So the entire Pinterest-parenting complex (new name I just made up: “Parenterest”; that’s a winner, people) is awash with ways to get your child into ‘sensory play.’ Working with children with disabilities and sensory needs means I work closely with Occupational Therapists (OTs) and see a lot of sensory play going on with my clients. And at work it’s all good. Things get messy, things get cleaned up, and the circle of life is complete. Om.
At home, it’s different. Because my husband and I are the cleaner uppers (and the everything elsers), and we do a lot of that cleaning up shit already and it’s all a bit much. Especially for him. I think he has a sub-clinical fear of mess. Some neurons in his brain fire in overdrive when he sees a dirty or messy child/situation that was entirely preventible. (Children who willfully throw food on the ground are his kryptonite, except they don’t weaken him so much as exasperate him on a whole new frequency.) So messy sensory play has to be my doing if it gets done at all, and to be honest I would much prefer minimal/no cleanup, myself. Enter sensory materials encased in a bag! Sensory bags!
You fill them with liquid or goop of some sort, you put some dazzling things inside, you seal that business up tight, and you give it to your kid to mush. No mess but most of the squishy experience. While little hands won’t get wet and goopy exploring in this way, they will still feel the weight, some of the texture/viscosity/malleability, and get to delight (yes, DELIGHT, I said it) in the colours, sparkles, lumps, or what-have-you inside.
Here are some I made yesterday.
A sparkly ocean-esque one. This one is filled with blue hair gel (get that at the dollar store so as to not waste any money on quality — it ain’t for your hair), some extra blue food colouring to jazz up the colour, a packet of blue sequins, a small packet of tiny pearl beads, and some blue/silver glitter.
This one is filled with yellowish body wash (again extra yellow food colouring for pizazz factor), some gold glitter, and some foam beads from the dollar store. They’re fairly thick beads which makes for good lumpy bits for little hands to move around.
- Insert materials (goop + fascinating things) into large freezer Ziplock bag
- Press all the air out and seal zipper tight
- Fold over zipper and tape down with clear packing tape & tape all four edges as well to reinforce
- Remove white Ziplock label with nail polish remover
- Insert into 2nd Ziplock bag, and again press out air, seal, and fold/tape down the zipped edge with packing tape
- Tape all four edges with duct tape (decorative is nice if you have access to it — I didn’t)
- Again remove label with nail polish remover
- Give it to your child who will delight in the sensory experience for under 10 minutes and then ignore it forever
Here are some ideas of things to fill your sensory bags with:
- hair gel
- aloe vera gel
- body wash or shampoo
- baby oil, food colouring, and water (the oil and coloured water don’t mix)
- shaving foam
- paint (for fun with colour mixing)
- sand and water
More ideas can be found over at Mama OT’s comprehensive list. They’re pretty quick and satisfying little crafty projects, I have to say. Dump things in a bag and seal it up; can’t get much easier than that.