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This is why you're seeing sensory play everywhere for your littles

This is why you're seeing sensory play everywhere for your littles

This is why you're seeing sensory play everywhere for your littles

What even is sensory play?

Sensory toys and activities are those designed to engage a child's senses like touch, sound, and sight, to help with their development. Different textures, colors, and sounds to stimulate a child's senses are key. Sensory play is especially beneficial for children with sensory processing issues, autism, or ADHD as they provide sensory input in a fun and interactive way.

But why is it important? The benefits.

Sensory play can improve focus and help with calming nerves and relaxation. They can also enhance tactile awareness and promote sensory exploration. Additionally, these activities can assist in developing fine motor skills and encouraging imaginative play.

Getting started

Using household items is a great intro to sensory play without the cost. Start by raiding the kitchen for some staples, or the backyard - nature is full of textures for our littles.

  • Rice & beans: grab some dried rice and beans and dump them into a baking bowl. Running fingers through the mix is great for calming the mind and focusing. Use measuring spoons, scoops, and tongs to work in the fine motor skills
  • Sand pit: you did it as a kid! Let them get dirty exploring the texture, building, burying, and squishing sand between all the fingers and toes.
  • Water table: there are ways to play this inside and out. Add cups, funnels, and sponges. Water-activated toys that change colors or light up are a great way to explore cause and effect. Even early science lessons like displacement can be explored by dropping rocks into a cup of water and watching the water rise.

Sensory toys and activities are easier and simpler than you may be thinking. Here are some common types of sensory toys:

  • Fidget toys: These are small handheld toys that can help improve focus and attention.
  • Visual toys: Toys with bright colors and lights that stimulate visual senses.
  • Tactile toys: Textured toys that provide different tactile experiences.
  • Auditory toys: Toys that can make noises and music, initiated by the child.

⚠️ CAUTION! the best toys and activities are driven by the kid, not the other way around - i.e. batteries. More on that below...

From our Expert: OT Madison

💡 “It’s not about the toy, it’s about the engagement and connection between the parent and child. Look out for sensory experiences your child seeks out vs. the ones they avoid. If they are avoiding a certain sensory experience, find a way to make that experience more comfortable or enjoyable.” — Madison Fakouri McElroy, OTR/L

Madison suggests, for example, if your little doesn’t like having dirty hands but loves to paint, find ways to include other things they love into a painting activity, like a favorite character. Allow them to use their fingers, cotton swabs, paint brushes, and even their toys to as painting tools. Keep wipes handy to show how they can clean up their hands when they get dirty.

Choosing the right sensory activity

Before buying a sensory toy or getting all the supplies for a fun sensory station, consider your kid's specific needs and preferences. Look for toys that engage different senses like touch, sight, sound, and movement. Toys with varied textures, bright colors, and different shapes can provide a multi-sensory experience. Check if the toy is age-appropriate and safe for your child's age range. Opt for toys that promote interaction and exploration. Consult with a therapist for recommendations tailored to your child's sensory development.

Pro Tip: Kelli, Learn To Play

💡 For children two and under, go for taste-safe options. Oral exploration is normal at this age and you can save yourself the stress by making sure everything is edible. Think food coloring and cool whip, crushed cheerios for sand, and even pudding cups as mud. — Kelli DeLarue, Early Childhood Educator

What to avoid

It might be tempting to head over to the big box toy aisles and buy the flashiest toys you see, but do yourself (and your wallet and sanity) a favor and SKIP IT! We’re not talking distraction, but engagement. Buttons and batteries may work for a bit, but when teaching deep play and focus, your kid should be in charge, not their toy. So as a general rule, think analog and go for the toys without batteries.

Sensory toys for different age groups

Age-appropriate sensory toys are essential for a child's development. Here are some recommendations for different age groups:

  • Infants (0-1 year): high-contrast colors, different textures, and soft sounds are beneficial for sensory stimulation.
  • Toddlers (1-3 years): encourage exploration and interaction, such as tactile play, peek-a-boo elements, and simple puzzles.
  • Preschoolers (3-5 years): toys and activities that engage multiple senses, like building blocks, musical instruments, and sensory bins.
  • School-aged children (6-12 years): can enjoy more complex sensory activities like kinetic sand, fidget toys, and interactive board games.

Choosing sensory activities appropriate for each age group can help foster their sensory skills and overall development.

Sensory toys for children with special needs

Sensory toys play a vital role in supporting children with special needs. These toys are designed to stimulate the senses, helping children with sensory processing issues to explore and interact with their environment. Simple toys like fidget spinners or textured balls can provide sensory input, improving focus and calming nervous systems. Other sensory toys include weighted blankets, chewable jewelry, or squeeze toys. By engaging with these toys, children with special needs can enhance their sensory experiences and promote overall well-being.

Sensory play at The Shop

We LOVE sensory play here at The Modern Munchkin Co.! In addition to having some sensory toys in the shop now for you and your littles to get started, we’re so excited to announce we’re launching our own sensory kits! Working with local business women, we’re curating pour-and-play kits for your toddlers and preschoolers. AND! We’ll host a workshop for your littles to come build their own sensory kits here in the shop. They’ll be able to pick their favorite colors and shapes, further encouraging engaging play. Sign up to be the first to get the dates and details here:

Sign up for the WORKSHOP list

Shop Picks

If you’re not into DIY, check out some of our favorite sensory activities in The Shop now:

Sum it up: Build fundamentals with sensory exploration

Sensory play is crucial in developing essential skills for your kiddos. They enhance sensory experiences and aid in improving focus, creativity, and problem-solving abilities. Providing a variety of sensory stimuli, these activities promote learning and development in a fun and engaging way. Incorporating sensory materials and toys into playtime can also help children regulate their emotions and reduce stress or anxiety levels. Investing in sensory playtime is a valuable way to support your kiddo’s overall growth and well-being.

Meet the Village

Just like the saying goes, it takes a village to raise our littles right, and we’re here to bring the village to you! Today’s village experts know their sensory play. Check them out:

Madison Fakouri McElroy, OTR/L

Occupational Therapist for Early Steps and ESP Pediatric Therapy Services

Email Madison

Kelli DeLarue

Founder/Owner, Learn To Play

Email Kelli

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