We unschool / deschool / year-round-learn (I am not sure what to call it or rather, I don’t know which name feels right, but I know that we do not homeschool in the traditional sense), and part of our day is devoted to some sort of sensory play.
Sensory play is very important for young children, because stimulating their senses helps to promote brain development.
Sensory play encourages scientific processes (an explanation of this is: a method of research in which a problem is identified, relevant data is gathered, an idea / explanation is formulated from this data, and is then tested to observe the result).
Problems are solved using the five senses during sensory play: sight, sound, smell, taste, and touch. By stimulating a child’s senses you are helping their brain develop, because when a sense is engaged neural pathways are being created to assist with further learning in later years. Very important! This is all achieved with activities that encourage hearing, touch, sight, smell, balance, taste and movement. These activities help with exploration and encourage children to use scientific processes naturally while they investigate, explore, play and create (just having loads of fun!).
Here is a short excerpt from The Spruce (https://www.thespruce.com/why-sensory-play-is-important-2086510) on why sensory play is so important:
The Role of Sensory Play
It’s not just children who have difficulty with sensory integration who can benefit from sensory play; it’s all children. There are certain groups of children, such as those who have autism or those who have sensory integration dysfunction disorder who have specific difficulty making sense of and organizing all the stimuli that come at them via their senses.
The truth is, all children need help learning how to use their senses. From the very first day they are born, children are designed to explore the world via their senses. That’s why babies and toddlers touch everything and put it in their mouths. It’s why kids make funny noises with their mouths and experiment with how the world sounds with their fingers stuck in their ears. It’s why your child spins in circles until she’s so dizzy, she falls and then gets up and does it again.
Sensory Play Isn’t All About Touch
Some people, when they think of sensory play, immediately picture sand and water tables or kids playing with clay and playdough. But sensory play isn’t all about touch, it’s also about the other senses, too. For instance, the sharp scent of vinegar involved in a science experiment or the colors of water during a color mixing experiment or the texture and smells of scratch and sniff painting are all part of appealing to your child’s senses.
Sensory exploration is a child’s way of examining, discovering, categorizing and making sense of the world. And it’s beneficial to provide them with opportunities for sensory play.
One of the items that we love to use for sensory play is Kinetic Sand made by WABA Fun. This is what this company says about themselves on their About page (http://www.relevantplay.com/About-Us.html)
WABA Fun was founded in 2003 to provide children with awesome toys to encourage imaginative, open-ended play and to invite their minds to explore, create and learn. We believe creativity, innovation, and inspiration are natural for children, when they are provided the right tools for play. We are also passionate about making play and learning exceedingly fun.
They say it’s “their first product that breathes motion“. Well it really does seem like it is alive at times! It is like an awesome mix between play dough, clay, sand and oobleck (see my Tip on how to make Oobleck). This sand is an incredible substance that is easy to shape, molds into almost any design and feels like wonderful silk. It is a magical and mesmerizing experience for both young and old (wink, wink) and is oh so relaxing!
Apparently kinetic sand is based on 98% pure sand plus a patented technology within the binder (this is what it says on the container), and it conforms to the safety directives for the US and EU markets.
A precaution though: it is very sensitive to water, and needs to be kept clean and dust free.
Wikipedia explains it like this:
“Kinetic Sand is a three-dimensional building toy made of 98% and 2% (a type of ) that mimics the physical properties of wet sand. Kinetic Sand was originally designed for sculpting but is commonly sold as indoor play sand for children. In appearance it resembles light brown sugar. It can be molded, it sticks to itself but not to most other materials or surfaces, and it does not dry out.
“Kinetic Sand” is the registered trademark of WABA Fun LLC. Other companies make comparable products which do not use the Kinetic Sand name.
The company claims the product is safe, but there is at least one report of a dog which needed extensive surgery after eating it.
Kinetic sand can be useful for kids with intellectual disability for self stimulation, learning and soothing.”
The best part about this wonderful kinetic sand is that it is so easy to clean up and it does not stick to children’s hands. What a bonus for us parents!
Live Science explains why it acts like this:
Kinetic sand is regular sand that’s been coated with silicone oil, said Rick Sachleben, a member of the American Chemical Society.
“” doesn’t refer to one specific material but rather a group of materials that contain the elements silicon and oxygen. Silicones are polymers, meaning they’re molecules made up of long chains of repeated units.
The compounds are used in “all sorts of products, from cosmetics, lotions, shampoos and conditioners, to lubricants and sealants,” Sachleben said.
“Silicone oils have unique properties in that they can be that flow freely, or semisolids that flow slowly in the absence of pressure, but act like rubbery solids under stress,” Sachleben told Live Science. This characteristic is called “viscoelasticity,” he said.
But a substance’s degree of viscoelasticity depends on the length of the polymer chains in the silicone oil, Sachleben said.
For example, “Imagine long (very long!) strings of ,” Sachleben wrote in an email. “They stick together, so [they] can hold a shape, but place a ball of them on the counter and, over time, they slowly sink down into a low pile. Longer strings [of spaghetti] hold their shape better than shorter ones.”
Similarly, with kinetic sand, the polymer chains within the silicone oil make the sand particles stick together so you can form them into a ball. However, the ball will slowly flatten out over time.
But the silicone-oil-coated stick only to each other, not to other surfaces, Sachleben noted. This is why kinetic sand doesn’t seem “sticky” and is easy to clean up, he said.
Originally published on Live Science.
Have you or your children experienced the magic of Kinetic Sand?
Let’s chat in the comment box and share ideas on how to further use this glorious invention…