Wednesday, July 30, 2014

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Sand Sensory Play Challenge & Preschool Social Skills

If you have been following this blog for a while, you know I am a huge advocate of sensory experiences.  About six months ago we began to discover that one of my children has some sensory processing challenges, and I began to be even more deliberate in planning (and allowing spontaneous) sensory experiences.  Today we are joining in the monthly Sensory Bin Challenge hosted at Little Bins for Little Hands, and the theme is sand!

If you saw the Dirt Challenge, you may remember that the goal is to set out a designated sensory material and let your children choose the tools and direction for the experience.  I love this kind of activity for three reasons:  1- It is empowering for children to decide what they will do. 2- Children learn better when they are invested and in control of what they are doing. 3- It is super easy!!

So, I set out a bucket of sand:

They immediately dug in with their hands, a shovel (from their "digging spot"), and a paper towel tube that had managed to come outside with us.

It did not take long before we started having issues getting along:  "He bumped me!"  "She's taking my sand!" "I can't reach it with their arms there!"  I knew they would all enjoy the sand more if they could spread out a bit, so we dumped it into their dirt "digging spot."  It spread out quickly, and everyone could reach it better.

And apparently it screamed for bare feet.

The children quickly found more tools, and began to play games. They were sailors.  They were travelers.  They were animal rescuers.  The youngest just played with the sand.

We still had several opportunities to practice social skills.  It is amazing how often a preschooler thinks that every grain of sand (or any other sensory material) belongs exclusively to him or her.  We had one little girl very frustrated that anyone else was touching her sand.  Another child wanted the particular stick she saw her brother grab.

Shared sensory experiences provide a fabulous platform for experiencing and practicing social skills like sharing and taking turns.  At the same time, your children have a chance to engage their senses, explore and direct their learning, and embark on imaginative journeys of their choice!  Here are some tips for guiding social skill development:

1- Taking turns and sharing is a big deal for most preschoolers.  Be patient as you remind them that the sand is for everyone.

2- We have two rules:  1- If it is in someone's hand, it is their turn.  2- When you put it down, someone else can pick it up.  Your turn is over.

3- When someone attempts to violate one of the big rules, correct them by simply telling them the rule.  Try to keep it positive.  For example, instead of saying "Don't take Sally's stick," say "The stick is in Sally's hand.  It is her turn."

4-  Make sure you have plenty of sand and space for everyone!

Our crew flew to the sand pile like magnets to a metal door every time we went outside...for days.  They played in the sand pile for well over 30 minutes the first time and for hours over the course of a couple days.  Like the last sensory challenge, they loved it!

Sand is a particularly fabulous sensory tool because you can play with it plain, hide things in it, build with it, get it wet (which completely changes it!), pour it, mix it, and much more!  You can get 50 pounds for under $4, and only use a fraction of it at a time.

Check out the other Monthly Sensory Bin Challenge blogs to see what happened in their sand buckets!  You may get some fabulous ideas of props to provide your kiddos...or you may be inspired to try the challenge yourself and see what tools your own children want to grab!  It's totally worth the small clean up afterwards!  When you try it, be sure to snap a couple pictures...I'd love to see your adventure!

Monthly Sensory Bin Challenge Blogs:  

Little Bins for Little Hands

House of Burke

 Still Playing School

Stir the Wonder


Are you a fan of child-led learning?  Be sure to visit my How Do I Teach a Child-Led Curriculum series for loads of great ideas and resources!

I may share at any of these parties!