Play

Play at Home: Sensory Treasure Boxes

Sensory Treasure Boxes

I knew that having kids would unleash the arts and crafts lover inside me. Pasta shapes, glitter glue, pipe cleaners, PVA – I love all that stuff. Give me some yarn to make a pompom and I’m in heaven. I told you all this sensory stuff was as much for my benefit as the twins’ a couple of weeks ago and I really meant it.

So, while I got out and about to classes pretty early after the babies were born (so important in keeping me sane!), I missed a spot at the local Baby Sensory class because it’s always in such high demand and of course we needed two spaces. The course was on my hit list during pregnancy thanks to my sister’s recommendation but our local area is mummy central so you gotta be quick off the mark. We did eventually start in July, so all was not lost, but in the meantime I wanted to do a bit of sensory stuff at home with the girls to get them started. I put these boxes together at 8 weeks, having seen some similar ones on Pinterest and having read all about the benefits in the only parenting book I bothered with – The Gentle Parenting Book: How to raise calmer, happier children from birth to seven by Sarah Ockwell-Smith. 

Sensory Treasure Boxes

Treasure Boxes (often called baskets) are just simple containers filled lots of objects for little ones to feel and explore. Apparently a treasure box with some natural bits in is best, because while bright, clashing colours and manmade textures are stimulating, studies say that babies and small children actually respond better to and learn more from natural materials and muted colours. From my research, I concluded that mix of everyday objects and a few things a little out of the ordinary should do the trick nicely. 

In simple terms, kids learn through their senses, so treasure boxes provide a wonderland of things to look at, feel, smell, listen to and taste. The stimulation they get from what they play with helps them make connections in their brain and gives them an opportunity to learn and remember, applying what they’ve learnt to their experiences going forward. Studies say that watching a baby play with a treasure box gives us an insight into how their physical, cognitive, emotional and communication skills are developing. Putting items in twos and threes is also proven to help develop numeracy skills. It’s advised that as adults we leave them to it, so when the girls and I get these out, I just offer help when it’s needed – that way they can learn to rely on their instincts instead of being spoonfed.

Nina’s Box:

– a handful of coloured feathers
– a small measuring spoon
– a cork
– half a sponge
– a pompom
– a wooden dinosaur
– pasta shapes
– a foam “N”
– two pipe cleaners – one glittery, one plain
– a pebble from the beach where Grandma & Gramps live
– a string of pompoms
– an interesting ribbon from a gift

Sensory Treasure Boxes

Ada’s Box:

– a handful of coloured feathers
– a measuring spoon
– a cork
– half a sponge
– a pompom
– a wooden dinosaur
– pasta shapes
– a foam “A”
– two pipe cleaners – one glittery, one plain
– a shell from the beach Grandma & Gramps live
– a string of pompoms
– an interesting ribbon from a gift

Our boxes are Wham Boxes from Staples (£5.29 for 4) and the initial letter stickers for the box lids were found by the checkout in Topshop!

For me, it was important that the boxes I made for Nina and Ada were slightly different. We try never to match the girls, as we’re keen to help them develop their own personalities and independence as they get older (especially now most school separate twins into different classes from Reception). Where possible I always pick different colours for them, and if possible a different design (like with the dinos). When the twins play with these together they interact with each other and borrow items from each other’s boxes too – double the fun. It’s great to watch them discovering each other as well as the stuff in the boxes!

Sensory Treasure Boxes

Examples of other stuff you could add to your box:

– pine cones
– conkers
– cloth or fabric scraps
– leaves
– fruit
– keys
– bells or shakers
– hair rollers
– scrunchies
– comb
– toothbrush
– rubber duck

and loads more… get creative! I find it’s best to get these out when the girls are fed and rested, to maximise the time they spend playing. Obviously some of the bits are small so they should never play with these unsupervised either. If you get boxes which fasten tightly, they’re great to travel with too and can provide up to about an hour of quiet time when you’re out and about.

What do think? Fancy giving it a go? Let me know how you get on in the comments or over on Twitter @whipuntilfluffy. Happy playing!

