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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Frightfully Fun: Halloween Photo Shoot and Sensory Play

halloween cute bug

So it’s super easy, indoors or outside.

Outdoor sensory fun!

Grab these materials for some fun and some great Halloween pics. Smiles are easy with all the sensory fun!

Materials: Box, Blanket, Halloween costume, nature toys, pumpkins, different texture fabrics, camera

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It’s good to pick a cozy blanket. This makes for a warm and nurturing base for exploration. The spandex costume makes for great deep pressure input, but costumes of any kind make for great new sensory experiences. They are wonderful to use more often than just on Halloween night.

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Toys and blankets should be baby safe, meaning they are safe to explore with their mouth. Babies need input to their mouth and tags and strings are a real treat!

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It’s even great that they explore all the parts of their costume. Babies are learning not only about their body and how it works, but also how it works in relation to the world. Let your baby explore her costume.

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Different textures are a sensory explorer’s dream! Give your baby several different fabrics to explore.

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Different toys are also great! This little bug had the chance to explore some stuffed nature critters. I went with a nature theme. A quick visit to the plush animal bin and we had all we needed.

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We thought we would head outside for more fun and photos. I was amazed how curious baby was about this big pumpkin. Grass, cooler air, more texture, more colors. Nature based sensory play brings its own advantages.

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Baby was happy for a long time out in nature. I was happy because she was happy AND I got some cute photos!

Happy and Calm Sensory Play Baby!

One good way to know your little one has enjoyed their sensory play, is to see them calm and eventually tired. We’re not talking about being over-stimulated from too much sensory input. Calm, fun, new exploration. That’s the way to go.

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As a mom, I hope you use these ideas to get some great photo ops. As a developmental therapist, I hope you get the idea about great sensory play. It’s fun and exciting for baby, but in the end it’s calming as well.

Sensory play is simply the “work” of our kids!

Mindful Halloween Ideas: 2017 Blog Hop

Halloween blog hops make it easy to be mindful of spending quality time with your kids.

Being Mindful of spending time with your kids this Halloween is easier than ever!

 Hope you got the chance to visit the other excellent blogs involved in this Hop. It has been a pleasure working with so many talented bloggers on this project. Happy Halloweening!

Take a look at these Halloween activities from my blogging friends!

Neon Halloween Banner by Projects with Kids

Halloween Sponge Painting with Ghosts by Preschool Toolkit

Counting with Halloween Board Books by Homebound But Hopeful

Halloween Activity Pages by Mosswood Connections

Halloween Teacake Spider Treats by the Gingerbread House

X-Ray Exercises Free Printable by Growing Play

Cardboard Tube Monsters by The Joy of Sharing

Spooky Eyeball Brownies by Moments At Home

If you have a picture of Halloween fun please share it in the comments section. Activities, recipes, or just Halloween mayhem! We’d love to see what your up to this fall!

 

 

Baby Sensory Play: Don’t Make the #1 Mistake (I did!)

how to do sensory play with kids without mistakes

As a developmental therapist, Montesssori homeschool teacher, and mindful mama, I frequently think of how to set things up so they go smoothly. This time however, it went all wrong. Hopefully, this learning moment for me will help you avoid the same mistake with your little one!

So the scene is set.  My little cutie is ready to play and I have all my materials and a whole bunch of space in the family room. Perfect! Let’s do sensory play!

Montessori-based Sensory Set Up

I set up my special textured rug first. It was soft to the touch, with fringes throughout, and vertical lines and love bugs all over it. After that, I put our a soft red blanket, a winter bear, and Montessori inspired toys including wooden balls, wooden snowflake cutouts, wooden bowls, spoons and little non-edible puff balls. Lastly, I went with the soft and warm theme and had a basket of hats, gloves and scarves.

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Before we even got onto the rug, baby was ready for sensory play. She wanted the puff balls and pushing them into her sock made her giggle. She enjoyed the added sensory feeling on her toes and liked the challenge of using her thumb and pointer finger to get them out!

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The room was quiet, the sun was shining and baby was headed for the center of the carpet. First the bowls were interesting and the snowflake cutouts attracted her attention. Unfortunately, her attention didn’t remain on these items long, and I was a little curious as she usually spent 5-10 minutes with these items when seated at the table. She moved on to the bear and then the hats and gloves, then onto the puff balls again, and then back to the bear!

After several minutes of baby switching toys every other second, I realized I had made a sensory play mistake, one commonly made, but still, not one I thought I would make as a developmental therapist. I should know better!

#1 Mistake in Sensory Play: Set up too many items, or items that are over-stimulating. Baby loses attention and instead of exploring, they just go wild!

Result of Mistake: After sensory play, baby is all charged up, and hasn’t seen or processed any of the toys designed for exploration and learning.

Rule of Thumb to Avoid This Common Mistake: Make play balanced so that the sensory items are not over-the-top stimulating. If you have all the senses involved or too much of one sense at one time, baby can lose focus. We call this “shutdown” where the growing nervous system shuts down and focus can’t happen. Baby goes wild, or at the very least gets quite hyperactive.

In this case, I overdid the visual and touch senses. Too much color, too many toys, too many things to touch and explore.

 

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After a few more minutes of play, as I tried to figure out how to correct my mistake, baby just about lost her marbles. Well, at least her puff balls. She went back and forth between snow cutouts, wooden balls and puff balls till she just couldn’t stand it any longer.

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She handled it well for the most part, crawling off the rug and sitting her bottom in the basket for a giggle. I wish I could be so calm and jovial in times of stress!

 

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Sensory overload! Too much visual stimulation with too many “feeling” toys on top of it all!

So I regroup and try again after a few minutes pass and baby calms down. I let her just crawl it off in her natural play space. Good thing she is a pretty good self-regulator.

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Simple Montessori-based Sensory Play Set Up

My new sensory play set up, was much simpler. I scrapped the overly visual rug and went with the soft blanket. Still red and alerting, but just one tone. I also focused on the winter wear, thinking her positive experience with them in play would help when she needed to actually wear them, when we were headed out the door into the cold winter weather.

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After spending 10 minutes with the winter gear, she approached the wooden cut outs behind her. She attempted to get them herself, and explored them for 10 minutes as well. Now I feel like I am doing something right. She is able to focus and learn within this new sensory set up.DSC_0019

After a few more minutes, she went back to the winter gear and showed me her skill at combining. Combining is a developmental milestone where babies take one toy they know about and put it with another toy they know about. You know, to see how they might work together, or not!

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So after a total bomb at the beginning, this time, winter sensory play went well.

After working with thousands of kids, developing sensory plans and playing with them directly, I can only hope you realize as a mindful parent that there is a bit of trial and error that has to happen when it comes to your specific kids sensory play needs. My baby needed it toned down, but your baby might have been just fine with the original set up.

Mindful Parents Sensory Tip to Avoid Mistakes:

Simply look to see if your baby is able to focus on the items presented in the sensory activity. If they can’t, the set up is too much for them. If they can, you probably nailed it.

Our little ones learning through sensory play is the idea that we as mindful parents are trying to create. The very idea that you read this article till the end says you are well on your way to preparing a great sensory and Montessori play time for you child.  Most importantly, have fun! Remember, you are loving you baby when you spend time playing with them! Hopefully this little tutorial will help!