In searching for age- and developmentally-appropriate arts and crafts projects for the girls to do (and for us to do with the girls), I stumbled upon the concept of a sensory box.
A sensory box is simply a medium-sized shallow plastic storage tub with materials inside that stimulate the senses and, hopefully, spark the imagination. A sensory box is often built around a central theme or concept.
A box has three components: the base, the tools, and the treats and trinkets.
The base often is dry beans, rice or pasta (plain or dyed), sand, gravel, or similar “filler” material. The tools are things that can be used to scoop, pour, pick up, sort, etc.; they could include measuring cups/spoons, small boxes/containers, or chopsticks. And finally, the trinkets are things that make the box fun and usually fit the theme.
I had read that sensory play not only is good for developing fine motor skills, but also good for developing child-directed creative/imaginative play. I learned that they also can help with developing language and vocabulary, improving focus, and, because they stimulate the five senses, tearing down barriers to everyday “tasks,” such as eating.
I was 100 percent sold on these things. I figured the investment of money, time, and effort was minimal for the outcomes. I pinned several ideas. And I had many more churning through my head.
After a trip to the dollar store and a hunt through my craft supplies, I put together two very simple boxes: one around the theme of Christmas and the other around the theme of winter.
The Christmas box contained red and green jingle bells, red and green pom-poms, ribbons, foam gingerbread men and reindeer, a small jewelry box wrapped like a present, small plastic containers filled with plastic cranberries, and Christmas tree-shaped measuring spoons.
I gave it to the girls pretty early in December, and they played with it for at least 20 minutes at a time for about 5 days straight. I left it out in the living room, among their other toys, and they would ask me to open it so they could play with it at least once a day.
They put the dry beans in their mouths every once in a while, and they flung the beans all over the floor quite frequently, but they were just so darn happy, it was hard to be upset.
The winter box contains blue jingle bells, blue and white pom-poms, ribbons, foam and plastic snowflakes, a small jewelry box wrapped in snowman paper, and pinecones. I forgot to initially, but I later added a couple of plastic cups.
They were taken aback by the texture of the pinecones and the snowflakes. Anna enjoyed rubbing the ribbon on her face and wrapping it around herself like a scarf, while Elise loved feeling the pom-poms on her face.
I plan to make a Valentine’s Day-themed box for next month, focusing on red, pink, and hearts, and a St. Patrick’s Day-themed as well as a spring-themed box for March, focusing on green (the former) and flowers, grass, and sunshine (the latter). I’ll be sure to post photos of the boxes as they are made.