play?
I’m all for parent or teacher created sensory activities. I regularly plan and facilitate sensory play for my son and the little ones I look after in my home daycare. I believe however, that these activities should be balanced with good old-fashioned play outside. The fact is that long before sensory bins and sensory sinks children were engaging their senses in the natural world.
If a parent were to ask me how to get started with sensory play, I’d say, “take your little one outside. Let him feel the wind on his face, let him dig his little fingers in the grass and dirt, and draw his attention to the birds singing to each other”.
If you’re like me, and you genuinely enjoy setting up sensory activities for your children, than by all means, do so. I’m just suggesting that we remember all that nature has to offer our children in terms of sensory exploration and learning. Let’s not complicate things.
If you’re a parent who feels like she doesn’t have a creative bone in her body, and you can’t imagine actually doing any of the elaborate sensory activities that are all over Pinterest – relax. Open the door and head outside with your children. Feel the warm spring sun on your face. Now let your little ones roam free and discover things on their own terms and in their own way. They are getting what they need.
I document our outdoor fun on my Kids and Nature page. On Pinterest, I collect inspiring ideas for nature based play and learning on my boards Discovering the Natural World ,Let’s Play Outside, and Outdoor Play Spaces for Children.
My friend Stephanie over at Twodaloo has a fantastic post called Sensory Play: Is This Really Necessary?. It’s a very well written and balanced introduction to sensory play that I’d recommend to any parent of a baby or toddler.
Thanks for reading!