As a preschool teacher, I remember having to shoo parents away from the play dough table or the cornstarch goop, or the soapy sand trays. Without much thought they would find their fingers swishing through colored rice, or finding creations presenting themselves hidden in the smooth clay. I knew my early childhood education training spoke of the brain development of the littlest beings- how so much of our first understandings of the world is experienced by direct contact, and how each of these contacts made more neural connections in the brain. I knew that my time as a teacher immersed in the sensory projects with the children provided opportunity for descriptive language and prepositional concepts, as well as social opportunities for interaction and conflict resolution. I knew the children LOVED these stations at school without knowing they were learning about tools, measurement and motor dexterity, or deeply about the physics of our shared planet.
It actually occurred again to me the other day while going through Judy’s 3rdgrade classroom, and seeing the children run their hands through the bin of buttons as they walked by, and then finding my own hands sifting through the cool shapes.
Tactile and sensor experiences remain important to us throughout our lives- from sweet caresses, to hot baths to rainy day runs. And you don’t have to take on the big messy things the kids get to do at preschool (unless it is your workday) to provide hours of fun at home. Below are some links to easy sensory projects you can make and set up in dish tubs on an old shower curtain, or on cookie trays in the yard or on the driveway when the time is right (usually when you are trying to get something done). Some of these activities you can simply hose down for clean up (same with the kids), some are easy to put away and re-use, and some are for the days when you just want to sit down and join them!
There are lots more sites on-line with great ideas. Don’t forget to provide clean-up materials, (like a tub of clean water and a towel) and clear boundaries and then…Have fun!
By January Handl