A Better Way To Make a Sensory Bin!

“Be kind to yourself! Don’t judge your sensory play set up by how fancy it is but instead by the response you get from baby.”

“Use the basics to get great results. Sand. Rice. Leaves. Water.”

“Use nature to help you build a sensory bin. Create it with nature. Then put it in nature!”

Easy Sensory Play that calms kids.

Baby’s are ready to explore! The more sensory experiences they get in calm environments the better. Why a calm environment? Because they can become master sensory regulators! That means a calm kid now and into the future!

And as a mom and developmental therapist, I follow my instincts and keep it simple when it come to calming sensory play!  I have found that the simpler the better.

Why simple?

Simple sensory play set-up for us moms keeps moms calmer. If mom is calmer, that helps the child to be calmer.  Additionally, the simple set up, in my experience, allows for a calming affect. Simple setting. Simple materials. Items like rice, sand, water, and leaves for example might seem to plain, but they pack a big sensory load on a child’s developing sensory system. They are all you need to create mindful sensory play.

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So baby and I are doing just that these days, exploring simple textures at our home where it is calm and free of distractions and chaos. (These activities can be done with babies, preschoolers, or older kids.) We often do these activities out in nature to make an even more serene environment as the backdrop for our sensory fun.

I am mindful of the calming environment I choose to complete the activity in, and also enjoy the environment when we are doing the activity. This allows for low distraction for baby and for me to be aware of the sights and smells and sounds. This is mindful parenting in planning and also mindful parenting when playing. The result is s sensory bin that is not only fun, but calming!

This activity works for older kids too, or kids that might need to learn to tolerate sensory textures with greater ease. By building experiences that are exploratory and fun, children create confidence in dealing with sensory information, knowing they can handle it, simply because they have been successful in the past.

So let’s dive in!

Today we chose rice!

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Materials: Clean bin or bucket, 1-3 bags of dry rice, bowl for pouring, paper towel rolls, and a basic ring stacker toy

That’s it! Super Simple.

This activity lasted about 15 minutes, which I felt showed good attention for baby. Within the first few minutes, baby was in the bin and exploring! She needed my help to step over the rim of the bucket, but otherwise, she was in her sensory play zone!

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When we got started, baby needed to touch and feel and EAT some rice. I figured this would happen. It’s new, and baby always explores new things with her mouth. I figured rice would be fine, and made sure to watch her 100% of the time to make sure not much of the raw rice could get eaten. I told her each time that she should not eat it and to take it our of her mouth. She did.

I don’t recommend beans or other larger items until baby isn’t mouthing anymore. If a grain of rice gets by my patrol, no big deal. It would get digested and expelled easily within the day. Larger beans like pintos or lentils are NOT what I would want to use. I certainly would not want to have to go searching for beans in baby’s mouth when I can easily use rice. Plus, if I stay calm not worrying about chocking hazards, baby stays calm, and we have more fun.

*As an added note, kidney beans should never be used with kids in sensory play no matter what the age. Kidney bean have toxins that need to be boiled off when cooking so they can be eaten safely. If kids get hold of them and eat them, or the dog decides to have a few, it won’t be good.

Once I knew baby was tolerating the rice on her feet and hands, I thought I would increase the challenge by sprinkling rice down on her. She got rice in her hair and didn’t seem to mind at all. She actually found it interesting and tried to “rain” the rice onto me too! The perfect time to sing a rain song such as “Rain, Rain Go Away” or “It’s Raining, It’s Pouring, Baby is Snoring”.

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Baby decided to make up her own game up too. Peek-a-boo is a great game in such a big bin! Can anyone find baby?

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Sensory Play Can Be Over-Stimulating

I keep it simple with the toys on purpose so baby could enjoy the rice and not get over stimulated. Some babies actually find the rice to be too much sensory input on the skin, so be mindful if baby needs a break. Other kids don’t mind rice at all.  It just depends on each kids sensory needs.

It’s easy to get over zealous, putting all kinds of texture combinations together with sensory play. But remember, we are trying to provided sensory input in an environment that lets baby stay focused and regulated. The more calm and focused, the better baby will process the sensory input and tolerate it in the future.

The most important sensory play rule when dealing with new textures really comes down to this: Don’t bring chaos, bring calm.

