Dig Your Hands In and Satisfy Your Senses | Sensory Play at Home and at DCM - DuPage Children's Museum

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Dig Your Hands In and Satisfy Your Senses | Sensory Play at Home and at DCM

January 9, 2016

By: Alix Tonsgard | Early Learning Specialist & Michelle Gonzalez | Assistant Public Programs Manager

Childhood is often loud and messy, and while it may seem that this is the case merely to test our patience, noisy, messy play has developmental significance. Children learn best and retain the most information when they are actively exploring their environments as well as the materials in them in ways that engage their senses. Sensory play includes any activity that engages any of your child’s senses: touch, smell, taste, sight, and hearing. By providing children with open-ended sensory play activities, you are helping to develop and refine their cognitive, physical, social/emotional, language and creative expression skills.

At DCM we are intentional in providing sensory experiences both in our exhibits and in our programming. For example, in an upcoming program we will be working with shaving cream and giving children tools such as assorted paint brushes, with the intention of supporting the development of eye hand coordination and fine motor skills that are important precursors to writing. Shaving cream snow painting, as well as all other Studio programs, are designed with children’s natural curiosity in mind. As all things DCM, there are many ways to do this activity, and there is no right or wrong way. This approach builds a child’s confidence and self-esteem which in turn supports their ability to concentrate, plan, and problem solve.

At Home

Here’s something you can try at home virtually mess-free—explore new foods and recipes with your child by creating your own healthful treat to try. Watch your child’s reaction to the new food (facial expression or movements). Don’t forget to ask your child, “How does it taste?” Cooking experiences give children the opportunity to explore their world using all of their senses.

Ready for a little mess? Try making scented play dough. (See the recipe below.) The process of measuring the ingredients is an excellent opportunity to include math language, and while mixing the ingredients you can build scientific inquiry skills by talking about the ways the ingredients are changing!

Scented Playdough

  • 1 Cup Flour
  • ½ Cup Salt
  • 2 Teaspoons Cream of Tartar
  • 1 Tablespoon Cooking Oil
  • 2 Tablespoons Cocoa Powder
  • 1 Cup Boiling Water

Mix together flour, salt, oil, and cocoa powder; add the cup of boiling water. Mix well with a wooden spoon. When it begins to form into dough, continue to knead with your hands. Store in a sealed container or zip lock bag.

At the Museum

As winter begins to wind down (hopefully!) we’ll start to say goodbye to the snow with our First Friday Studio Sensation happening at the museum on Friday February 5th. Stop by The Studio between 5-7:30pm and make a shaving cream snow painting! We’ll mix the shaving cream with some glue to create some ‘puffy paint’ to use. To create their wintery picture children can paint with a variety of paint brushes or use their hands to create a sensory experience as well as their puffy work of art (smocks always available!).

Join us on two more Fridays this month to enjoy some more projects that will keep your child’s little hands busy. On the evening of Friday February 12th, practice some fine motor skills when we make homemade cards. Your child can use scissors, glue, and markers to create a card for a special someone. At the end of the month on February 26th starting at 5:00pm, come to The Studio to roll, stamp, and sculpt some dough to create a flour figurine in the tradition of Mian Ren folk art.