Our end of year Christmas play ideas are a wonderful opportunity to provide more sensory play experiences and also create new memories related to our different senses!
I truly believe sensory play it is one of the best forms of play that educators and parents can offer young children. I also believe being exposed to messy and/or sensory play is a big reason why my own daughter Ruby, has overcome many of her sensory processing difficulties. She has been exposed to many different textures, smells and play experiences since she was a baby and I’ve seen how it has worked to desensitize her fear in many areas.
How does exposure to regular sensory play help with sensory processing challenges?
Unfortunately many children are not being exposed to sensory play today and I think that is why we are seeing an increase in children with sensory processing disorders (SPD). Some children are sensory seekers and crave the excitement and touch of messy play and may try to get this need met using other means (that can lead to other challenging behaviours) if they are not exposed to fun sensory experiences and opportunities regularly.
Other children can be very sensitive to sensory or messy play experiences and that is why it is so important to start introducing them to this play as early as possible. It can be a slow (and often frustrating process for both parents and educators) but by constantly offering new and fun sensory experiences, allowing sensitive children to watch others exploring the medium and enjoying it and also by providing tools to help them start touching the materials ‘safely’ at first without using their own hands you will begin to see tentative smiles, then excitement, then joy as they finally touch and enjoy.
Christmas is a wonderful sensory season - we often associate certain smells (gingerbread baking, pine needles from trees or something triggered from a previous family moment), textures and sounds with this time of year. So it is a fantastic time (and excuse!) to include more sensory experiences and activities into your end of year programming.
Use the inspiration collected below to help get you started...remember to keep it simple and have fun....it's all about the process!
Add colourful and textured sensory elements to your Christmas craft with activities like these (easy to modify for different age groups) - for this one we used wool and we also made some with bubble wrap too.
Empowered Ed Member Kim made this 'Build an Olaf Snowman' invitation to play - the children loved the soft feel of the cotton balls!
Jo from the Empowered Educator Facebook group used coloured egg shells to make a Christmas tree collage. The children will love exploring the texture of the egg shells. You can see how to colour egg shells HERE.
You have to try making these easy clay nature ornaments with the children – they were so much fun! I to incorporate a few of nature’s treasures as we have a strong interest in all things gardening at the moment. The white ‘clay’ dough literally took less than 5 minutes to make so setup is easy too! Find out how to make your own sensory clay ornaments HERE.
You can't go past the simplicity of playdough activities to add a sensory and manipulative element to children's play...no matter their age! See how we added a Christmas twist and grab my microwave playdough recipe here.
Add a Christmas spin to your shaving cream play with sparkles and Christmas decorations! Thanks to Educator Lindianne for sharing this photo with us.
If you want to try something a little different next time you pull out the paints why not make your own homemade puffy paint using this simple recipe?! I have used this basic recipe for many, many years now and as well as being easy it is definitely budget friendly. We've used red and green to get into the Christmas spirit. Find my puffy paint recipe HERE.
Keep it sensory simple with some finger painting. White paint makes great snow! Thanks to Educator Ruth for sharing this in the Empowered Educator Facebook group.
This Christmas stamping activity is an old one but the children love it - especially toddler age groups as they love to create marks on paper with strong stamping actions! You can then use the stamped paper to wrap Christmas presents too - recycle some newspaper sheets if you want to up the sustainability factor. See how we set up our Christmas stamps HERE.
Soapy Slime is one of my favourite activities for all ages – babies, toddlers and preschoolers and if you don’t get it too dirty it will last for ages! I added a colour change and some Christmas ornaments to turn the regular slime tub into a Christmas themed fine motor activity - a fun way to introduce a little festive twist. You can get my soapy slime recipe here.
Need more activity ideas to fill that program? I've collected some of my favourite inspiration from around the web for you...simply click on the links below the photos to read more about each activity or experience.
Are you feeling inspired to add a little more sensory into your Christmas play ideas this year? Take a photo of your play in action and share it with us in the Empowered Ed Facebook Group - we love seeing what other educators around the world are planning!
A Little About Me
Jodie Clarke is an early childhood professional supporting educators who want and need to stay passionate about the work they do! She has 30 years hands-on experience in the early childhood and human services sectors across many different roles.
Jodie is mum to 3 in Australia and has already helped thousands of educators with their work through her popular blog posts, activity ideas, online training and e-books.