Serving Granbury and Greater Texas

Willow Mark Therapy PLLC

Willow Mark Therapy PLLC

Serving Granbury and Greater Texas


Sensory Play: Not just to Combat Boredom

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We specialize in providing support for adults and teens that are struggling through self-esteem, anxiety and relationships issues.

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               Maggie Stephan  LPC

I do not know about the rest of you parents out there, but I think my daughter made it about one hour into summer break before I heard the words “I am bored, there is nothing to do”. I often receive a sigh when I remind her that “boredom and creativity cannot exist in the same place”, something she has probably heard me say the majority of her life (she is eight, so we are just getting into the “mom you are such a therapist” phase). That is truly one of my favorite things about sensory play, is that it in fact presents an invitation to my children to get creative, and a little messy. 

Now I will start with the benefits to a parent because the fact remains, that these invitations to create often come with a tiny bit of set up and quite a bit of clean up. I will say however, that they have provided me with an uninterrupted adult conversation, an opportunity to dry my hair without having to turn it off to break up any sibling arguments, and once or twice, even a hot cup of coffee. 

Probably more importantly and more impressive though, are the benefits that these sensory opportunities present for our children. According to the Cleveland Clinic- sensory play addresses both the proprioceptive and vestibular sensory systems. Our proprioceptive involves the awareness of one’s body and body parts. Our children learn about the strength and force of how they move objects as well as the cause and effect of actions such as pushing, pulling, pinching, and lifting. For example, when my son was small I used to freeze some of his toys in a block of ice, he then was able to use a hammer, warm water, or some form of chisel to break them out. In this activity he would learn about the force needed to crack the ice but need to find the balance to not hit too hard and break his toys (bonus for a lesson on self control). Our vestibular sense is more about our own body’s movement and balance. Riding a bike is a great example of this, our children are learning about the motion to keep the momentum of the bike moving forward by peddling, while also learning how to hold their body and keep the movement constant enough to balance the bicycle. 

Another benefit to sensory play is the development of language, social skills, and cognitive growth for children. We used to, and sometimes still do, use oobleck (a slime like substance that is 1 part water and 1 part cornstarch) with farm animals or ocean animals. This involved my daughter creating relationships between the animals, they would speak to each other, build friendships, while she learned the skills of storytelling. In order to create an imaginative world, a child must think about how things operate and relate to one another within that world. She had to consider what animals were friends and what those friendships would involve, which simultaneously presented her with questions to consider of her own friendships and what they may have involved or what rules they may follow. She also needed to consider the feelings of those animals within the situations she created for them and how the other animals would react to one of those animals. For example, once there was a shark in her oobleck world, but he felt bad that all the other animals were scared of him and so one of the other fishes befriended him and showed empathy for how he felt. That fish then introduced him to the other animals in this imaginary world. 

I realize, to some,  this may seem like it overcomplicates the idea of play. To our kids sensory play may just be about the excitement when they add vinegar to baking soda, or it may be a fun reason to make a mess of mom’s kitchen table and that is completely okay. This article is for the parents who are curious and may just need a reminder why the setup is worth it, or to fuel the motivation for the clean up that comes after. 

Some of our favorite forms of sensory play over the years have included:

*Playdough and cookie cutters

*Toys or pompoms frozen in ice with hammers, chisels, and water droppers to rescue them

*Oobleck (1 part cornstarch 1 part water)

*Moon sand (baby oil and flour)

*Kinetic sand

*Water beads/orbeez 

*Painted rice with toys thrown in, add tongs/spoons etc (To paint rice add rice and a few squirts of paint into a ziplock bag. Make sure the bag is closed and let your child shake it until it is well mixed)

*Finger painting

*Fizzies (baking soda and food coloring then use droppers to add vinegar gradually)

Jennifer caudle, lpc
founder of willow mark therapy pllc

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