I often find that the children play with toys they haven’t touched for ages when they are presented in a new way. I always intend to rotate their toys but I am not very good at it – so I am experimenting with organising them by theme.
This morning F (now 9 months) and I had some time to ourselves 🙂 so we made the most of it by putting together and playing with a snow-themed sensory box just for her.
It couldn’t have been easier – collecting a few things we already had was all it took to set up a lovely, special playtime that F loved. Here is what we put in:
- A tactile book – “That’s Not My Snowman”
- A plastic snowman biscuit cutter
- A wooden (snowy) christmas tree
- A white and sparkly woollen teddy, hand knitted by a friend.
- A snowman peg doll (hand painted by another friend – what clever friends I have!)
- The Snow Queen’s glittery crown
- A large “snowflake” (some kind of shower sponge, the kind that comes free with shower gel)
- A light-up battery powered snow globe
- A snow globe bottle that L and N made at a friend’s birthday party recently, using water, glycerine, glitter and plastic snowflakes inside an empty plastic bottle.
- A crinkly, rattly penguin from a set of soft skittles.
The first thing F took out was the wooden tree – in fact she kept going back to this and found it really interesting to explore. She spent quite a while showing it to me proudly and trying to work out how to collapse the tree. She also enjoyed banging the tree against the side of the box to make a noise.
Next she took out the knitted teddy, and whilst I took the penguin to demonstrate cuddling, F preferred shaking teddy vigorously up and down.
She went on to explore all the toys in this way, feeling them, shaking them, finding out what noise they made. Her expression of surprise at some of them was just brilliant! I love seeing her so delighted at discovering something new, and it made me so glad I had sat down to play instead of seeing our free time as time for a cup of tea or to tidy the kitchen.
Usually I let the children discover and play with a sensory box independently, stepping back so as not to influence their play – at least, that is the case with L and N, who I want to encourage to enjoy the process of open-ended play without a set objective. But with F, I’m conscious that she gets a lot of time to explore independently and not as much one to one interaction as I wish she could have – so whilst this was still led by F, I sat down with her and talked to her pretty much the whole time she was playing. I asked her “what have you got?” and “what does it do?” and described the colours and feel for her. But equally, she was in charge of deciding what we played with, and allowed to explore it however she liked.
It was also lovely to take the time to see what F was really learning, and watch how she approaches the world. I noticed that she is very focused on the noises different objects make (banging, crinkling, squeezing, shaking) and on the way they move (rolling, throwing, pushing, pulling – at one point she even used one object to push another along). This will help me tailor her play to her stage and interests, and to make suitable toys and materials available to her.
And as I expected, big brother and sister also played with the box when they got home – toys they would otherwise have ignored took on new interest when grouped together like this, and again we had an activity that all three children enjoyed together.