Nature Inspired Sensory Play
There's a certain simple and powerful beauty in the softness of a freshly uncurled leaf, the frost on the windows in winter, taking off your shoes and feeling the earth squish between your toes as you walk over soil, grasses and small plants. In our home we are constantly looking for ways to give our girls meaningful sensory experiences. Experiences connected to knowledge, history, a skill, a person.
How sweet the sensation of skin to skin with a newborn baby is - these early sensory experiences of running your fingers over their little body, allowing them to feel the warmth of your skin, the cooler air around you, perhaps even to hear your breath, and feel the slight rhythm of your pulse. We are so willing in those early days to full iommerse ourselves in this experience.
And then your baby is able to sit, and you place them down in fresh dewy grass as watch them as they marvel in the experience of running their tiny hands along the blades of grass, and practice their coordination as they focus on a tiny wood chip, fallen leaves, or little pebbles decorating the grass beneath them.
They become old enough to ride in a bike seat and they experience the thrill of the cool evening air passing quickly past their cheeks and centrifugal force pulling their bodies outwards as you fly around bends. Maybe by this point, we feel ourselves disconnecting from these experiences and taking them for granted. I hope that I can inspire you to open up once again.
As Isla entered toddlerhood, she had more skills to communicate, and had developed more patience, allowing us to dig deeper into new sensations. The range of sensory experiences I offered her became more polarized. BIG, exciting experiences like riding her scooter, sailing on the great lakes, and feeling the freedom and venerability that comes from jumping into a pool on her own, head under the water, and then finally bobbing up for air. These were on one end of the spectrum. And smaller, more subtle experiences like trying out a new melon and comparing it to melons we knew like watermelon, honeydew, and cantaloupe. How did if feel in our mouths. Was it sweeter, softer, more gritty? Asking her to stick her sticker her fingers into our plant's soil and let me know which ones felt dry. Listening to and moving our bodies to music from all over the world and feeling the beat, the emotion, the story in the rhythm.
I often see sensory play activities that are focused around a quick thrill, using materials that you would never interact with otherwise.
"Let the children be free. Encourage them. Let them run outside when it's raining. Let them remove their shoes when they find a puddle of water and when the grass of the meadows is damp with dew, let them run on it and trample it with their bare feet." - M. Montessori
Sensory play has an opportunity to be something meaningful. A way to connect with and explore each other, nature and emotions. Perhaps next time you find yourself Pinteresting "rainy day sensory play", you'll instead stand back and feel what sensory experiences are already there in your environment. Maybe you'll leave the rain boots and home and splash barefoot in puddles. Perhaps you'll bring out some containers, flip them upside down, allowing the rain to patter on them, and dance to the rhythm of the water's beat. Or once the rain has passed, you might each bring out cups and see who can fill their's first from the water pooled on leaves and flowers.
If you're looking for some direction, the book "How to be an explorer of the world" by Keri Smith might be just what you need to help you SEE and experience the world around you and share that with the little ones in your life.
There is something so magical about catching each other's eyes when you experience something simple and thrilling together. Wishing you many little ah-has, ooohs, and wide-eyed moments together.
Looking for learning materials that also encourage sensory play? Our botanical illustrated number cards are perfect for forest scavenger hunts, sorting and counting games outdoors, or maybe just simply sitting on a hammock in the breeze, chatting about the illustrations and thinking of memories that relate to each one.