Toddlers love to be hands on! You can help them explore their world through their senses by creating a sensory play station. Depending on what type of station you create, you can help calm, stimulate, focus or engage your child’s senses. You can also build more than one station so that your toddler can move from station to station. He or she can rotate through stations all at once or at various times of day.
Today’s toddlers live in a high tech world. There’s nothing inherently wrong with advanced technology, and, in many ways, it’s beneficial. Use of electronics, however, should never replace a child’s opportunities to learn, explore and experience life in a natural, hands on fashion. With a few easy-to-implement ideas, you can create a unique, personalized sensory play station that will delight your toddler’s senses!
Nothing fancy needed — a few plastic tubs will do
While lids aren’t a requirement, using tubs or bins that have lids helps store your child’s sensory play station more easily when not in use. Options for what to put in your tubs are nearly limitless. You can choose to incorporate only one type of item per bin or mix and match various objects that engage various senses. That’s the great thing about building a sensory play station. You can design it any way you like.
What to put in your sensory play station
When deciding what to put in a sensory bin, think of your child’s senses: sight, sound, taste, hearing and touch. For instance, you might fill a tub with various shapes and sizes of dried pasta. If you also want that particular tub to engage your child’s sense of sight, you might paint the pasta (with non-toxic paint) in numerous, bright or pastel colors. A toddler will enjoy touching, holding, grouping and arranging bits of pasta. You can also place various measuring scoops, cups, spoons or small boxes in the bin so he or she can still, mix and pour the pasta as well!
Pasta has a certain kind of texture. To encourage your child to further explore his or her sense of touch, you might fill a tub with water, bubbles or various types of fabric. Toddlers love surprises. A sensory play station can become an instant treasure hunt if you fill a tub with dried rice, beans, corn or sand, then hide various objects, such as seashells, large stones, beads or other trinkets for your child to find.
What about your child’s sense of hearing? You can fill a sensory tub with small, musical instruments or think of other ways he or she can create sounds. Perhaps, sandpaper, a small washboard, bells, or cans filled with beans that your child can shake would be perfect additions to an auditory sensory bin!
A sensory play station is a real brain booster
When you give a toddler the opportunity for unstructured exploration and play, it promotes good brain health. While using a sensory play station, your child is doing a lot of learning, growing and brain-boosting. He or she may develop independent play skills. A sensory bin also encourages imaginative play and tactile learning.
You can help your toddler develop life skills through sensory play as well. Scooping, stirring, pouring or stacking are all valuable tools children use as they grow. This type of play encourages fine motor skill development. It’s also a wonderful supplement for learning to master basic math concepts.
You can swap out the contents from time to time
If you don’t want to invest a lot of money in numerous plastic tubs, you really can make do with just one! Create a sensory play station, then empty the contents and fill the tub with new items. You can switch it up on a weekly basis or wait until your child seems to be growing tired of a particular tub, then surprise him or her with a new one!
Sensory play is SUPER important
It’s important that your toddler learns that it’s okay to make messes. A sensory play station is a great way to make a mess! This type of play actually helps build nerve connections in your child’s brain. It also encourages scientific thinking and problem solving.
Is there anything wrong with allowing your toddler to watch movies or play video games? It’s definitely a debatable question, but most parents might agree that it’s not the activity that might be wrong as much as the amount of time spent doing it, and whether a child has the opportunity for hands on play on a regular basis as well. Do you have a little one with a birthday coming up? Why not surprise him or her with a sensory play station? In fact, my great-nephew is turning 1 soon, and his mommy’s Facebook post asking for gift ideas was the inspiration for this article!
Let your toddlers play! Let them explore, handle, listen, look at , smell, taste and feel things. There’s no such thing as too much unstructured play. What looks messy and random to an onlooker is really a hands on classroom where your child is learning, growing, inventing and enjoying life!
Disclaimer: This post contains creative ideas. The Hot Mess Press is not responsible for any decisions a parent might make after reading this article or any injuries that might take place during a child’s play time using a sensory play station that was inspired by this article. Parents, supervise your toddlers at all times!