This is a post about one easy play idea and its many benefits for little ones (from an occupational therapy perspective) – Simple Toddler Sensory Play with Flour! It takes one minute to set up (pouring a handful of flour onto the table or highchair tray), a couple of minutes with a dustpan and brush to scoop up at the end (or less if a drop mat is used to catch the ‘fall out’), and was a perfect way for Master 3 to play alongside me as I prepared dinner. He loves to get involved in the kitchen with me, but there are times when it is not possible – particularly if I’m really racing to get food on the table.
An important aspect of sensory integration and consequently, motor skill development, is tactile discrimination; the ability to be able to differentiate information through the sense of touch. It allows us to identify where on the body the touch is, the type of touch (light/deep/ fast/ slow), and lots of details about what we are touching (the object/material, temperature, texture, shape/size…). The other two major aspects of sensory integration are modulation (appropriate levels of attention/arousal/energy according to each activity/environment/sensory input) and praxis (motor planning – the ability to plan, organise and coordinate movements efficiently and with the right amount of force). All three are closely related.
As far as I’m concerned, the more opportunities children have to experience and explore different sensory materials at their own pace, in an unstructured way, the better!
Flour is so soft and light to touch, and warms in the hands and fingertips. It is mold-able and sprinkle-able; you can spread it, lump it, pat it, and pinch it; swirl it around, watch it fall through the gaps between your fingers, and rub it into your skin ’til your hands turn white! You can also make lines and shapes and ‘write’ in it, which is especially fun if the surface is a colour other than white for visual contrast (coloured table/cloth, paper, aluminum foil…).
Fine motor skill development is greatly enhanced by finely tuned tactile discrimination in the hands/fingers. It allows us to learn how to hold and manipulate all sorts of tools, including: pencils, crayons, glue, scissors, stickers, thread/shoelaces, pegs, tongs, beads, buttons, coins, zips, spoons/forks/knives, etc…
There are so many simple sensory play ideas which nurture and encourage tactile discrimination (and therefore sensory integration and fine motor development). You do not need to buy lots of expensive materials or toys; nor do you need loads of time; and there are ways to keep the mess contained/minimised!
In this instance, for example, B was in his regular play clothes (chosen to be played in – ie. to be covered in dirt/water/mess from head to toe in the process of play). Once he’d finished playing in the flour, I sent him outside whilst I finished dinner, then he just changed outside for meal time (we could have also just eaten outside pre-bath time too, or used an art smock or drop mat).
Have you tried sensory play with flour?
Thanks for stopping by Kids Play Space!