John Medina’s Brain Rules looks at 12 “rules” about our brains and how our brains function. The purpose of the rules is to understand how we learn and to help us learn better.
Medina’s Rule #12 is about exploration. He tells about how we learn through testing and experimentation, not by passively absorbing our environment. “Babies are the model of how we learn,” he writes. “Babies methodically do experiments on objects, for example, to see what they will do.”
While safety is always a concern with children, we can encourage children to explore the world around them. Naturally, they need to understand the need to test the world around them. Your child will learn about cats by experimenting: What does the cat feel like? What does the cat do when I touch it? What does the cat do when I pull its tail? What does the cat taste like?
Messy, sensory play stimulates children’s minds and imaginations because it allows children to explore how materials react and what they can do with different materials.
Certainly, clay, paint, and arts are great sensory activities. Art allows your child to imagine and create different forms from their head. Beyond this, any big box or toy store has plenty of science experiments, craft kits, and building sets to suit any child’s sensory play.
Another option is to search the internet for homemade clay, rubbery goop (http://www.learning4kids.net/list-of-sensory-play-ideas/), and cloud dough (http://handsonaswegrow.com/sensory-activities-for-kids/) for a few cool ideas. Making your own sensory material is a great way to build something that turns into sensory play!
But sensory activities do not need to come in a toy box or cost lots of money. You can find all sorts of sensory play around your home. And certainly, sensory play doesn’t need to be planned.
Quick reminder: Safety is always a concern. As much as children want to explore, keep in mind your individual child’s needs and capabilities.
Here are a few activities you might find around your house:
- Why do kids love playing in the mud? Who knows. But splashing around in the mud, wriggling your toes in the goop, and even making a few mud pies can be good for the spirit.
- Sand. Even if you don’t have a sandbox, you can buy a bag of sand and put it in a flat plastic container and put it outside. Even better if you have a lid to store it! No need for special sand toys—find a plastic bowl and some measuring spoons. These will work fine.
- Wet noodles. You and your kids can make a mess with a little food coloring and any shape of noodle. Mash them with your fingers or squish them in a plastic bag.
- Mess box. Find an empty mint box (like Altoids or IceBreakers) or some other small container with a lid. Add some goopy, smelly stuff like lotion or dish soap or toothpaste. Mix. Put your nose inside and smell.
- Summer ice castle. Fill an empty plastic bowl with water and maybe some food coloring. Repeat as many times as you have room in the freezer. Freeze. Stack your ice bricks outside with rocks and whatever you can find. Hurry before it melts.
Get involved with your kids and do some fun, messy, sensory activities this summer!
Let it go and then hose them off.
It’s good for their imaginations.