We’ve all been there… you just need 10 minutes to send that last email for work, finish unloading the dishwasher or get dinner on the table. Your 1 year old is either crawling between your legs, trying to climb up your leg and/or wreaking havoc in your office or kitchen. This is me on a daily basis – and fortunately, my ingenious little 1 year old found a solution all by himself. Since it costs essentially nothing, and takes less than 30 seconds to set up, I now use this simple sensory activity for my 1 year old whenever I need to buy myself time, and I promise, it will work for you too!
I Just Need to Finish One Last Thing…
Poor Baby M. Now that the girls are both in preschool, he finally gets some one on one time with me. But those precious few hours a week are also the only time I have to get things done – which is far easier with just 1 child in tow vs. 3. Last week, I was up against a deadline for work and HAD to get something published, so I locked him in our home office with me with a ball – his go to favorite toy – and prayed he would cooperate long enough for me to get it done.
He quickly lost interest in the ball, and instead, discovered the paper bin under the printer. He had a field day – pulling one sheet out at a time, ripping it, crumpling it up… and when he found the plastic sheet protectors? He was in total heaven.
The Importance of Sensory Play
For babies and toddlers, most of the world is a totally new and exciting experience. At this age, pre-language and verbal skills, children primarily process information through their senses. They love feeling different textures, using objects to make sounds, seeing different shapes and colors, smelling new scents and of course, everything always ends up in their mouths. Sensory play has so many benefits. This is how they explore the world, and lays the groundwork language development, fine and gross motor skills. more advanced cognitive reasoning and problem solving down the road, and memory development too.
So what is sensory play? Any activity that allows your child to freely interact with and explore the world with their senses qualifies. My son playing with a bin of office and paper products is a perfect example. He was so engrossed with it, I now reinvent this sensory activity in whatever room we are in, using whatever materials are closest at hand. Most often, it’s in the kitchen and features all forms of kitchen wrap!
Simple Sensory Activities with Kitchen Wrap
For this activity, you do not need to buy ANYTHING. Go to wherever you store your kitchen wraps and sandwich bags, and pull off a large square of each one: foil, plastic wrap, parchment paper. Grab a gallon size storage bag, and even a brown paper bag if you have one handy. You want the pieces to be small enough for them to manage, but large enough so when they ball them up, they are too big to completely go in their mouth. Leave behind any plastic grocery bags from this activity for your child’s safety.
For additional texture, I also grabbed a piece of printer paper, cardstock and his favorite sheet protectors from the office.
Lay them out on the floor, and let your child play. While this is a great activity to keep them occupied while you get household chores done, please do not leave them unattended. Remember – they explore the world through their senses at this age, and that includes taste. You want to monitor them activity to make sure they don’t consume any small pieces of paper, plastic or foil.
Textures, Shapes and Sounds
I love watching kids this age at play. Their facial expressions are priceless – he loved the sound of the foil on the floor, and crinkling it into a ball.
I think I was more amused by him trying to get the clingy plastic wrap off his hand. And he loves ripping up the paper. Narrate your child’s actions to help them begin to develop vocabulary to go with their sensory play.
“Is the foil shiny?”
“Look – you made a ball!”
“This paper is stiff.”
“Can you tear the bag?”
Pause between comments to let them internalize your words or even respond. And feel free to get on the floor and demonstrate ways to engage with the different materials too – how to tear, crumble, slide it on the floor, etc.
More Sensory Activities for 1 Year Olds
Sensory play is easy and full of learning for your young child. All it takes is presenting materials, letting them play, and to really help their cognitive development, give words to their actions by narrating their activities. For more awesome sensory activities, My Mundane and Miraculous Life has a great list of NO PREP sensory activities for babies. Busy Toddler has not only great activities for toddlers, but awesome ideas for babies too – you’ll love this list of 20+ Fun & Easy Baby Activities, all of which include elements of sensory play. For added elements of temperate and taste, you might also enjoy our Ocean Themed Sensory Play with Ice and Water, fun for kids of all ages, and this easy recipe for Edible Finger Paint.
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