Be kind to yourself! Don’t judge your sensory play set up by how fancy but instead by the response you get from baby. Baby should enjoy the task for several minutes, attending to the different parts, taking in the new and unique textures, all while being calm. Such observations are good indicators that the new sensory input was processed well. It’s a sign you have done a good job planning.

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We learned to pour too!

The bowl made a great scoop to show baby how to pour. This activity is a great way to introduce pouring before getting out the Montessori pitcher and practicing with beverages. Even better, tomorrow I am going to include the pitcher and  let baby practice pouring rice from the pitcher to the container. Added fun!

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So, give this sensory bin a try! We had such a great time! I could tell by the sparkle in her eyes! No kidding.

Share your own experiences if you give this a try or if you have tried something similar.  Here at Swami Mommi want to hear all about you and your baby’s heart warming sensory play!

 

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Montessori and Mindfully Inspired Activities to Calm and Soothe Baby.

Calming Baby Essential Guide

Bonding With and Calming Our Babies in Mindful Ways

Calming activities are easy. They are also cheap and enjoyable.

Calming activities for baby are also a top priority in parenting new and growing babies!

These are long term solutions for a long term calm. And ultimately that means calm for baby, parents, and the whole family. Do them everyday as part of their routine and your kids will be bonded to you like they should be. Statistics show that 40% of children in the United States are NOT bonded to their parents. So being mindful of calming strategies and doing them regularly is of mega importance.

Bonded kids have better behavior, are healthier, and feel secure. All this relates to brain development in a positive way. It allows fine motor and gross motor skills to develop without difficulty. It allows growth to happen with fewer problems. If this motivates you to keep reading, you are well on your way to raising happy kids.

Calming Baby

Babies are born knowing how to suck. Newborn babies breastfeed naturally or bottle feed when provided a bottle moments after being born. Nature has it all figured out, since sucking not only allows babies to get food, but also is a natural calming reflex. This is why babies love their bottles, their mom’s comforting nipple, and pacifiers.

But what can we provided our little precious bundles beyond what they are born with? What are the ultimate calming activities for baby?

As a developmental therapist and mom I can tell you that it’s all about comfort. The tactile system is a babies sense of touch, and it is the number one calming system for a newborn baby. Babies learn and calm through their sense of touch.  It’s what babies need and crave.

So grab a cup of tea and a blanket, cozy up here and let’s dive into into Swami Mommi’s top 7 baby activities to calm and soothe baby.

Calming Baby With Mindful Parenting

#1 and #2: Warm Bath And Baby Massage:

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After checking the water temperature to be safe, a warm bath is ultimately calming. Not all babies love water at first, but several ideas to make their bath-time fun can be used from the start to make sure bath-time is fun-time.

Dimming the lights for example can make a sleepy baby more comfortable with less of a chance of over-stimulation. Before bed is optimal. Also, make sure to give the bath when baby is well fed and you are relaxed. Happy bellies and happy parents make happy bathers!

Calming Baby with Montessori Based Play in the Bathtub

At first bath toys aren’t needed. For newborns, water is a good enough toy. Once baby reaches 3-5 months, they will be interested in toys so it’s fun to add them. It’s good to realize through that a toy can be an old plastic bottle or big cap from a bottle. Funnels and tubes are also great ways to up-cycle old items around the house. As long as they are clean and baby can’t eat them, they will work great!

After a bath, it’s time for message. A simple message would include an organic oil such as Jojoba oil (balancing oil) and include arms, legs, belly and back. When doing arms and legs I always recommend stroking from the fingers and toes toward the the trunk. This keeps lymphatic drainage in the correct direction allowing proper removal of wastes in the skin and limbs for a good detoxification effect. I use semi-deep pressure and sometimes semi-circular strokes at the joints. Finally, I let newborns tell me how they are feeling about their message. They cry some days and giggle on others, but either way I don’t push it. I do what they will tolerate, which is really different every day.

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#3 and #4: Softest Baby Blanket you can find and a Rocking Chair

I had a rocking chair that I wasn’t using for nighttime routine, until one day I tried it out, and never again will I go without! It turned bed-time into cuddle time. Taking the softest blankets I had, I snuggled baby in to my arms and rocked her to sleep. Being mindful of what our babies like is important, but if we as parents like it too, it is self motivating. We are going to be more inclined to follow through as parents on a regular basis.

