Sensory Play The Toddler Way

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Do you remember the first time you recognized the unique sound of rain pitter-pattering against a window? Or the "splat" that occurs when drops land in a puddle? Do you take the time to listen to that sound now during a rainstorm?

For most of us, the answer is probably no. But if you have a toddler, you've likely seen him or her stop and point at raindrops on a car windshield, or tilt their head back to try and catch some water on their tongue.

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Toddlers constantly process an immense amount of sensory experiences. By seeing, hearing, touching, tasting and smelling, they gain fundamental physical, cognitive, verbal, social and emotional skills. In child development lingo, that’s a fancy way of saying that young children need messy, hands-on, physical exploration to learn new concepts and develop new skills. In actuality, if we limit these opportunities for young children to engage in messy play, we risk depriving them of important sensory development needed to form an understanding of the world around them. 

At The Children's Meetinghouse, we recognize that sensory play is crucial to toddler development, so we've created a program that provides children with intentional opportunities to explore with their senses every single day. We want to encourage you to incorporate more sensory experiences at home, too. We promise it's worth it.

Start simple.

Tie a few silky ribbons to a fence post or door frame and watch how your child interacts with them...

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(Pure joy!)

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Fill up a mixing bowl with water and dish soap and have your child help you "wash" dishes (or anything, really). Don't we all have toys around that need a good scrubbing? Throw in a few cars and call it a car wash. Baby dolls? A bath! Add some blue food coloring and animal figurines? You've created the ocean!

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Don't have any paint at home? No problem! Open up your spice cabinet and mix a concoction with glue or water. Our teachers led a simple sensory activity in which children helped to incorporate cinnamon and brown sugar with glue and then used brushes to create fall "texture paintings." 

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Playdough provides wonderful sensory input. If you're feeling ambitious, here's a collection of six easy recipes to make homemade playdough (don't forget to invite your child to help). Here's a starter set of tools (in case you're looking for a child-sized pounder and rolling pin).

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Truly, the opportunities to foster sensory play experiences are endless.

And hey, next time it rains, dig out those boots and remind yourself to stop and listen.

Get wet. Take your child's hand and jump in that puddle. 

It's a beautiful thing.