7 ways to help your child engage in sensory play with little to no effort

At what point is one considered a blogger? Is it after they’ve written one blog post? Or five? I’ve always thought I could consider myself a blogger after I had written a post with a number in the title, “## ways to improve your life.” Well friends, today is the day. Today is the day that I become an official blogger. 7 ways to help your child engage in sensory play with little to no effort.

1. Follow their lead

Children have an amazing ability to sense and fill their curiosities. “What does dog food taste like?” “What does yogurt feel like when it’s in my hair?” “What does my body feel like when I spin and spin and spin?”

Think about it. So much of our job as parents is to help our children learn to stop following all of their instincts. (It’s probably not appropriate to show up to the office with yogurt in your hair). However, when talking about sensory-play, we can use these curiosities to our advantage. When your child is interested in gross motor play like spinning, encourage other play in this area. Find a merry-go-round. Play on different types of swings. Roll down a hill. When your child is interested in messy fine-motor play, make slime, play in the mud, or bake bread together.

As parents, we do so much of this instinctively. It’s fun to connect with our children on their level. You’re doing the right thing! Follow their lead.

2. Let mealtime be messy.

I’m letting out all of the secrets here. This is a three-for-one. Baby learns to feed himself. Baby gets the ‘sensory’ experience she needs. Mom gets to drink her coffee while it’s hot. Y’all. Talk about liberating.

3. Encourage focused downtime.

Take your kids to a library activity. Or to Bible class. Or sit and read multiple books in a row. Believe it or not, this is a necessary sensory experience, and one that allows your children to learn what to do when some of their sensory systems are quiet. Please don’t wait for preschool to help your child learn to sit. Do your child, yourself, and the schoolteachers a favor, and begin to teach this skill when they are itty-bitty. Baby steps, Mama. A few minutes when you can.

4. Make mud pies.

Full disclosure. This one requires a little more effort on the cleanup side. But totally worth it. Get your pie tins for $0.75 a pop and give your kids the blessing of a lifetime memory. Every one remembers making mud pies, right? Don’t forget your plastic fork for when they want you to “try” every pie they make.

5. Be hands-off

Make yourself a glass of sweet-tea. Take the children to the backyard. Find your favorite place to sit, and get comfortable. Let the children play.

The brains of children are truly incredible. Marvel at their interests, their problem solving, their imagination, and their focus to perfect skills. Yes, many times our motherly/fatherly input is necessary. At times, we need to be hands-on with suggestions on how to play and what to or what not to do, but don’t neglect the value of free play.

6. Spend time together in the kitchen

This is another activity that is beneficial on multiple factors. Humanity has a long history of bonding around food. The same is true for families who spend time together in the kitchen and around the dinner table. This family tradition can start for even the tiniest of family members. As you prepare dinner, give baby some pots and pans to explore. Help your toddler scoop and poor ingredients. Teach your school-aged children to read a recipe. Make elaborate and creative meals with your teen.

Combine play and work. Gather around the table and enjoy the company of one another.

7. You do you.

This is one of those cliché concepts scattered about the Internet right now. When talking about helping our children to live sensationally, the “you do you,” concept definitely applies.

Example: I’m serious about my coffee, so I much prefer to let my son feed himself breakfast, even if I have to clean up a half-gallon of yogurt out of his hair after breakfast is over. My husband, on the other hand, will very tactfully feed the baby if he can avoid having to do any cleanup.

When I am home with our son, the house is typically quiet. When my husband is home, he has the TV running while he is playing guitar and watching a youtube video on his phone.

No matter our sensory preferences, we have to learn to adapt so that we can function in a world that is not always in our control. Again, give your children opportunities for sensory exploration, and they will naturally learn to adapt to their ever-changing sensory environment.