Sensory Play, Gettin’ dirty with It!

A friend recently asked me for advice on putting together sensory bins at home and referred to me as the “sensory queen”. Queen of all things sensory? I’ll take it! Being the tactile person that I am, I loooove a sensory bin. Love them. My dream program (one of them) would be just all different kinds of sensory experiences.

There are tons of great, legitimate reasons for sensory play: cognitive development–language, creativity, problem solving, spatial reasoning; motor development–gross motor, fine motor, crossing the midline; and social development–listening, sharing, cooperation, taking turns, communication. Don’t forget that it can be soothing, stress relieving and just plain fun!

Growing up we played outside, splashed in puddles, climbed trees, chased butterflies, rolled our toy cars and trucks in the dirt, built walls and castles out of stuff we found and on and on. I don’t know many (any?) kids today that get opportunities for that kind of deep, expansive play. Now kids’ days are filled with extracurricular activitiesNothing wrong with that but kids need opportunities for self-guided free play too. Sensory bins are almost magical in their ability to completely engross a child in self-directed, active play for sometimes hours on end. Don’t knock it til you’ve tried it!

What do I need for a sensory bin?

First,  you need a bin! I like these Sterilite bins with locking lids. I got mine at Walmart but the site says they’re out of stock. My store still has them but you could find something similar somewhere else. These are just the right size for home sensory play with 1-2 kids because you can tuck it under the bed or in a closet.

Sterilite 6.2 Qt Modular Latching Box, Bamboo

What should I put in the bin?

You can use anything as filler for a sensory bin as long as you have enough of it to be ‘playable’. I’m a big fan of rainbow anything: rice, beans, pasta, waterbeads. Think filler that has interesting texture or handles in a unique way–cloud dough, sand etc.

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Get a smaller bin to store sensory material when you’re done with it.

I recently made what I’m gonna call a ‘gemstone bin’.

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Colorful and sparkly, it looks like gemstones!

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But it’s just rock salt and food coloring.


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A happy by-product was the color left behind from the dyed salt on a paper towel that had lined the cookie sheet. Dry the salt on paper and you’ll have abstract art!

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What else do I need?

These are some of my go-to sensory tools.

  • Bowls, cups and other containers
  • spoons, scoops, ladles and measuring cups
  • specialized utensils like sifters, funnels, tongs, potato mashers

For play…..

Whatever you want! I like marbles, giant googly eyes, jingle bells, small vehicles and bright rubber toys. I’ve used large metal lids with magnet wands, foam shapes, bottlecaps…it’s play; go crazy!

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Finally, we come to the part many parents freak out about….the mess. If it’s nice, do it outside. If you’re doing it inside, throw one of those cheap plastic tablecloths on the floor then the only rule is “keep it on the tablecloth!” Worst case scenario, you may have to do a little vacuuming.

Kids learn by doing, exploring and experiencing their world. Sensory play gives them a chance to do that, safely.

Got a favorite sensory bin? Trying one for the first time? I’d love to hear about it!

 

Storytime–Rhythm & Rhyme

When I started this blog I really thought there’d be more storytime stuff. It’s kinda my thing. But that would require remembering to take pictures at storytime which is not my thing. But this time I did remember! So here you go. My first storytime post. Ta Da!

Full disclosure: I’m not a themed-storytime person. I used to be. I’d pick out a theme then find books, music, activities to go with it. It gets hard, though, to find elements to go with each and every theme the longer you do this. I do make exceptions for holidays and seasonal topics; however, instead of planning around a theme, I pick good books, taking note of which early literacy skill they speak to, then create activities and a playlist.  The theme for this storytime was ‘rhythm and rhyme’.

Books

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Cock-a-Doodle Doo-Bop is one of the better jazzy picture books. Michael Ian Black pulls off scat pretty well, and it lends itself to getting kids to scat with you. Preschoolers scatting? Put it on your storytime bucket list!

I love Jane Cabrera’s adorable, thick-outlined illustration style along with the twist she puts on all these classic rhymes. Little kids don’t always notice that the sheep is gradually losing wool. Big kids I’ve read it to were like, “He’s losing hair! He’s naked!” Fun.

Who Put the Cookies features one of my favorite illustrators, Julie Paschkis. I want to hang her work on all my walls. This book is cute, has consistent rhythm and showcases diverse characters.

Want more suggestions? Check out this booklist!

