Ways to Play

written by: Amanda Haxel @activitieswithamanda

With a change in routine can come some challenges, so I’m excited to share with you some things that have worked for our family to ease the transition. It’s my hope that you and your children will enjoy these activities just as much as we have!

With our oldest starting Pre-K we have been learning together how to adjust to the change in routine. A few of the things that have worked for our neurodivergent child have been sensory and movement activities! Sensory activities are activities that engage or stimulate the different senses. Our brains use our senses to help us maneuver in our surroundings! The 5 most common senses are taste, touch, sight, smell and sound. So, engaging in these types of activities support brain development, which helps them develop sensory processing capabilities!

Some of our favorite activities are sensory bins and bags, calm down jars, imaginative play, color and shape sorting, and other fine and gross motor activities. These different activities have been a really great resource for particularly after school.

Sensory Bins

Two of our favorite sensory bins incorporate water and kinetic sand! Have an overstimulated kid after a long day of school, just add water. Have a hangry child who is counting the minutes to dinner time, just add water. I cannot count the number of times just adding water has saved me. It’s my go-to when we all need a reset! I have my go to large plastic bin that I add water to. My favorite items to add into the bin are Glo Pals, pom poms, water beads and resin loose parts. Then give them scoops, bottles, bowls and let them have at it. My kids always gravitate toward my kitchen utensils, so those are also a great resource for sensory bins!

Our other favorite sensory base is kinetic sand! I love that it can be reused repeatedly - It never dries out and is super easy to clean up! For my children, kinetic sand in of itself is enough. Sometimes though they like to use play dough tools, or again my kitchen utensils, for scooping, cutting and building with! Kinetic sand also has such a fun texture and has a little bit of resistance when played with, so it’s a great sensory activity!

Calm Down Jars

Speaking of an engaging sensory activity, calm down jars/bottles have been something we use frequently with our neurodivergent child. After school can be a tough adjustment period, so finding a calming activity has been key for allowing our child to decompress. We have made several different calm down jars, but the one most loved is the simplest! So simple that it includes just 3 things - water, Glo Pals and glitter. I typically use a plastic jar or bottle, although you can use glass jars if it’s safe for your child to use. I just fill the bottle roughly 2/3 full, add in Glo Pals and about a tsp of glitter. Honestly, you can never go wrong with glitter in my opinion. So just put as much as your glitter loving heart desires! Then shake, shake, shake and that's it! The swirling, soft glowing of the jar has such a calming effect.

Gross Motor Activity

Another fun way we try and beat the after-school blues is by doing a gross motor activity. Movement has always been so beneficial for my kids when they seem out of sorts, so painters tape to the rescue! We love using painters tape because it is so versatile, not too costly and easily accessible. One of our favorite painters tape activities for a gross motor activity is an indoor obstacle course! I find a hallway or a corner of the house and string up pieces of painters tape. I tape them at different heights and criss cross them every which way. They get to maneuver their way through while using their muscles and problem-solving skills. It’s a win-win!

Color Sorting

Do you kids love color sorting? For my oldest it's a relaxing and calming activity, so I pull this one out often! Since quick and easy is what I strive for, I love using the free Color Flash Card printable that Glo Pals provides. We just print and cut the color and shape cards and use as is! For this activity I love using our Glo Pal cubes. My best tip for Glo Pal cubes is when their light runs out, don’t toss them. I save them as they go out and add them to our stash in a Ziplock bag. I then pull them out for these specific types of activities!

I know that sensory play can sometimes seem overwhelming, or you may feel like you need to spend lots of money to get started. I hope that one of these activities will spark an idea or give you the encouragement you need to start playing. So from me to you, I just want to remind you that you’re doing amazing!


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