Zoo Themed Sensory Box

This was our first ever sensory box, inspired by some fantastic mummy blogs I’ve been following.  To be honest, I saw it more as a babies’ activity and didn’t think the older ones would get much out of it, but I was wrong!  I loved the fact that all three children could get different things out of this activity to suit their own level and personality.

Here is our box:

I decided to use oatmeal for the base, thinking it wasn’t the end of the world if F (5 months) ate some.  Once she’d finished playing I added some red lentils for added texture.

We had already gathered together all our zoo animals in preparation for our day at the zoo, and so a selection of plastic, shiny, furry, crinkly, fluffy, slippery (you name the texture) animals were at the ready.  We got them out and talked about the different textures, using describing words – L (5) and N(3) were very good at thinking up words, and making up some of their own, including “cobblehobbled” – fantastic!

We set about creating their homes using materials of different textures.   Another thing I loved aboout this was that we already had everything we needed around the house, and that it used existing toys in a completely new way, sparking the c hildren’s interest and new ways of playing.
I also loved involving the children in the creation of the box.  We made a pond using a painted paper plate and some shiny craft paper, adding a crinkly fish from a baby shape sorter and a frog stamper vfropm our art box:

We made some “snow” for our polar bears using a piece of upholstery wadding and some glittery white pom-poms:

Toilet roll tubes and felt leaves made excellent trees for our plastic  monkeys (pieces from a game), and the felt leaves doubled as foliage for our pipecleaner snakes:

And lions and bears lived on a brick mountain, whilst assorted elephants and giraffes (wooden and plastic) wandered around the oatmeal sawdust:


And I sat back and watched…

I noticed a real difference in the way the two older children played, which could be due to personality, or without generalising too much, differences in the way boys and girls play.  But I couldn’t help thinking it was also due to age.  N (3) was completely absorbed in gathering stones to create paths around the zoo, marking different areas out with lolly sticks.  However, L (5) didn’t want to join in, and seemed very uncomfortable with an activity that didn;t have a fixed end point or a set objective.  Ihie kept telling me “I don’t know how to do it” and even at one point “I’m not clever enough” 😦 and really had difficulty grasping that there wasn’t a right way of doing things.  I can’t help thinking this was partly due to age, and his being very used to doing craft activities that had to be done in a certain way.  Of course there was also a personality element (he is a little boy who doesn’t like to gte things wrong) but this made me very glad to have discovered this activity as a way of encouraging his creative side and independent thought.  And he did loosen up later on and brought buzz lightyear to viait the zoo, along with a helicopter to rescue some of the animals!

N (3) was in her element.  And it surprised me how much even at this age, she loved the sensory experience and feeling the different rextures.  One of the first things she wanted to do was take her shows off and stand in the box, which she did.

She also completely independently got out another box to fill with water for the crocodiles, having worked out for herself that pouring water into the box with the oatmeal wouldn’t work.  She went on to enjoy the water…

F (5 months) was unimpressed by having her feet dipped in the water and the oatmeal but did enjoy sitting in the oatmeal filled box helping herself to pom poms and animals (under careful supervision).  I really enjoyed being able to include her in the fun, as I often feel I carry her round to activities that are3 too old for her, or put her under a play gym so I can play with the other two.  With this activity we were all playing together and the children were not competing for my attention, which was a lovely change!

L and N went on to play with the zoo all afternoon, and quite a few afternoons since.  We love our sensory box, and look forward to many more in our house!

L and N, absorbed in playing

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