By Jennifer Halter
Sensory play includes activities that encourage children to utilize their five senses: smell, touch, taste, hearing and sight. There are so many benefits of this sort of play, including promoting language development, enhancing motor skills and teaching problem solving. Incorporating sensory play into your child’s routine is beneficial at any time, but as cold weather, including snow, tends to keep us indoors a bit more this month, here are some suggested activities you can try to break up the winter boredom.
Too cold to play outside? Bring the snow indoors! Allow your child to touch the snow and ask them to describe how it feels. Use cups, scoops or cookie cutters to form various shapes. Use paint to color the snow and ask children to name the colors as they work. Set a timer and have a snowball making race. As the snow melts, have children describe how it changes form and the difference in how it feels. You can discuss how snow is made and why it melts (a great teaching moment for younger kids!).
Cloud Dough Snow
Worried about messiness but still want to have indoor snow play? Make your own cloud dough snow. There are many variations to cloud dough recipes that you can find online, but one of the easiest we’ve used is made by combining 4 cups of flour with 1/2 cup of vegetable oil. You can also add in extras, such as glitter, sprinkles and small gems to make your “snow” more festive. Note that you may have to add a bit more oil to maintain the consistency if you do mix-ins. The cloud dough will be moldable like snow and can be used in many of the same ways as shared above.
Hot Cocoa Bar
There’s nothing better than a mug of hot cocoa on a cold winter’s day. Create a special experience by having your own hot cocoa bar. You can use a variety of ingredients to add to your cup, including marshmallows, chocolate candies, whipped cream and peppermint sticks. Allow children to smell and touch each ingredient and describe what they observe. As you add items to the hot cocoa, children will be able to see how the ingredients change forms, such as marshmallows melting. The color of the cocoa may change as well depending on what is added. Then comes the fun part…tasting! Set up samples of each variety you make and have family members talk about the different tastes and choose their favorites.
Jennifer Halter ([email protected]) is the founder of Macaroni Kid in Woodbridge and Gainesville.