Monday, September 16, 2013

Welcome Fall Sensory Box

Ok, ok, I know it's not officially Fall yet, however it sure seems to be Fall.  The weather is crisp when we wake up in the morning, apple cider is for sale, and I am starting to see pumpkins pop up everywhere.  As far as this household is concerned Fall has arrived.

This mama is super tired lately and just can't seem to muster up enough energy to get much done.  Just looking at my to-do list makes me yawn.  Pair that exhaustion with an un-eager homeschooler (O not Me) and we need to scratch the big projects and go for a few simple activities.  This is not to say we aren't hitting major school topics with our homeschooling.  We ease ourselves into the reading, writing,  and arithmetic by starting with something like this in the morning.  Easier transitions for both mama and child.  

Enter the Sensory Box.  Before our whirlwind adventure of joining the military we used sensory boxes All.The.Time.  It is a sneaky way to get in learning and have fun.  Before you say, 'but what about the mess' every person I talk to that actually uses them says that they really don't have a mess to clean up.  Set strict boundaries in the beginning, and expect the toys to stay in the box, and generally speaking children want to please their parents so it works.  I like to use bins with pretty high sides (at least 4 inches) and if you and your children are just starting out, don't overfill the box.  If you look at ours, we have about an inch of beans in a 4 inch tall container.

Now that O is older, I let her help choose the items we put in (as in would you like metal measuring cups or plastic measuring cups?).  She also gets to help actually putting the items in the container.  She likes staging the items, so all the sorting and what-not that you see is all her.  I used to do that when I would present it to her, so she likes to make it look as beautiful as she can when she makes hers.

Step 1:  Fill the container with something.  It could be beans (these work great because they are big and easy to clean up), rice (can be colored and lots of fun for sifting), pasta (lots of shapes/sizes to choose from and can also be colored), coffee grounds (I can't bear to use such an expensive item on a sensory box, but it sure would smell lovely in your house), salt, sand, etc.

Step 2:  Add the fun items.  Scoops and measuring is what we are working on in this box.  In the past, I have done a letter theme using colored alphabet pasta and added anything and everything I could find around the house that started with a particular letter (think cookie cutters and mini plastic pieces like the toob animals, raid the toy box).  Color themes are also a fairly easy theme for toddlers.  

We have some wood leaves painted in fall colors, and several bowls and containers for her to sort the items in.  We also had large and small wooden acorns we added.  She had to count out 10 large ones and 20 small ones to add.  If you want, you can get pretty elaborate with these things.  I like to keep mine pretty simple compared to what I have found online (ie Pinterest).  If you are just starting out, less is more.  Right now, O has just scoops and measuring items in hers.  As an extra incentive to keep things neat and tidy, in a week or so I add items if I don't have to remind her to clean up.  I will usually add a few wooden peg people or other items she enjoys playing with so she can have characters cook food and other pretend play.  We typically keep the same theme for the sensory box for about a month.  It depends on the interest and amount of energy this Mama has.  

Step 3:  O helped with this part of the project.  We traced the measuring cups, measuring spoons, and scoops.  Next we cut them out, glued them to some heavy duty paper, and labeled them.  
She is doing school work and doesn't even realize it.  All of these things are using fine motor control, pincer grip (good for strengthening little hands to write well), and cognitive development (she is writing her letters, learning to associate the labels with the pictures, not to mention organizing all those tools by color)

Here, you can see our finished paper for her to place measuring cups and spoons on, when she is not using them.  I told her the names of the cups, and she figured out rather quickly that it takes 4 scoops of the 1/4 cup to fill the 1 cup.  I love when she is exploring and discovers things on her own.  It sticks with her so much better than if I told her that you need 4 scoops to equal 1 cup.

The finished product as O wanted it displayed.

So there we have it, day 1 of easy to make activities for children.
In theory, (as in if I have the energy) I plan on doing a few more homeschool posts the rest of the week.

Do you have easy go-to activities for your children when you are tired or have a lot going on?  I would love to hear your ideas!  :)

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