I take no credit for this play activity whatsoever! I was reading a wonderful learning through play post from Happy Hooligans last week which used a mirror as the play surface for sensory play. A wonderful play idea, Jackie suggests taking the mirror outside to show the reflections in the sky. Today it was pouring down, so funnily enough I wasn't too keen to do that, and set up inside by the window instead.
I had a plastic tray that I've used for parties before, and I decided to fill it with natural and scented items all in an Autumnal tone; ground coffee, whole coffee beans, pebbles, shells, dried orange slices, conkers and cinnamon sticks. I also provided large tweezers, spoons, a funnel and cotton wool buds. I set the mirror onto the play table that we use to give The Boy a steady and secure base, and located it in a window for ample natural lighting.
"Can you smell it in the house, mummy? It's filling the house!"
Straight away The Boy went for the cinnamon sticks, intrigued as to what they were. He sniffed them, scratched them, rubbed them together and commented on how doing that released the smell. He was utterly bemused to learn it was the same thing as we had used in cakes the previous week, and decided to pick up some ground coffee with it and compare the scent.
He then became intrigued with mixing and pouring the coffee beans together with the ground coffee. The Boy started using the funnel to pour the ground coffee into the beans but then tried the beans into the coffee instead, he soon realised that they were too big to fit through the hole. The tweezers proved a bit of a challenge for him when trying to pick up coffee beans, turns out rounded objects are a bit tricky! In the end he used his fingers, and then a cockle shell to scoop up the ground coffee, and a cinnamon stick to mix the beans and grounds together. He loved pouring it into the whelk shell, watching it roll around through the spiral and then pour out the bottom.
"You make a maze, Mummy. And don't forget the dead ends!"
Pouring the coffee grounds onto the mirror, he chose a cotton bud to trace patterns in and then practised some letter formation. That soon seemed a bit too much like school so he then asked me to draw a maze in the coffee, with the all important dead ends. This is a great way to practise pre-writing skills and the pencil grip. The Boy also noticed that if he looked through some of the coffee into the mirror it looked like he was a different colour.
"It sounds like music, like clapping. And listen, this is fast like raindrops."
The cinnamon sticks proved a huge hit, in more ways than one! The Boy really liked the sound they made when banged together, and then he decided to pour the ground coffee and the beans to see which made the loudest noise. Of course the best thing that made a sound was the magical seashell that he could hear the sea through!
"I want to make a tower like they did on Tree Fu Tom!"
I asked The Boy if he could make a pattern with the shells, I thought he might have made a flower or have sorted them. Instead he laid them out in a row, one up and the next down, repeatedly. Then he asked what he could use the pebbles for, which I turned around on him, and he suggested making a tower and seeing how high it could reach. He very quickly remembered about choosing flat stones to rest on top of each other, and persevered until he managed five high!
I was amazed at how well this activity went with The Boy, especially as I've never given him much sensory play in the past as he doesn't like gloop or mucky hands. This has shown that he can explore the senses without becoming mucky, and that actually he got a lot out of it. I gave it to him when he'd been in from school for about half an hour and, as my husband pointed out, he seemed to find it very therapeutic as it didn't need a huge amount of concentration and he could explore at his own pace and in his own way.