The Magic of Sensory Play with Incy Wincy Fingers
Fine motor and sensory experiences that provide opportunities for active exploration and stimulation of children's senses through play are vital for healthy brain development.
By Incy Wincy Fingers founder, Renee Zigic
Hear the whimsical sweet sounds of the creatures and insects mysteriously dancing around from branch to branch, exploring and searching for their place in the world. Likewise, our precious little humans constantly question and delve into play experiences with a pure, open mind and innocence. We could describe our youngsters similarly to the Normandy dairy cows who roam and graze freely on the luscious pastures of the terroir (a French word for unique natural environment).
Come on a journey through farms, fields and paddocks and watch your children’s eyes light up as they feel the sensation of gooey, icky (taste-safe) mud while their imaginations run wild into farm life.
Step 1 — Read
Create a shared experience of reading and engage with a farm-related story. Favourite stories such as ‘The Little Red Hen’, ‘Mrs Wishy Washy’, ‘What the Ladybird Heard’, and who could forget the all-time favourite of ‘Old Macdonald Had a Farm’. We love to read out in the garden on a picnic blanket amongst the sweet-smelling grass. This helps to set the scene of what is to come next.
The benefits of reading to children are many, such as: exposing them to new sounds and words; showing them the value of books and stories; and allowing them to use their imaginations and stimulate their innate curiosity. Invite your children to read along with you and make the sounds of the animals using the language from the text. I can hear the belly laughs and giggles from here.
Step 2 — Sensory Experience
Tray 1 — Taste-Safe Muddy Oobleck
In a tray or container of your choice add:
300g of corn flour
3 tablespoons of cocoa powder
1 cup of water (add as much water as you would like to create a gooey mud puddle!)
Add and stir some farm animals into the mud to re-enact the story that you read together. The amazing thing about this simple concoction is that when you pick it up in your hands, it is a solid and then when it slides off it turns into a liquid. Now that’s mind-blowing!
Tray 2 — Scrubbing Day
Fill another tub with water and a few pumps of dishwashing liquid. Add a scrubbing brush or old toothbrush. Watch your little ones scrub the farm animals while splashing and feeling the bubbles pop around them.
• Engage your child by celebrating their explorations and successes. For example, ‘Oh wow! You scrubbed all the mud off the duck’s feathers. Great scrubbing!’
• Question them. ‘Why did the pig jump in the mud? How does the mud feel? Is it slippery? Is it cold?’ Encourage your little explorer to repeat after you.
• Model rich language in full sentences. ‘Oh, the pig jumped in the mud. It feels so warm in that squelchy mud.’
• Give them time to answer and make mistakes. All part of those super-important skills of building resilience and persistence.
Tray 3 — Create a small farm world with magic sand
Add sand or kinetic sand to a small tub or container. Have you ever felt kinetic sand or what I like to call ‘Magic Sand’? There are so many benefits for toddlers from sensory activities, such as encouraging creative thinking and pretend play, to increasing attention and brain development from all the squeezing, rolling and pocking. The soft and smooth texture of kinetic sand and deep pressure from pushing creates a sense of calm for our little ones.
Add some farm animal figurines.
Add rocks, leaves, twigs from outside.
Add some type of tool such as scoops, tongs or spoons. Fine-motor workout right there!
Use icy pole sticks, building blocks or anything hiding in your toy box to create a paddock. Feel free to add puzzle piece letters to incidentally incorporate vocabulary from the story you read such as ‘farm, mud, pig’ etc.
Step 3 — Share & Reflect
Now it’s time to draw or paint a picture of the play experience. Various writing tools such as pencils, textas, crayons, paint brushes, rollers and cotton buds can be used. I tend to choose one option at a time to ensure that I don’t over-stimulate my little ones. However, I have often found that they love to engage with a specific theme over a few days. So, for example, they may draw a picture one day and decide to paint on the mirror or easel the next.
Accompany the picture that your child has created with a written sentence. Ask them the simple question, “Tell me about your picture”.
In the midst of the unforgettable mud squeezing and stomping in the remnants of play, remember to question and actively listen to your little humans. For you, the benefits will be supporting your children and helping you to remember the precious times when you were able to roam free and play, just as the Normandy dairy cows do on the luscious pastures of their terroir.
For more tips on ways to connect with your children when playing together click here.