A couple of weeks ago I baked our Christmas cake and was inspired to throw a few of the ingredients into the Tuff Spot (as you do) for the preschooler to explore. I’m not sure I appreciated the length of this play or the volume of learning he would get from it as it was so last minute. But it actually turned out to be one of the best sensory play sessions we’ve had in a long time and one that I know we’ll be repeating. The great thing about this one is that it’s baby friendly too, so anything the little ones want to taste is absolutely fine and absolutely part of the play. This is what we did for our Christmas sensory play:
We used the Christmas tree packaging from our Christmas chocolate review and filled it with raisins, sultanas and mixed dried fruit. This was placed in the centre of the tray. I then added a lump of sweet marzipan and a lump of even sweeter ready to roll icing. Then I sprinkled caster sugar around the tray for a snowy effect. I used caster sugar because I wanted a fine mist of sugar but not as fine as icing sugar. I wanted to explore the texture as well as the aroma and the way it looked. Later on I also added a few cinnamon sticks, cinnamon powder and nutmeg which really gave the whole room a Christmassy scent!
The preschooler, as usual, dived straight in! First of all he explored the sugar, using his mouth to blow the sugar, remarking on the smell and using his fingers to make tracks and patterns. He also wrote his name- without prompting and without asking for help. This is the first time he’s done that!
During this activity there was no escaping the sensory elements of it all. The preschooler could touch, smell, taste and even listen as the raisins pitter-pattered and the sugar sprinkled. He loved watching the sugar move as he blew it, and pressing his fingers into the marzipan and icing. He wasn’t so bothered about using the rolling pin which was great as sometimes he isn’t keen on getting his fingers dirty. This activity really seemed to draw him in and he kept telling me it smelled delicious and super! The cinnamon and other spices played a huge part in this.
Our Christmas sensory play was also fantastic for creating, because the marzipan and icing are very much like play dough- soft malleable and easy to manipulate. The preschooler used his fingers to make shapes and then pressed marzipan into the Christmas tree mould. He used raisins to decorate it and icing to make an angel to go on the top. We also worked together to create Christmassy pictures with raisins and dried fruit. This kept him busy for quite a while and he seemed a lot more engaged than he usually is with normal play dough.
This sensory play activity was so easy to set up and can be modified according to what is in your cupboards. Like most of our activities, there is room for working on letters and sounds (tracing letters in the sugar and spices for the preschooler to read), for writing (mark making and writing in the sugar) and for exploring all of the senses. The marzipan and icing helps with fine and gross motor skills and with creative thinking, and the addition of toys would bring an imaginative element to the play too. We’ll no doubt be bringing the dinosaurs out next time we do this one!