Updated: Apr 3
I'm Amelia and I'm a qualified early years professional, mum to 12 month old Lily and the creator of Learn with Lily sensory kits ! I have worked and studied in early years settings for the last 17 years which is where I really grew and developed my love of play based learning and all things sensory. When Elisa asked me to write a blog post, I was thrilled at the opportunity to be able to share my passion for early years education
When my daughter was born last year, each day I looked forward to putting my expertise to good use and planning lots of activities for her. I was delighted to see that she loved heuristic play and sensory opportunities just as much as I do.
Like many new mums, I didn’t expect to be raising my daughter during a pandemic so I really put my knowledge into practise and incorporated as many sensory experiences into our home learning as possible. I experimented with a vast variety of sensory bases for her to explore from when she was just four months old including baked beans, body painting and even edible slime ( all of which often required a good old kitchen sink bath afterwards I might add!) Which is where “Learn with Lily” was born.
I wanted to channel my creativity and develop an online platform to empower parents with their child’s learning and development by providing interactive play opportunities and ideas on how to promote home learning. Now more than ever, home learning has so many incredible benefits. I really wanted to help families unleash the development potential at home through practical guidance and activity ideas!
I started my “Learn with Lily” @learnwithlily Instagram page at the beginning of January this year and launched 4 curiosity kits, handmade by me, purposely designed for little one’s to engage with. Each kit embraces elements of sensory exploration with a nature based approach to really harness play opportunities for little explorers. I’ve thoughtfully sourced tools, accessories and handmade sensory bases such as Sicilian lemon scented rice, all perfect for inquisitive little minds 🧡
So why am I a huge advocate of sensory play? Simply put, sensory play is essentially food for the brain! From as little as 3 months old, babies are making sense of their little world around them and sensory play enables their curiosity even more!
builds nerve connections in the brain’s pathways, which lead to the child’s ability to complete more complex learning tasks.
supports language development, cognitive growth, fine and gross motor skills, problem solving skills, and social interaction.
aids in developing and enhancing memory.
helps children learn sensory attributes such as, cold, sticky, dry, runny, gooey, light, dark, heavy etc which they can only really obtain through sensory interaction.
It really is powerful stuff!
I’ve put together my top six favourite fuss free sensory based activities for you to try at home. All of which are approved by my daughter herself ( she is infact my chief product development officer for all my curiosity kits!)
My top activities include:
Rainbow spaghetti play
This is so simple to create and is a great way to introduce the element of texture and colour to your little one. It takes very little to prepare, which is always a bonus for us time strapped mamas, plus clean up is relatively minimal. Just cook up a batch of spaghetti and allow to cool. Then section into four zip lock bags. Add drops of food colouring per bag and squish it together until the spaghetti is fully coated. I personally find the gel food colouring takes to the spaghetti much better and offers more vibrancy. Add your spaghetti into pots and pans and allow your little one plenty of time to explore and investigate!
During lockdown I found it impossible to get my hands on some dry sand for Lily to explore. So I created the next best thing! Edible sand. Simply blitz 10 heaped tablespoons of Cheerios with a hand blender and voila, you’ve got yourself some edible sand! It performs in exactly the same why dry sand does and is completely taste safe if your little one should desire a little munch! Excellent for pouring, filling, crushing, tracing letters and shapes into, brushing and patting! All of which are important skills to aid motor movements and dexterity for your little ones.
This is a definitely a quick go-to activity in our household and provides an excellent opportunity to explore the concept of light, colour and shadow with our little ones from a very young age. Simply run your night time bath as normal except this time add glowsticks and turn off the lights! Your baby will be in awe at observing all the colours glowing beneath the frothy bath time bubbles! I also like to add light up ice cubes to a ziplock bag and a couple of flashing balls to the bath too to offer further opportunities to observe light and colour.
Chia seed slime
Now this one is a rather messy one but offers a completely unique and curious texture for little ones to explore. Again, with the majority of my messy play activities, it’s taste safe should you little one decide they fancy a mouthful. This one requires a bit more prep but you’ll love the results. Add 6 tablespoons of chia seeds to 32ozs of cold water, stir through a couple of drops of your preferred food colouring and leave overnight in the fridge. In the morning heat in the micro in 20 second intervals until it thickens a little more and then your ready to play once it’s cooled! Add in scoops, ladles and wooden spoons for your little one to manipulate and to aid their methods of discovery. From experience, my top tip for this would be to pre-run the bath prior to play so your prepared for the post slime wash down!
Body painting is such a fun experience for little ones as it introduces the aspect of colour mixing and process art. Edible paints are a taste safe alternative to standard paint and can be used at any age. All you need is 200g of Greek yogurt split into four bowls, add in drops of food colouring per bowl and stir through until you’ve reached your desired colour. Offer spoons, pastry brushes and even balls to the activity to enhance exploration skills! If your feeling brave, allow your child to explore this activity with their whole body as it will really encompass a full body experience for them. Plus you should be able to get some cracking pics of them covered head to toe in yogurt to bring out on their 18th birthday!
This is a firm favourite of ours! It creates a beautifully soft and crumbly texture and performs very similar to wet sand. To make it requires just two ingredients which you’ve probably already got in your store cupboard: Coconut oil and plain flour. Simple add two cups of plain flour to 4 tablespoons of melted coconut oil and rub together until it creates a crumble like consistency. You may need to add a little more flour if the mixture feels too wet. It’s perfect for moulding shapes, building towers, squeezing handfuls of and even smells lush too! This is great for encouraging little ones to explore mathematical ideas such as shape, space and measurements.
With any activity, remember close and careful adult supervision is required to enable safe and happy play. My advice during any sensory experience is to let your child take the lead. You’ll be amazed at how their little minds will process what’s infront of them and how they begin to independently explore for themselves. If you find they don’t want to engage, even after some gentle prompting, don’t worry - simply re-visit another time until they build up their confidence in exploring the new sensory material.
Before embarking on any messy based play, I recommend that you invest in either a large messy mat or tuff tray ( also sometimes known as a builders tray) This way it creates a space purposely designed for messy play which is also much easier to clean up too. They can be purchased relatively easy from Amazon, etsy, eBay etc. The tuff tray is a really worthy investment but don’t worry if you don’t have one as an empty bath makes a pretty great alternative too! Even a large plastic under bed storage box will do and still keep an activity contained.
I really hope you found these activities helpful in embracing some sensory based home learning that doesn’t cost the earth and has maximum learning potential for your little one!
For further ideas on home learning or if your interested in purchasing one of my curiosity kits, please see my Learn with Lily page on Instagram for further details! I’d be more than happy to help with your child’s learning journey 🥰
Happy exploring everyone!