Play at Home: Hot Weather Sensory Fun

Play at Home: Hot Weather Sensory Fun

Coping with babies in a heatwave is no fun. This week has consisted of relentlessly trying to keep one room as a “cool zone” by blocking out all the glorious sunshine and basically sitting in the dark half of the day. Then there’s worrying about whether they’ve got too many layers on while you’re out and about, and then come bedtime glaring at the sad face on the Gro Egg like it’s your worst enemy. I’ve spent most of this week wishing the hot weather would just do one and praying for that familiar overcast sky with its intermittent drizzle to make its comeback.

We stayed in on Wednesday so I started thinking about some activities that could keep the girls cool. Going outside isn’t really an option for us – our garden is an overgrown, gravelly, concrete mess, plus there’s coating the babies in suncream to worry about – so we took to our conservatory with the fan on full and the back door open. The girls have never been swimming, generally because I can’t do a swimming class on my own with two and the weekend sessions are so busy we’ve not made it down for a family trip yet, but they love their nightly bath so I figured a little water play would be fun.

I love doing sensory play at home because it mostly consists of stuff we already have, plus it gives me the opportunity to flex my creative muscles – trust me, it’s about 75% for my benefit and 25% for the little ones. We all find it really fun, it doesn’t cost much and it whiles away a good few hours, also allowing the girls to discover something they never have before. It seems to be the everyday stuff that babies find the most interesting anyway, things like pebbles and feathers, so there’s no need to spend loads of cash. 

I’m not kidding either, I seriously love this stuff. Before I start, I tend to browse Pinterest for some inspo (mostly for guidance on what’s safe at what age etc, although instinct and knowing your own kids comes in handy there too) and then I run with a theme depending on what I have available to me. This week I did a whole session with tubs and toys and all sorts, but I love sensory bottles and bags too – they’re really fun, can travel with you and the girls love ’em. 

For this week’s play the first thing I did was lay down our big Lamaze Take N Tidy Play Mat. It’s a good base for messy play as it’s easy to clean and dries out really quickly, plus it has it’s own features to keep the babies happy like ribbon tabs and textured parts. It also folds up and turns into some sort of magic bag which you can store stuff in so it’s a pretty good space saver. I’d recommend it, especially if you travel a lot or you’re always round at Grandma’s. 

To that I added a big tupperware of cool water, and sat it on top of a square piece of foil. The foil adds a bit of crinkly fun for fingers and toes while they explore the water tub. Our bath thermometer happens to be a blue whale so I chucked that in too. For the ice pool, I just used the top of a large cake tin. We have an ice machine as part of our fridge so that part was easy for me and I kept topping it up as time went on, although Nina especially was puzzled by how the ice kept disappearing. 

For another sensory element I added a bubble machine that I picked up at Tesco last week – it cost around £6 and I’m sure we’ll use it on plenty of occasions yet so that was an investment well made. I used foam bath letters to spell out the word “Ocean”, the girls love these in lots of different situations (they have their initials as part of their treasure boxes and a 1, 2, 3 in the bath!) they stick to stuff when they’re wet and they’re also safe to chew, which has really helped with teething over the past few weeks. I bought a bag of these a while back and have used them for all sorts of play since – mostly in sensory bags to practice tummy time, mixed with glitter, beads and googly eyes. 

I dotted the rest of the mat with anything remotely water-related we had – including some accessories from our Mama’s & Papa’s Tummy Time Octopus, a few hand bells and shakers, plus the sensory bottles my sister made my nephew and then passed on to us. I let the girls explore on their tummies first, and then when they got tired we flipped over on to our backs and I held up things to look at. I’m really looking forward to the girls sitting up so they can get even more stimulation out of all this stuff. Lastly, I used a spray bottle filled with water and misted the whole room every few minutes, just to make sure everyone was staying cool. This worked really well with the fan and definitely aleiviated the girls’ crabbiness for a few hours.

I’d totally recommend this for a fun, sensory activity on a quiet afternoon. It keeps the babies cool and would be as great outside on a patio (under a gazebo or umbrella) as it is indoors. Looking forward to trying different themes in the coming weeks! I heart maternity leave <3