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Are you familiar with the concept of sensory play? According to Good Start Early Learning, an Australian non-profit dedicated to providing children with a solid foundation for learning, "Sensory play includes any activity that stimulates your young child's senses: touch, smell, taste, movement, balance, sight and hearing." There is evidence that this type of play can help develop a child's neural pathways and facilitates verbal, social, memory, and cognitive development. It can also promote problem-solving and motor skills and have a calming effect. And bonus...in my experience, children really seem to love it!
Sensory Play Ideas
- Make a batch or two of homemade play dough. It is super simple and has a lovely soft texture. If you have a favorite recipe, just add a few drops of essential oil at the end and knead it into your dough. Use food coloring (natural is ideal) to create bright colors. Make sure you use oils that are coded for internal usage just in case your little ones decide to experiment with their sense of taste. To up the value of the play, provide tools. Kitchen items are great! Just open your utensil drawer and see what look fun and safe. Try some measuring spoons and cups to add to the learning - measurements, fractions, etc. And, course, cookie cutters! If you are need of a play dough recipe, try doTERRA's DIY Aromatherapy Play Dough.
- Create a sensory bin. Fill a large container (I've used clear plastic under the bed storage containers with lids) with a filler items of your choice. Some options are uncooked rice (color it for extra fun), dried beans, sand, beads, shredded paper, smooth glass pebbles, aquarium rocks, Easter basket grass, craft pom-pons, yarn or fabric strips, etc. This list could go on and on. Then add other small items to the bin and let your children sort through the filler to find and play with the items. Again don't forget the tools! Scoops, sieves, large wooden spoons, tweezers, measuring cups and spoons, etc. Silcione ice cube trays are fun to have around for sorting and storing items as they are found in the filler. You can create a basic bin with filler and then rotate the other items to bump up the interest level. Maybe you have a seasonal box - summer items, holiday items, and so on. And don't forget to a add a few drops of essential oils to your bin and refresh as needed. My children stay engaged with their bin for literally hours. Great for their brain development and my mental health!
- Provide some kind of blocks for your children. This one's an oldie but a goodie. There are so many options out there, but a good old fashioned set of wooden blocks is a great choice. They can intuitively teach children science, math, spacial reasoning, problem solving, and social skils. Depending on the size of the blocks, they are great for sharpening fine and gross motor skills too. As I write this blog post, I am listening to my daughter rifle through her box of Lego to find just the right piece. That's the sound of sensory play!
- Let them get messy. This one can be rough on mom depending on your tolerance level for a bit of chaos, but if you try to keep the mess confined to a specific area it is typically pretty manageable. A few options are shaving cream play, finger-painting, slime, bubble painting, mud play, and cooked and colored pasta play.
- Add essential oils strategically. Sometimes the sense of smell is forgotten when it comes to sensory play. I have mentioned above a couple of types of sensory play that fit perfectly with the aromatic benefits of essential oils - play dough, sensory bins. You can also add them to many of the "messy" options listed. And you can always run a diffuser in the play area. Use sensory play as an opportunity to target the needs of your child. If your child has feelings of anxiousness, provide some play dough infused with Balance Grounding Blend or Peace Reassuring Blend. Somebody feeling a little down? Try Citrus Bliss: Invigorating Blend. Check out our Top 10 Tips for Moms: Using Oils With Kids for more oil suggestions.
- Search the internet for more ideas. This article is intended to give you a few ideas to get you started with sensory play and to show you how easy it is to incorporate the benefits of essential oil. There are so many ideas out there. Trust me, spend 30 minutes searching this topic and you will have more ideas than you can possibility use. Take the ideas that appeal to you most and have at it. You and child will be glad you did!
Tell us about your experiences with sensory play in a comment.