Sensory Experiences and Sand Play

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Sensory experiences are very appealing to young children, they delight in the feeling, seeing, smelling, listening and it give hands-on experiences with various materials, by manipulating the materials through placing, pouring, tipping as well as shoving. It can be therapeutic for children, as the tactile play with the materials allows them to express feelings that they may be too young to verbalise.

Sand and other materials
You can get sand cheaply at from plant nurseries but if you want it sterilised, it will be better to get the more expensive ones from toy shops. You can sterilise it yourself but I don’t recommend it as it can be quite tedious. You do not need to buy a designated sand tray, however it has to be large. Other containers that you can use include baby bathtub, large storage containers, inflatable wading pool or even an unused cat litter tray.
There are also many material options to replace sand; materials like rice, beans, corn, uncooked pasta, gravel, shredded newspapers/paper. However my preference is still to use sand as it is a versatile material.
- Sand is portable, so children can find many ways to push, pull, pour in and out of containers, shovel and pour it out of funnels
- When sand is wet, it changes colour, and it can be shaped, the finer the sand the more intricate the shapes can be
- When water evaporates from a structure made with sand, it collapses and when too much water is added, structures do not hold their shapes
 
Ideas for Sand Play :
Dry sand
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1. Provide containers of all shapes and sizes, some funnels, moulds, scoops and spoons
- these can be used for exploring the properties of sand, for counting activities, looking at shapes and comparing weights and length.
- learn about new vocabulary used in capacity, such as ‘more/less than’, ‘empty and full’.
 
2. Stimulate imaginative play by introducing animals, dinosaurs, play people and farm animal figurines to the sand. 
3. Play treasure hunt and bury items in the sand for the child to locate using their hands. 
4. Pre-writing activities (can also be done with wet sand)
- Put a small amount of sand in a tray, smooth is out with a ruler. Show your child how to write and draw with his/her fingers.
- Give him/her a stick, tooth brush or paintbrush to practice letters, numbers, shapes and patterns. 
5. Use a sifter or a panty hose (this is good for very fine sifting) to sift the sand.
 
Wet Sand
1. Use spoons, recycled plastic food containers, sand moulds pat down with sand, turn upside down to make castles. 
2. Use Legos or other toys to make imprints in the sand. 
3. Collect a few stones, twigs, seashelles to make a sand garden. 
4. Use toy tea set and have a sand tea party. 
5. Use toy diggers and dumptrucks to transfer sand from one place to another.
 
Extend children’s thinking with these questions :
- What will happen if we mix sand and water?
- What will happen to the sand if we add different amounts of water?
- What tools can you use to move sand from one place to another?
- What are the words we can use to describe dry sand/wet sand? 
Sand and other sensory experiences can give your child hours of fun playing and learning. It might get a tad bit messy with sand and water spilled on the floor, nevertheless, you can extend the play by getting the child to help you clean up thereafter. Have fun!
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Learning with Playdough

Playdoughpic recipe
Playdough is not just a “fun” activity for children, as it also provides hands-on, active-learning experience, supports children’s growth and learning in many areas.
Children learn about math concepts through their experiences with playdough, especially when children are given the opportunity to help make their own playdough. Parents can read out or draft out the recipe, encourage them to follow the recipe and gain learning opportunities in the areas of measuring and counting. When playing with playdough, children make observations about the shape, size, notice who has more or less playdough and count how many pieces they have.
These experiences encourages children to practice skills with the math concepts of numbers, operations, geometry and even spatial sense, all of which will help prepare them for later, more complex math concepts.

