J’s favorite activity is playing in sensory trays. He gets so excited when he sees it and will play with it for the longest time….like 20 minutes…and that’s forever in toddler time.
WHY do a sensory tray?
I’ve recently had one Mom ask me why I do sensory trays with J and what the purpose was. Well, here’s the breakdown. Sensory trays help enhance all the senses and it provides a wonderful self-directed play time. It also helps with the development of creativity, fine motor skills, and cognitive development. Another perk is that it helps build self-esteem!
Think about it…
Today J took a bunch of dry beans and put them inside a cylinder container and then poured all the beans into another cup. That may not seem like a big deal to an adult, but J thought it was the best thing ever. He learned that he was able to make a plan, try it, and succeed at it. Isn’t that what builds confidence in all of us…making a plan, trying, and then succeeding!?
Plus, if you’re anything like me, having your child sitting and engaged in something for 20 minutes is heaven!
So….HOW do you do a sensory tray?
First of all, sensory trays can be used for pretty much any age…starting at infancy. Just make sure that the objects are age appropriate (like no choking hazards for babies).
Use any container that you wish. I’ve used tubberware boxes and cardboard boxes. My favorite box is the white dishwashing tub I found a Target super cheap. You don’t need anything special, just any ol’ box will do.
Sensory trays are probably the easiest thing to do with your children. You can put anything you want into the tray! Most of the time I look around the house and see what I already have laying around that would be good in the box.
Most of my trays follow some sort of theme
BLUE TRAY - rice, blue beads, blue construction paper, blue and white pom poms, blue pipe cleaners, blue foam stars, a blue magnet I had, and a blue chip clip.
RED TRAY - red beans, red hearts, white pom poms, red pipe cleaners, red bowl, and red letters.
WHITE TRAY - Pasta, white dog bones, foam stars, pom poms, white pipe cleaners, paper plate, and navy beans in a white container.
DINOSAUR TRAY - navy beans, foam dinosaur shapes, 2 small bowls, marbles, and pasta.
FARM ANIMAL TRAY - oats, rake, bowls, easter eggs, and farm animals from a puzzle.
HALLOWEEN TRAY - black beans, bouncy ball eyeballs, bat rings, spider rings, marbles, plastic skeletons, orange foam bucket…I added a cylinder container later.
AUTUMN NATURE TRAY - leaves and pine straw we picked up on our nature walk, and fall colored feathers.
SAND TRAY - sand from our sandbox, shovel, marbles, and bowls.
WATER TRAY - I dyed the water in this one red, but I’ve also done others where I added soap for bubbles, or done them just plain. Add cups, measuring spoons, things that sink or float. The ideas on endless on this one.
RICE TRAY - rice, beads, measuring spoons
DIRT TRAY - planting soil and cars
Some other ideas are:
-Playdough (or any kind of gooey dough)
-Paper and scissors
You can seriously add whatever you want. It’s a great way for you to get creative too!
WHERE do you do a sensory tray?
Anywhere you want!
There can be a bit of a mess factor, so you might want to take that into consideration before picking a spot. I usually do them in J’s high chair or booster seat. There’s no good reason for this…it’s just where we do it. As you can see from the examples, I’ve also done them on the floor. It could be fun to do them outside as well. Outside is also a good place if you mind the mess that these can sometimes make.
The most important thing about picking a place is that you want to make sure that the child is able to fully explore the tray. Make sure that’s not too tall that he can’t see or reach everything inside the box.
NOW…go out there, get creative, and make a sensory tray! They are the best things ever…in my opinion.