Children's Development, Collabs, In the Wild

At Home with @essentiallyjenni

Hi friends! My name is Jenni and I’m proud to wear many hats! I’m a wife, mom to a sweet almost 2 year old boy and 2 furbabies, 1st grade teacher and motherhood content creator! In my professional career, I have done everything from teaching at daycares, daycare assistant, private and public school teaching.

My goal as a mom is to utilize my child development and education knowledge at home with my son. Do I always? Nope because being a parent is hard work but my goal is to be more intentional with the activities and play, play, play! What’s a better way to learn but through play? Am I right?

What is “sensory play” and why is it important?

If you’re on social media scrolling Pinterest, Instagram or even TikTok, you’ll see parents posting “sensory play.” It’s been a big buzzword lately but in actuality, sensory play has been around for decades. Children are innately curious so activities that promote their senses will support cognitive growth and problem solving skills. Sensory play is simply any activity that stimulates your child’s senses and promotes motor skills. It also becomes self-directed and there’s absolutely no “wrong or right” way to play so the discoveries happen at their own pace. These activities can be implemented at any age as long as they show interest. Sensory play can be extravagantly themed and prepped or it can be simple. I’ll show you some examples below but remember that sensory play is any play or activity that stimulates your child’s senses.

Calvin is using ECR4Kids’ 2-Station Sand and Water Table above. We love using this table indoors and outdoors. Sensory Play can get messy so we do add a splat mat below if he’s exploring indoors. He’s been loving water beads lately. We’ve discovered these extra large water beads and the standard marble sized beads. They are totally safe to play with but I do recommend keeping a close eye on your little ones to assure they don’t eat them as they can be hazardous. Water beads are squishy and a little therapeutic to play with. Calvin loves to squish them, scoop and pour them to the other side and even sort by color with the extra large beads. I’ll take about 3 separate primary colored bowls/cups and he’ll sort them to the other side.

Rainbow rice is so much fun and so easy to make. In a medium mixing bowl- add 1 cup of uncooked white rice, 1 tablespoon of white vinegar and several squeezes of food coloring depending on how light or dark you want it. Mix it all up and lay flat to dry on a cookie sheet for about 1-2 hours. Repeat for other colors.

Before the modge podge of confetti looking rice you see to the left, I placed a row of colors and he mixed and played with them. A few days later I would add a new color. Eventually all of the colors were mixed and it became a big mix of colors.

Rainbow rice really promotes a child’s tactile senses. They touch and manipulate to learn. Calvin is obsessed with cars so I added some construction vehicles so he could pour and move it around. I also include various tools such as scoops, measuring cups, spoons and even a whisk. He would pour it into cups or to the left side working on his hand-eye coordination and fine motor skills.

Exploring with safe and edible sand! If you have uneaten cereal laying around the house then you can make sand! Pour sand into a blender and blend it up! I love using regular Cheerios to make safe edible sand. This has been one of our go-to activities since Calvin started teething. I’ve done things like create a Safari with animals, construction zone or even a farm.

Creating sand through cereal is a safe alternative and often cheaper than buying regular sand for play. Edible sand is great for sensory play because your child will explore the different textures while getting creative. Calvin enjoyed playing with the animals or vehicles and being creative.

Let’s Get Physical Through Active Play

Active play is any type of play that requires you to move your body and increase your heart rate. Active play can happen indoors or outdoors, it can be structured or unstructured. In short, active play is any type of play that promotes a child’s gross motor skills by giving them opportunities to run, jump, balance, climb, and more.

Below is a great example of how we incorporate Little Tike’s slide, ECR4Kids’ Tree Log Climber Set and Tree Floor Cushions! We’ll often set up a new course to challenge him. This course has him starting on the slide which focuses on hand-eye coordination and balance. He then controls his body as he reaches the end of the slide to balance on the Climber sets, hops/jumps to the tree floor cushion and around the curve to the end. These courses create ample opportunities for trial and error as well as endurance and perseverance!

Key tip for a better night of sleep: spend 15-20+ minutes outside and let your child run and explore. Being active and outdoors will naturally create more endorphins which will allow them to reach a deeper sleep!

Calvin’s at the age now where he can start moving the pieces around and trying to create his own courses. He’ll manipulate the pieces through trial and error. It’s been so much fun to see his confidence grow through the months!

Here we’re building and balancing Foam Big Building Blocks and Patchwork Toddler Playset. He stacks then as high as he can focusing on controlling his movements and balancing the blocks. He’ll crash the blocks, run to grab the pieces and rebuild! When playing together, I’ll often focus on primary colors or comparing sizes of blocks.

Watching his reaction as we crash the blocks is priceless. It’s so much fun to watch his reaction and hear his deep laugh. Better yet, he can anticipate when our tower will fall because it’s not balanced. Building and crashing is teaching him skills.

Although our post today gave you examples of sensory play activities and active play activities while highlighting many of our favorite ECR4Kids items, just remember that being present and allowing your child to play, move their bodies and explore is just as important!

If you’re ever wanting to connect, check out our social channels below and send us a message! I’d love to connect with you and bounce off ideas!

XO, @EssentiallyJenni