The Reality of Toddler Sensory Play

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Did you see yesterday’s post about Grayson’s new animal play boxes?  Well, I couldn’t share that post without sharing this with you.  Especially if you are a first time mom… or a first time mom of a boy… or both.

I love both of my kiddos dearly.  But I knew going into this whole parenthood adventure that boys and girls learn very differently.  I can totally relate to how Becca learns, because it’s similar to how I learn.  But I must say that Grayson, while his style sometimes stretches me, is a lot more close to my love for adventure.  The kid likes to explore.  He likes to get down and dirty.  If there’s a way, he’ll find that way and make it happen.  He’s a mover and a shaker… and a BIG mess maker.  So while you might have a child who can do sensory play relatively mess free, as a parent you need to just get prepared for the messes.

And get prepared to encourage them.  Because encouraging exploration is SO IMPORTANT!  (So much so that it’s a frequent hashtag that I use on Facebook!  #EncourageExploration – use it, and share with me how your kids are exploring!)  Grayson learned far more by making this mess than if he had kept everything inside the box:



Messes like this used to bother me.  That’s why I’m sharing this.  Because I want you to realize all that he learned from this exploration.

1) He explored sound and discovered that the paper doesn’t make much noise when it hits the floor, but the box is loud.

2) He figured out how to get the box lid off of the bottom of the box, and then practiced his fine and gross motor skills by attempting to put the lid back on the top.

3) He discovered that he doesn’t like the way the paper feels when it gets stuck to the bottom of his foot.

4) He practiced taking handfuls of the grass out of the box, and putting it back in.

5) Perhaps the most important lesson was the one he learned when he was all done and had been playing elsewhere for quite a while.  I called him over to me to help me clean up.  He is currently in his 61st week of life – halfway through the “wonder week” leap called “Principles.”  This is the time when his brain is finally learning how to follow rules… and he is starting to test out – what happens when I don’t obey?  As a mom, this time period is hard on me.  Becca was really really tough through this phase. Grayson is sometimes easier and sometimes more difficult – just depending on the moment.  He doesn’t like to clean up.  But, he does love getting praise (and he loves to clap for himself when he’s done something right!).  So, the cleanup required me to actually physically go and get him, and bring him over to the box.  I picked up most the grass and put it in, and had him put in the last handful.  Then he put each of the three dinosaurs into the box, and put the lid on top.  I encouraged him, bragging on what a good job he did to follow directions!  He was so excited that he did a good job and got that verbal praise and the literal pat on the back and hand clap.  That was a hugely important lesson.  The next day, when I called him over to help clean up, he didn’t come when called, but I brought him over and did the same thing, and didn’t even have to tell him to pick up the dinosaurs – he did it on his own.

Not sure what brain development has occurred for your child at their current age?  I HIGHLY recommend checking out the website/book/app with brain research by Drs. van de Rijt and Plooij.  It’s good stuff!  CLICK HERE TO VISIT THE WONDER WEEKS FOR MORE INFO!

All of this to say, learning is a messy undertaking.  Sometimes messier than others.  But it’s fun, and it’s important that kids not only be allowed to make messes, but taught to take responsibility in cleaning up their messes from and early age.  A 14 month old is ready to start cleaning up after himself – brain research proves it.  Start allowing your Baby Bees to explore, and start requiring them to help clean up, too!  Cleaning can be a super fun game and a great way to teach the concepts of “in” and “out” and “up” and “down”, as well as what is trash and what isn’t.  You might feel like your baby is still a baby, but when their brain is ready, start giving them appropriate challenges – it’ll pay off in spades down the road.  Curious about the chores our Big Butterfly does around the house to help? Check out this post that I did with the Recipe for a Successful Homemaker (of either gender).

How do your kids (of all ages) help around the house to clean up after themselves and other family members?

Author: Mrs. H

I am a SPED Teacher who is mom to three beautiful children, a wife to a fabulous man, and blessed beyond compare!

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