Think Outside the Box

Textures.  Sticky, soft, bumpy, smooth – so many textures to explore.  Sensory play is important in the early years.  Sensory activities improve motor skills and raise awareness of how the world works.  Different stages of growth provide unique opportunities to help our children experience sensory play, and in turn, mature and grow.  Learning through play is the whole premise to thinking outside the box!

Babies may be limited in mobility, but the not their ability to interact with the world and those around them.  Tearing and feeling paper, splashing in a tub or pool, or billowing a scarf above the child’s head as they lie on a soft blanket, these are all sensory activities that you can introduce to your child.  Talk to them about what’s happening to help with language development.  Make a smock from an old shirt or apron.  Sew or Vel-cro different textured scraps of material all over the shirt.  Stuff scraps of material into the pockets and allow pieces to hang out so baby can grab it.  Wear this” feelie smock” when you’re caring for baby.  Encourage her to find, rub and play with all the new textures she finds.

Older children act a lot like scientists when they learn through their senses.  A preschooler in a sandbox full of wet sand may ask questions that describe a phenomena (“Why is the sand so wet?”), construct a hypothesis (“Maybe the water came from that water pump or a nearby hose”), make a prediction (“I’ll pull on the water pump to see if it works”), test the hypothesis (pull on the nearby water pump), and draw conclusions (“Yes, that’s how the sand got to be so wet”).  There are endless activities to keep a preschooler happily learning through play!  Make a ‘texture box.’ Glue small patches of different textures in the bottoms of egg carton compartments.  The child will have to reach in with a pointed finger to feel the texture.  Have some ‘Sticky Fun!’  Cut a large square of Contact or similar self-adhesive paper and tape it low on the wall, sticky side out.  Put a box of light-weight things to stick to it close by.  Consider natural materials such as dried leaves or weeds, feathers, fabric pieces or tissue paper.  The children will be fascinated by feeling the sticky surface.

The entire world is made up of textures – and infants, toddlers and preschoolers want to experience them all!  Be conscious of this throughout your day.  A nature walk or even ten minutes outdoors will offer many textures to experience.  Be sure to place babies on a big blanket and talk with him about all that he sees around him.  Bring things for him to touch and see from a garden or nearby bush.  Show him the leaves rustling in the trees and how they feel when they fall to the ground.  Photograph outdoor experiences with textures—the feel of soft grass, crunchy leaves, squishy mud – and make your own sensory story!

We’d love to hear your ideas!  Please let us know what YOU do to ‘Think Outside the Box!’