I was so scared to do this, because I feared that baby would NEVER go to sleep on her own. Despite going to sleep in her crib since birth on her back, I still feared she would NEVER go to sleep on her own once I rocked her. I must have heard just too many horror stories. Well, I was wrong. By 12 months old, I told baby that I would rock her first, and then put her in her crib. For a while she would fuss a bit when I moved her, but now she wants her crib after a little rocking. We of course do the same routine every night. Win-Win!

First I tell her it’s time to go to bed, I turn on the sound machine, and snuggle her up in a blanket. We rock in the rocker for about 20 minutes, until she either goes to sleep or is nearly asleep. Then I put her in her crib. The sound machine allows me to creep away without a trace. Even if baby wakes when I put her in her crib, I just tell her she is OK and that it is time to sleep.

Mindful Sleep Routines Help Calm Babies

We had been putting baby in either her co-sleeper bassinet or her crib for 12 months in a quite room since she was born. Early on she was swaddled in a Miracle Blanket.A friend bought us one and we were hooked. Super easy swaddle, and really helps babies refine there reflexes from extension and startle response, to curled up and calm. This is my number one recommendation to new moms, from day one! Check it out here.

The point I am trying to make is that baby was trained to calm a bedtime from the start. This has carried over and allowed us to rock baby and still get her into her crib with little fuss. I am so very happy this has worked so well, as I am not sure who loves the snuggling and rocking more, baby or I.

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Little feet in a Miracle blanket for baby swaddling.

Rocking chairs no longer need be old fashioned, they can be cute an trendy! We got one at Babies are Us, but many re-sale shops have them and they can be jazzed up easily with a cushion and blanket!

rocking baby, rocking chair for baby

#5 and #6: Out of the Way Place To Sleep and a Sound Machine

When I say out of the way place, I simply mean a quiet place where baby won’t be disturbed. As and adult, when I go to a hotel and the neighbor’s party won’t let me sleep, I really just want and “out of the way” place to sleep where no one will disturb me! It’s annoying to be woken up from a deep sleep. Babies feel the same way.

Babies can get cranky from being woken in mid-sleep, and it is substantiated in the research that babies that sleep more regularly have better speech. Why? It was found that speech related neurons grow while baby sleeps, with resulting better language scores overall. So sleep, sleep, sleep makes for a calm and well spoken baby. The ultimate plan to ward off frustration on the part of baby and parents!

Also, the sound machine, is a sleep insurance policy. IF there is a noise that happens to crash or bang, it will hopefully get lost in the sound machines’ background noise. I personally like the machine from Hatch Baby that you can find here. I do suggest placing the machine several feet from baby however, because it is controlled by an app. I keep all electronic devices several feet from baby, including radio and video monitors, as research shows that such devices are problematic when close in proximity to babies and children. An easy read book that talks about device safety in greater detail, writen by Devra Davis who spoke to congress on the dangers of such devices, can be found here.

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#7: Something Small to Cuddle

The bonding reflex is the reflex that insures the diminishing of the startle reflex. So the more bonding tasks the better. The startle reflex, which looks like your baby just got scared by a ghost, is supposed to diminish over time. If it doesn’t then a baby will grow up to be a child on high alert and not very calm.

However, the flexion position, aka the curling or bending forward position, will assist with the bonding reflex and ensure a calm child. Carrying baby in flexion, curling them into you as you rock them, AND carrying something small and soft when walking or sitting, will promote the flexion position and calming reflexes.

Eventually, when a toy comes crashing to the floor, or a ball bounces into their view, they won’t be startled. They will be calm. It’s bonding that lets baby know she is safe, so allow Beary or Stuffed Dragon to go along for the car ride. Let cozy Elmo tag along for the walk. And make sure that your baby has his favorite stuffed animal when ever they need it.

*Note: It is not recommended that babies have stuffed animals in their crib. Once they are older toddlers that are mobile and able to move a stuffed animal themselves, it is safer. Only have stuffed animals with babies and kids that are safe and older in age.

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Routines Help Baby Calm Too

Remember, that if calming activities are done regularly, they are even more effective. Babies like to know what to expect during their day, and they thrive on routine. Even if they get out of sorts from a day of less routine than normal, they can easily move into the next day knowing their routine is there to support them. Although it may look simple, seem simple, and just right down cozy, it’s the science of growing our kids brains so their foundation is solid.

Doing the seven calming activities will grow brain connections that will support your baby now, in a year, and throughout their entire life. This is where a little mindful parenting can go a long way.