Sensory Play Ideas
by Melissa Fereday (Educator)
Tara Ient (Paediatric Occupational Therapist)
Melissa & Immi's story
I’m Melissa, a Teacher and Mum to Immi (12 months old). I love to ensure I’m targeting particular areas of development through the activities I plan for Immi at home.
I try to not get too far ahead of myself with planning and preparing our activities and take her lead through watching what she’s showing a particular interest in, or observing what she’s avoiding.
I’ve been really blessed in my teaching career and have had the opportunity to train with and work closely with Speech Pathologists and Occupational Therapists – an absolute blessing for working with kids of any age, in any context. This knowledge has also helped me immensely in introducing new concepts and activities for Immi at home.
The jelly dig was a simple and fun sensory activity for Immi to practice her skills with cutlery, whilst using both hands independently and simultaneously.
What you need for a Jelly Dig –
- A heavy bottomed pan (to avoiding tipping)
- Natural Flavoured Jelly
- Fresh Fruit
- A Teether
- Stacking cups
- Shapes from a shape sorter
- Any other items that baby is showing interest in.
- Selection of spoons, forks, and scoops.
I included items that Immi has been showing a particular interest in of late – a teether, stacking cups, shapes from her shape sorter and of course, food!
- Prepare Jelly as per packet instructions.
- Pour into pan and allow to cool to lukewarm.
- Add fruit, shapes, teether and other special interest items into cooled Jelly mix.
- Put in the fridge to set (overnight is good for next day activities)
We’re going to play around with different versions of this jelly dig to continue developing hand eye coordination, fine motor skills and to continue exploring textures in a fun, tasty way! We hope you and your little one enjoy it as much as we did and continue to change it up too for future motor development!
'I like to give Immi as much choice as possible with the ‘tools’ I give her for different activities. She had the choice of a small scoop, a recycled formula scoop and her grabease spoon and fork. She put the fork straight to work, testing the texture of the jelly, breaking the surface and getting to the fruit at the bottom of the tray.'
Melissa is a Teacher who began her career in a low socio-economic school with over 90% of students from non-English speaking backgrounds. She fell in love with working in this setting, and have remained in similar schools, where I currently work part time as an Instructional Leader – Deputy Principal. As a teacher with a particular interest and understanding of the power of early intervention, I feel it’s integral to provide as many rich learning activities as possible through a variety of ways, most importantly through play.
You can follow Melissa and Immi on Instagram @life_with_immi
The Importance of Sensory Play
The most powerful way to support your child’s development and learning is through play and ‘Sensory Play’ is often the most enjoyed type of play for little ones (and us parents too!)
Sensory Play is crucial for brain development as it helps build nerve connections allowing for more complex thinking, encourages development of gross and fine motor skills, supports language development and provides social interaction opportunities.
Sensory Play is anything that engages our 7 senses – sight, taste, smell, hearing, touch, movement and balance! Little ones are naturally curious about everything in their environment so presenting them with lots of exposure to all different sensations is the perfect activity for their brains and bodies!
Below are some ideas to try with your little ones which also work on the skill of using a spoon (scooping) and a fork (spearing) to help them become independent feeders. I would recommend that you can start this type of play around 8 months old in preparation for self feeding!
As always never leave your baby unattended when exploring, plus playing together provides more opportunities for sharing, bonding and communicating.
Scoop & Spear
Spoon Practice (Scooping):
You want to use items that are going to stay on the spoon so your child has success!
You can pair this activity with the words “scoop” “up” “pour” “tip” and make sure you do lots of role modelling of the desired actions using your own spoon.
- Coloured Rice
You can make this out of uncooked rice by mixing 1 cup of rice, 1 teaspoon of white vinegar and your food colouring of choice into a container with a lid – shake it to mix and then lay out on baking paper to dry for an hour or so. You can add some fun little critters to collect or any other toys that will entice your little one to dive in! Giving them somewhere to transfer the scoops of rice into will help with encouraging using the spoon!
Fork Practice (Spearing):
In a saucepan combine,
- 2 cups Plain Flour,
- 4 tablespoons Cream of Tartar,
- 1 cup Table Salt,
- 2 cups Water,
- 2 tablespoons Cooking Oil
- Food Colouring of choice.
Stir over medium heat in saucepan until mixture congeals. Rolling into little balls makes for easy spearing!
Tara Ient, Paediatric Occupational Therapist, first time mum and self confessed nerd about children’s play and development started @lets_play_charlie after having her first child Charlie and wanting to share the fun things they were getting up to with some OT developmental tips thrown in to support other mums!
You can follow Tara and Charlie on Instagram @lets_play_charlie