The other day, William was invited to a birthday party, which left Kent, Corinne and myself to our own devices. I decided to invite Kent to enjoy some sensory play. I put together a jello sensory bin topped with slightly frozen strawberries and blueberries.
Before I share Kent’s experience, I want to be sure to tell you why I love sensory bins.
Children are naturally drawn to sensory play, (and most adults, too!) It is one of the primary ways in which children construct meaning from their world. This begins as early as birth. Babies, for example, explore their world and learn using only their senses, some of them being more acute at birth than others. With limited eyesight, newborn babies have the ability to recognize their mother’s voice and the way she smells, thus distinguishing her from other people. Babies thrive with skin to skin contact of their parents because they have a very sensitive sense of touch. They use their senses to absorb the experiences they encounter and learn about their environment, and this kind of learning, sensory learning, continues throughout early childhood. Stimulating the senses sends information to the brain that helps it strengthen neural pathways that are necessary for other types of learning.
Sensory play is not only messy fun, but it is also healthy for our brains.
Kent was delighted by his very first sensory bin. Being that he is just barely a year old, it was important to me to make sure the filler was not just “tastable” but actually edible. I chose jello because of it’s many attributes that make sensory play so much fun. It jiggles and wiggles. It is cold and gooey and squishy. It is translucent and shiny. And, being that we seldom have jello in our house, a jello sensory bin would create a completely new experience for Kent. Because I offered this bin when it was snack time, I added some slightly frozen blueberries and strawberries, (both of which defrost into mush, making them perfect for baby).
Now, just a note on edible sensory bins. A sensory bin is not the best place to introduce your baby to new foods. While I am not an expert, I certainly would recommend only using edibles you have already introduced your baby to. Luckily, Kent has been strictly on table food since he was ten months old, (what a great eater!), and by a year had been exposed to literally everything most adults eat, the only exception being honey. While Kent had not had jello itself, I knew he did not have an allergy to gelatin (or dyes or sugar), so I was confident that a jello sensory bin would be safe for Kent.
He was pleased as punch to get his hands into this jiggly and gooey bin.
I was surprised that Kent didn’t immediately begin by shoving handfuls of the sensory goodness into his mouth. While there is evidence of jello on his face, he actually began by picking out the blueberries and strawberries.
Because I wanted this sensory experience to be primarily for Kent, I told Corinne she had to give Kent a good five minutes of play before she joined in.
“Mom!”, Corinne says to me, “It’s wiggly like a worm! But, it’s not worms.”
This sensory bin kept my kiddies busy for a good half hour, before I finally decided that Kent had smeared enough of the jello on my kitchen floor.
Kent and Corinne ended up with messy hands and faces, and feet, too. Instead of washing them up in the sink, we went outside and set the sprinkler on low.