In the areas of social and emotional development, the use of playdough in play helps very young children gain a sense of competence; children often express pride in their creations when they use playdough in purposeful ways (e.g., “Look mommy! I made a pizza!”). By playing and pounding their hands on Playdough, children can also use it as a healthy and safe outlet for releasing extra energy and expressing their feelings.
Playdough allows children to practise their fine motor skills. Children use their hands and fingers to pound, poke, flatten, role, cut. These activities help children develop better eye-hand coordination, control and dexterity with their hands, which will be critical skills they will need for writing and drawing. Playdough also allows children to express themselves through art.
Playdough also helps children build literacy skills. By following the above play dough recipe, they acquire valuable experience with print awareness and early writing concepts and make the connections between printed and spoken words. There are also many ways to extend literacy learning; like introduce new descriptive words in conversation during play and practice pre-writing skills by making playdough alphabet letter snakes (letter templates are found here).  
Screen Shot 2014 07 08 at 1 39 27 PM
It is not only an enjoyable open-ended material but also contributes to numerous areas in a child’s learning and development. Playdough can be top of you and your child’s learning through play’s list of things to do! 
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Free and Cheap Activities we did this week!

The challenge for me this June holidays was to create at least one engaging day with a series of activities to bring K a week, without burning a hole in my pocket. So what did we do this week and was I successful in my attempts?

  • Art Garden at SAM

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Lovely installations, an improvement from last year to engage the children, however, there was no attempts to make the themes from the art installations meaningful for the kids. Drawing and Colouring activities (a popular choice for SAM every year), were added to most of the activity stations.

I heard that some parents were able to spend many hours with their kids at Art Garden, something which I didn’t think will be possible with the three kids.

Time spent at exhibit : Only 1 hour

  • Island Adventure at National Museum of Singapore

There wasn’t much happening apart from the interactive displays as we didn’t plan our visit around the roving acts and story-telling sessions, and Pauline and I didn’t want to get the craft kits at $5. So all the kids did was to ‘invent a Singapore dish’ by putting together some cut-outs of food illustrations,

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Attempted to piece together a ‘jigsaw’ of different cultural costumes,

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Watch wayang peep shows and look at colored photo prints in the 50s and 60s.

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Time spent at Island Adventures interactive display : Barely 10 minutes

The kids ended up spending more time at the community exhibition; Trading Stories: Conversations with Siz Pioneering Tradesmen, an exhibition on old trades in Singapore and how these tradesmen have coped with challenge of changing times.

I think having to watch some moving visuals through local documentaries on screen, and being able to see and touch some of the ‘real life’ items on display kept them alot more interested in the exhibits.

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Time spent at exhibit : Approximately 20 minutes

  • Play, Eat, Love Cafe

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The moms spent $5.00 for a 2 hour craft per child. Relatively affordable, if the craft activity can keep your children busy for 2 hours, while you can enjoy tea with your friend at the side. Unfortunately that didn’t quite happen when barely 10 minutes into the activity, K asked for 2 more sheets of paper, was not too thrilled that he had added too much glue on his craft and decided to trash it. It turned out that the pack of plastic toy soldiers that cost me $5.00, provided him with imaginative play that kept him busy playing with his friends for the rest of the time we were at the cafe.

Time spent at craft activity : 15 minutes, while imaginative play with toy soldiers and the snacks we ordered kept them occupied for 30 minutes.

  • Leave a Mark

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Draw, doodle or just scribble whatever you want on the large format photos on display on the Leave a Mark exhibition . K left his ‘stickmen’ doodles in many of the pieces and the kids were happy with the crayons, markers and stencils given for this open-ended doodle activity. It was a simple exhibit, but I think letting the kids interact and add their little inspirations to the photos was an intriguing concept for them.

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Time spent doodling : 30 minutes

I think it is not difficult to find activities for kids in Singapore, especially during the school holidays, and spend little money to occupy their time for an hour or so. Craft and open-ended activities work the best to keep them engaged, and I think being in the company of friends helped to make the activities more enjoyable.

From what we have experienced from Children’s Season 2013 so far, visiting two exhibits from Singapore’s two key museums have reminded me that I should continue to keep my expectations low and let the surprises unfold (haven’t been surprised yet), if we intend to visit more museum activities in the next few weeks.

On a side note, I will be taking a break from Photo *Heart* Fridays these 2 weeks, as I have encountered a technical bug with my linky and will be getting it corrected soon.

 

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