This week our theme has been Autumn. What else could it be, as we move on from Summer and start to play in the fallen leaves? I put a plea out on Instagram asking for ideas. I wanted to fill the sand and water tray with something different for the preschooler to play with, and The Boy and Me came to my rescue! Soil. Simple, yet such a fantastic sensory play experience. An Autumn Sensory Dig.
This was really easy to set up. I used the sand and water tray so that the preschooler could really dig and I also made sure that the soil was ‘clean’ and dry. I used a bag that we had left over in the garage, but you could pick up a small bag from B&Q for under £3. I wanted the soil to be dry so that he could play with it without getting too muddy.
I added lots of natural materials to the soil- leaves we collected last Autumn, conkers, green leaves from this season, pine cones, and acorn shells. I also added some plastic letters and wrote numbers 1-10 on the conkers with permanent markers. Then I added some digging tools and a plastic sieve for sorting.
Once the dig was set up, I wanted the preschooler to play for a while. He, of course, brought his dinosaurs into the scene and for a while he was more than happy to play independently and without much interaction from me.
It wasn’t long before the preschooler spotted the conkers in the soil! He decided to sort them by placing them in one of the sieves that was attached to the tray. He counted as he went.
Before long, the preschooler noticed that the conkers had numbers written on them. Without prompting, he collected all the numbers and ordered them in the soil 1-10! He then successfully pointed out numbers as I called them in a random order, and counted beyond 40 independently. To extend this activity next time, I will use the numbers to make 2 digit numbers for him to read.
Our next activity was to dig up the letters and arrange them to make words linked to our Autumn sensory play. The preschooler recognised each initial sound and independently sounded out and read the word ‘mud’! He also made very good attempts to read ‘conker’ and ‘leaf’ and was able to find and arrange the letters that make his name too. He was very pleased with himself!
We’ve kept the soil in the sand tray all week and the preschooler has enjoyed dipping in and out as he pleases. This was such a fantastic sensory activity for him too, as we talked about how all the different materials felt and what they sounded like when we dropped them into the tray, or used our hands to press them. This was also a great way to find out exactly how he’s doing with numbers and letters and I hope to use similar activities to extend his learning further!