Blocks + Water = A Free Sensory Experience

164c52f3-1db3-4b12-832b-584e42f926edIt was “Day 1” of our new summer schedule. My little guy was thrilled to go outside and ride his bike/slide…until he decided he wanted to run back inside. I predicted that he wouldn’t automatically want to stay outside the whole time, so I was well-equipped (or so I thought) with another activity. Since dividing up his toys for toy rotation, I have specific containers for various types of blocks. These stay at the top of his closet until we get ready to pull them out. This helps them seem “new” and gives me lots more toys to rotate through. These specific blocks hadn’t been pulled out to be played with since our move AND they were plastic–aka easy to clean–so I thought they’d be the perfect tub to take with us outside!

Once I told him that we were staying outside longer today instead of running back and forth constantly through the house, I pulled out the blocks. He was excited and immediately began to play with them. He built towers, he knocked them over, he stacked them just to pull them a part again. He used them for pretend play; you can see him using them as a camera in the photo above. It was all going really well for about 10 minutes. Then, I could sense the boredom coming on. He began to get destructive and start to whine. My mom brain filled with dread. We still had 30 minutes of “outdoor play” scheduled at this point. I didn’t want to deal with tantrums and wanted this to be fun for him!

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Luckily, my toddler teacher brain kicked in and began to think of resources I had available that might interest him. If you know me (or anything much about child development) you know how much I support sensory play. The National Association for the Education of Young Children deems that sensory play is “essential to the classroom for higher-level learning.” There is an abundance of research that backs just how vital sensory learning is for children of all ages! (If you’re an early childhood teacher, read this short article for ideas, support, and research on sensory play in the early childhood classroom!) Even though I’m not working with Hassell in a classroom setting, the same research applies. I decided that I would fill the plastic tub holding the blocks with water. Water is an awesome sensory tool that we obviously have plenty of + we’re in southern Alabama. It’s hot, y’all. This is perfect for any mama to do at home, even with kids that are older. Check out all my reasonings why below…

 

Goals/Developmental Focuses/Benefits of this Activity:

  • Allows hands-on learning that creates a sensory experience for my toddler
  • Water play can be calming/soothing for all ages!
  • Introduces higher-level thinking concepts like volume and density
  • Aids in language development as we converse back and forth
  • Furthers creativity with open-ended play–>Children desperately need to work with materials that don’t have a given end result
  • Super easy clean-up!

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My Observations & Thoughts:

  • My toddler was immediately drawn to the idea of something new and “messy”! I didn’t have to try to pique his interest at all…he was thrilled from the start.
  • After we first added the water, he stuck his hands in immediately and began splashing around. This continued for about 2-3 minutes with no real “purpose”.
  • He continually looked up at me to smile or to gain approval. I feel this was because our activity was “messy”, and he was trying to gauge my reaction.
  • After the initial splashing phase, he began to really engage with the materials in several different ways. First, he filled the blocks with water and then dumped them out, back into the container. Next, he began pouring the water from one block to the next. Eventually, his play took a creative turn as he began to use the blocks for “coff-coff” (coffee). 
  • During this activity (about 20 minutes total, not including set-up or clean up), I did not have to use any redirection. He was focused and intent on his play. I was able to sit back and observe mostly, as I tried not to interrupt his work.

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Overall, I would highly recommend trying this at home! Especially if you have multiple children or need a play-date activity, this would be beneficial…as I feel like the children could share ideas and piggy-back off each other! In a future post, I will go more in detail on my thoughts about water play at home (which will be a big focus for us this summer), what water table we use specifically, and other things you can do at home for free! If you liked this post or found it helpful, I’d love to hear from you. Please feel free to share with your friends/other mamas and be sure to subscribe to my weekly newsletter–that way, you won’t miss any highlights or giveaways! As always, have a wonderful week!

 

Resources:

https://www.naeyc.org/resources/blog/importance-sand-and-water-play

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