Kids love to play! And, leaving them time to play is essential to their healthy growth and development. Leaving time during the day for free play, both in the classroom and at home, will be important for helping them develop a positive relationship with the world.
Sensory play is a type of play that involves using the 5 senses (sight, sound, touch, taste, and smell) and brings children on a fun journey of exploration and discovery. It is also great for increasing vocabulary, language, fine motor skills, problem solving skills, and social interaction.
And sensory play is especially great for young children, and particularly children with autism, since it enhances their learning through hands-on activities. The options for sensory play activities are as endless as your and the child’s imaginations.
There simply isn’t enough room to cover all the possibilities in this blog BUT a great place to start is by thinking about creating a ‘Sensory Bin’ for your classroom, and the kinds of excellent and fun items that you might want to have at the ready for your students to play with that you can include in it.
What is a sensory bin?
The simplest explanation is it’s a single container filled with one type of substance in a bigger than normal / expected quantity. For example, you could have one container (Sensory Bin) filled with a single filler like slime, which the child plays with. Alternatively, you could have one container with two or more fillers, such as slime plus foam alphabet letters mixed into or throughout the slime.
The idea is that each bin is a ‘sensational’ experience to help your student(s) explore these physical sensations in a safe yet fun way.
You’ll want to be careful, naturally, to make sure the contents of each bin is age-appropriate (no marbles for toddler classrooms for example, as they’re choking hazards) and non-toxic (children that are allergic to wheat can have reactions to play-doh). And of course, depending on the child’s abilities, things could end up from the sensory bins in mouths! So it pays to think about your students, their abilities, and what items will provide the best experience for them (and you!) as you provide their next learning experience through the fun and delight of your sensory bin time.
Finally, you can also think up a fun and creative name to help spark your children’s imaginations and sense of fun, but just don’t forget to be there to steward them through the different sensations they will be learning about. And tell them what the substance is that created the sensation they’re feeling, so they can learn about the world around them in a positive way!
What’s in the sensory bin?
Here is a list of non-food items that you could have for your sensory bin….
|1. Pom-poms (craft ones)||19. Slime|
|2. Cotton wool||20. Play dough|
|3. Straws||21. Mud|
|4. Glitter||22. Dirt/Clay|
|5. Alphabet letters|
23. Beads (water beads)
|6. Shredded paper||24. Corks|
|7. Water||25. Seashells|
|8. Sand||26. Wood chips|
|9. Aquarium gravel|
27. Styrofoam balls
|10. Stones||28. Magnets|
|11. Buttons||29. Bottle tops|
|12. Tissue paper||30. Tinsel|
|13. Crepe paper / streamers|
31. Rubber bands
|14. LEGO||32. Bubble wrap|
33. Jigsaw/puzzle pieces
34. Foam numbers
|17. Ice||35. Water|
18. Shaving cream
However a child learns, whatever their different abilities and whatever their likes and dislikes in a learning environment, sensory play will always be an important part of child development.