Playlist

Shake Your Sillies Out by the Wiggles

I’ve Got the Rhythm by Splash ‘n Boots

Hip Hop Body Rock by Mr. Eric and Mr. Michael

Skinnamarink by Sharon Lois and Bram

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These are some of my storytime props: shakers (easter eggs filled with rice, superglued and duct-taped), streamers (strips of plastic tablecloth remnants tied on plastic shower curtain rings) and a song cube (a tissue box wrapped in paper with sheet protector pockets that hold pictures for various songs-teapot for I’m a Little Teapot, etc. The pocket lets me switch out the pictures to change it up).

Activities

The activities I do at storytime are more centered on early learning skills rather than themes. If there are good activities that fit the theme I do them, but I’m more about creating fun and educational experiences that build skills and speak to different learning styles.

The most popular activity, as in at one point there was a line of kids waiting to do it, was this gross motor game. On a mini chalk board I asked kids to think of different ways to move on the lines–hop, skip, tiptoe, etc. Parents really liked this one.

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Building station with cardboard tubes, styro blocks, wood blocks and cans

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Fine motor station-pipe cleaners and colanders. Even some of the littlest fingers enjoyed this one!

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Sensory station–rice, cans, funnels, spoons, tubing, toy vehicles

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This is a plastic wading pool with colorful scraps and scissors. There was always someone at this station.

I’d say this storytime was a hit. What am I doing next week and will I remember to take pictures? I have no idea but maybe!

 

Berry Favorite Things

An interesting article on the connection between physical activity and learning in kids. Play is learning people!

Writers do insults better than anybody!

Can’t wait to try this rainbow soap slime from Learn with Play at Home in storytime! 

Can’t get enough of Candace from Portlandia? Then get on over to Audible to listen to this free audiobook!

FREE: Portlandia Travelogue: The Brussels to Antwerp Express Audiobook

This Litograph print of Sense and Sensibility. These are so cool!

Sense and Sensibility

Check out Architectural Digest’s gallery of amazing home libraries.  I could live with this one!

dam images decor libraries library 01 katherine newman

Toodles!

Books and Beans and Slime, Oh My!

Christmas calls for festivity and has me feeling crafty and bake-y. I want to craft all the things! A few crafty things I’ve done lately…….

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I wanted to do an Advent calendar this year and decided to do one with books. Really outside the box for a librarian, I know. 😉 I chose and wrapped 25 Christmas picture books that represent a diverse variety of stories. Printed some bright numbers and slapped them on. Done. Each day a new one gets opened and read. Yay Christmas!

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I made a new batch of beautiful, taste-safe, gluten-free play dough for the library using this recipe after my normal go-to gluten-free dough stopped working. This recipe calls for rice flour which isn’t cheap but dough lasts for awhile and you’re not going to make it all the time. No photo can accurately show what soft, pliable, white dough this turned out to be. Note: the recipe says to ‘cook’ it but I didn’t. Pouring hot water in the mix worked just fine. 

bean bin

I love a sensory bin. Like, LOVE them. I’m a tactile person so that’s probably why I enjoy sensory bins almost as much as the kids do. This bin is sensory awesomeness in a box. I knew I wanted to create a festive red and green bin. TA DA! Here’s how I did it.  I bought six bags of white navy beans. I left one of the bags white to break up the color just a little bit. Then I separated the rest of the beans into several gallon sized Ziploc bags. I used two little bottles of food coloring for the green beans. The beans took the green coloring really well. Making white beans red took a bit more work. Actually, it took two and a half  1oz. bottles of red food coloring for the beans to look red instead of pink. Let the beans sit in the bags for an hour (red beans sat for much longer) then dump the the bags on paper towels, cookie sheets or some such surface and spread them out to dry. Dump them in a bin. I added a pack of medium-sized jingle bells bought at the craft store. The red and the green and the little jingles, what kid wouldn’t want to dive right in?

holiday slime

This, friends, is Holiday Slime! I’ve made so many batches of slime for the library but this might be my favorite batch of all. If you’ve never made slime, do it! Do it now! It’s simple: 1 part Elmer’s glue to one part water. Mix. If you’re going to color it (food coloring works best but you can also use liquid watercolors) add color while stirring until you get the shade what you want. Then in a separate container mix a teaspoon of borax with 1/4-1/2 cup of warm water. Stir until the borax is dissolved. Next, while stirring slowly pour the borax mixture into the glue mixture. It shouldn’t take long before you’ve a got a ball of slime in your bowl. Give a little kneading to help it come together and make it smooth. I added silver glitter to mine. If you want yours sparkly, it’s easiest to add the glitter to the colored glue mixture before you add the borax mixture. Otherwise, hand your kids some glitter and let them mix it in as they play. Beautiful, bright, sparkly slime never gets old.

Now if you’ll excuse me I’ve got snowflakes to cut. Happy Friday!