Happy Valentine’s Day, Happy Family Day if you’re in Alberta, Happy Monday if you’re not! Today we have a guest post from Uppymama Kristy- if you don’t know anything about her she’s one of the many wonderful work at home moms who make Uppy happen! She is the one who takes most of the lovely action shots you see on our weekly teaser posts. (She lives in Victoria, BC which is why you usually see green grass year round which makes us ceaselessly jealous over here at Uppy headquarters!) She also does a lot of our social media work and has named many of the Uppy designs! In addition to her work for us Kristy also has two lovely little people, Foster & Henrietta who are two and four. (Almost five.) Without further ado…
I have two children who are holiday junkies! The day after Halloween Foster started planning what he wanted to be next year (Batman…no, a Ninja Turtle!) They continue to play Christmas games and read Christmas books and sing Christmas songs (I seriously can’t hear Jingle Bells one more time!) long after the trees and decorations have come down. So with Valentine’s day approaching I decided to go all in! Admittedly I do love pink and hearts anyway so it wasn’t too much of a sacrifice for me. Anyway as a work at home mom it’s important for me to find ways to keep my kids happy and occupied and to try to avoid the tv as much as possible! I really believe sensory play is so important for children and these types of activities are also the ones that are a huge hit and keep my kids fully engaged for long periods of time while I get some work done! (Or knit on the couch.)
A trip to the thrift store or dollar store combined with items you probably already have around your house or in your food pantry should give you the supplies you need to put together some great activities that engage the senses but the two main ones we did celebrating Valentine’s Day this year were play dough bakery and a fun magenta rice bin. I’m mostly going to let the photos speak for themselves on these activities but I’ll also include some details and instructions at the bottom so scroll on down if you’re interested in getting into some of your own Invitations to Play at home. Invitation to play is a concept from the Reggio Emilia approach to early childhood education. All it really means is presenting materials a child can use in open ended play and taking the time and care to make them look appealing so that the children are naturally drawn to interact with them. There is no specific intended outcome other than creative play. Now if you have a 10 month old this might just mean a bowl with some ice cubes in it and a wooden spoon. Over time they can evolve to match your child’s personality and interests. They can be as simple or elaborate as you have time, energy and desire to put together!
Here are some photos from our Sensory Play over the last couple weeks. (Oh and I should add that though they are a bit of work to put together our children ask for them to be brought out over and over again so the time investment really pays off!)
And don’t forget that making lunch with actual food can also be a great sensory and learning activity for little people if you have the time and patience!
Ok- now for a few basic details! I won’t get excessively in depth on options for sensory play and invitations to play because there are already many blogs out there that cover this extensively. Check out Fun at Home with Kids and Tinkerlab for a ton of inspiration. (Or Pinterest will get you started too!) My fave is probably The Imagination Tree which is incidentally where I got my amazing no-cook playdough recipe! For the chocolate playdough I just replaced a small amount of the flour with cocoa powder. You can also experiment with mixing in different spices like cinnamon into your play dough for other fun scents. I use liquid watercolors to colour my playdough because my kids no longer try to eat it but you can use food dye or even leave it natural coloured if your kids are still exploring with their mouths! Liquid Watercolors are also what I use to dye rice along with a splash of vinegar to make sure it’s colour fast. The reason I prefer to use liquid watercolors over food colouring is because I find it more multi-purpose and the colours are so vibrant. It’s also more affordable than using up so much food colouring every time I want to dye something. As an added bonus I find it washes off my hands more easily after kneading playdough.
We change up the items in the sensory bins and play dough presentation each time a bit to keep it interesting but the basics remain the same. Any bin will work for a rice bin (And actually it doesn’t have to be rice- try beans, other grains, cooked pasta, barley…whatever you have!) but a key tip I have is to set it up on a blanket or sheet! I used to use a plastic tablecloth but the rice bounces off of those. On a sheet the spilled rice can just be bundled up and dumped back in the bin to play with again later. I still keep a broom nearby for spills but this minimizes the potential for a disaster area. As for the playdough you can set it up any way you want but I like to use one of the trays they sell for veggies and dip. This makes for an appealing presentation with different choices of things to use in the ‘bakery’. My kids also ask me for other items such as rolling pins or cookie cutters as we go along. The key is being open to their ideas.
Hopefully this has got you going on some ideas for sensory play! Have fun!
Necessity may be the mother of invention, but play is certainly the father -Roger von Oech