These sensory bags made using gel are wonderful for using our senses of touch and sight, and combine especially well with the sunshine. Here’s how to make them and ideas for using them for sensory play activities.
Sensory bags for babies, toddlers and beyond
When I think back to the ways I learnt how to spell as a child, there was no fun or creative play involved. We got list of ten words every week, we copied them, we copied them, we copied them again, and then we had a test on a Friday to see how well we could remember them. We also had to put our hands up to show the whole class our scores, so if you hadn’t remembered that many it was pretty miserable.
But learning how to spell doesn’t have to be like that. Here are ten ways we learn spellings in our house – with lots of creativity and fun and jumping around involved.
There are lots of different ways that children learn and these spelling activities cover a range of preferred learning styles: visual/spacial, auditory, kinesthetic… If your child has a very strong learning preference trying out these ideas might help you discover a way that’s just right for them (it’s helped enormously in our house). In any case, all children can benefit from learning through a variety of ways, using all their senses, mixing things up a little so it doesn’t get boring, and maybe even enjoying learning how to spell.
The activities may take a few minutes longer to set up then just grabbing a pencil and paper but we’ve found they are a whole lot more fun – and effective – than just copying out the words.
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This maths game combines crafting, turn taking and a bit of science as well as the chance to work on counting and number ordering. It’s easy to create the materials for the game and you can adapt it to suit whichever set of numbers you’re working on – or make a set with letters if you want to practise the alphabet.
You’ll need to start by making a set of fish.
1. Cut out some fish shapes from some coloured card and let the children decorate them. Leave a space on each one to add a number.
2. Fill in the numbers on each fish. We start out with numbers 1-10 but you can add more, or perhaps use 10, 20, 30… depending on which number sequence you’d like to play with.
3. To make a magnetic version you can add a metal paperclip near the mouth of each fish. You can then use a magnetic fishing rod (which you can make by trying a magnet to a piece of string) to go fishing for your number letters.
How to play:
- Place the fish, number side up, on the floor, in a hoop or in a bucket. Or make an undersea landscape picture for them to swin in.
- The easiest version of the game is to practise your hand-eye co-ordination and just let the children go fish. See if they can recognise the numbers on each fish they catch. Encourage the children to co-operate and take turns with the fishing rod.
- You can aim to catch the fish in ascending or descending number order, or just see which ones they catch and arrange them into a sequence once they’ve all been caught.
- Tell the children you had ten fish when you started and, as they catch the fish, ask them if they can work out how many more must be left in the pond.
- You can try some sums too. Pick a number, say 3, and then catch a fish. Can you add the number on the fish to your starting number of 3? (you might like to use a number line to help work this out). Or have the children catch two fish and see if they can add their numbers together.
- If you have an older sibling playing along they can practise their number bonds. If they catch a 3, what number do they need to add to get to ten? They could work on times tables too.
As an alternative, you can make version of the fish with letters instead of numbers. When they catch a fish you can see if the children can say the sound of the letter they have. Can they think of something that starts with that letter? Can they find something in the room that starts with the letter?
We like to use this game to make numbers (and letters) fun and have the children approach learning them in a playful way. How do you add numbers to your play?
What’s a sensory tub? Basically it’s a box of goodies that children can explore. They’re easy to put together using things from around the home and give the children lots of touchy, feely, exploring possibilities. There’s a lot of science, maths and hand-eye co-ordination that’s incorporated too. If you’d like to make one all you need to do is:
- Grab a tub: a washing up bowl, a cardbaord box, a storage box. You need something which is large enough for your children to get their hands inside so they can have a good dig around and with sides high enough to hold the contents but low enough so your children can sit beside the box and reach inside easily.
- Add a main ingredient: water, sand, cotton wool balls, dry pasta, oat flakes, shredded paper are all great options. You want something which is interesting to feel and manipulate.
- Mix in some treasures. It’s always fun to hide things inside the tub for the children to discover: ice cubes in water, little toys, fir cones and shells.
- Have some tools on hand. Sometimes children need nothing more than a tub of water to splash about in but you can extend the play and learning possibilities if you provide some items they can use with the tub. Scoops and spoons for digging, buckets and pans to fill, ice cube and dip trays for sorting, jugs for pouring, tongs or a fishing net for picking up.
- Let the children play. The idea is to provide a tub of interesting textures, shapes and sounds and let the children explore. Sit back and observe them play and notice how they chose to investigate the tub. Are they interested in pouring, or counting, or collecting? You can chat to them while they play and look at the things they discover but sometimes I think it’s good to sit back and let the children lead the way.
Do you have any favourite ingredients for sensory tubs?