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Sensory Play Promotes Pretend Play
October 01, 2017
Category: Walking, Nature, Sensory Play,

Sensory Play Makes for Great Pretend Play
Common household items and nature's gatherings help create sensory play for toddlers and young kids.

Let's touch upon sensory play ;). T's Learning Center definitely knows a lot about this and we want to share some good ideas! We know infants, toddlers and preschoolers learn best through sensory play and exploration, so find fun ways to create fall-related sensory experiences for them to enjoy. Pick out a basket, bowl, or plastic bin and fill it with fall items, such as fall fruits and vegetables (small pumpkins, apples, gourds, sweet potatoes, etc.), leaves, and acorns. Just be sure to supervise children if you do not want them to put items in their mouths.

20 Must-have Items for Fall Sensory Activities for Children:
  1. Cinnamon
  2. Pumpkin Pie Spice
  3. Fall Leaves (Real or Faux)
  4. Acorns (Real of Faux)
  5. Cornmeal
  6. Oatmeal (cooked or uncooked)
  7. Burlap
  8. Pinecones
  9. Fall Colored Felt
  10. Fall colored foam pieces
  11. Orange, yellow, and red food dye
  12. Pine needles
  13. Pumpkin puree
  14. Apples
  15. Pumpkin seeds
  16. Regular size Pumpkins
  17. Indian Corn
  18. Fall colored or scented rice
  19. Spaghetti noodles (cooked or uncooked)
  20. Popcorn (popped or un-popped)


Another idea is to create a pumpkin sensory bag by scooping out the guts of a pumpkin into a resealable sandwich bag. Children can then squish the seeds and guts around in the bag to discover what the inside of a pumpkin looks and feels like without all the mess.



Nature Walk Sensory Experience
Children love to collect things and a nature walk is ideal in the autumn. Collect stones and twigs and leaves and acorns. After a walk, put your collection into a fall sensory bin and discuss many of the changes in nature that come with the changes in the season. Talk about how the leaves on the trees turn from green to reds, yellows, oranges, and then to brown, and fall off the trees. Acorns will be hidden away for the winter or eaten by hungry animals, pinecones will fall to the ground. The grass will stop growing. The stones will stay the same.

Pick all the acorns out of the bin, and pretend to be squirrels. Drop the acorns in the bin the way squirrels do – under of leaves, buried in the grass and under trees (Use the twigs you collected as trees).

Tell the children that squirrels don’t necessarily find the acorns they hide. Each squirrel hides stashes of acorns, and then during the winter, squirrels hunt for any acorns stashed away, not just their own. Pick out the acorns and take turns playing squirrel. One child can be the hiding squirrel, stashing the acorns in the bin, and another child can be the hungry squirrel finding the stashes beneath the leaves. Reverse roles and kept playing.

Fall Pine Cone Toss: A Simple Counting Game
If you have pine cones and pine needles all over your backyard, have your kids collect them. You can also to scented ones to place as accents in bowls and vases in your house.

Use them to play a simple game of Fall Pine Cone Toss. This will allow hand-eye coordination along with counting while your children play.

Materials Needed: 
  • six pine cones in a variety of sizes
  • three varying sized bowls,
  • one die
  • tape to mark off the playing area
How to play:
  1. Put bowls out in order from big to small (small is harder and placed further away) and designate each bowl to have a certain number of points. Keep it simple and have the big bowl be worth 1 point; next bowl worth 2 points; and third (harder) bowl worth 3 points.
  2. Roll the die and count the number shown on the die.
  3. Toss that number of pine cones into the bowls to try and earn the most points (ex. toss 3 pine cones into the bowls). Over time your child will learn that throwing three into the furthest small bowl will earn more points than throwing all three into the first big bowl.
  4. Count your points (and write them down if you want to keep track).
  5. Take the pine cones out of the bowls and pass the pine cones and die to the next person.
  6. Take turns until everyone has had a turn. Play again and again until you are bored. You can decide to play until the first person gets to 10 or 20 points if you want to have a designated ending point.
Letter and Math Games with Autumn Leaves

While you’re out and about enjoying the new season, collect up some leaves and bring them home to play these seasonal letter and math games.

You can transform a pile of autumn leaves in to learning resources by painting on some numbers and letters. You can use correction fluid but a permanent marker or acrylic paint could do the job just as well. You could laminate the leaves or cover them in contact paper/sticky backed plastic to help them last a little longer as you play.

Lay out a jumble of number leaves and try these math games – depending on the age and stage of your children:

  1. Spot the number that matches your child’s age
  2. Point to each number and say its name out loud
  3. Arrange the numbers in order: getting bigger or getting smaller (if you organize your leaves when you’re adding the numbers you can correspond ascending numbers on leaves that are increasing in size.)
  4. Make some repeating patterns with the colors and shapes of your leaves
              a.  one green, one brown, one green, one brown
              b.   one green, two brown, three yellow, one green, two brown, three yellow

Make a set of leaves with letters (perhaps on the reverse side to your numbers) and you can play some letter games too:

  1. Lay out the leaves in a jumble and see which letters your child recognizes.
  2. Find the letters in your child’s name.
  3. Layout the letters from a word your child knows, or a spelling they’re trying to learn, and see if they can unscramble them.
  4. Add some of the leaves to a sensory tub and hunt out all the letters.
  5. Hide the leaves around the house or garden and go on a letter treasure trail. Try and find the whole alphabet?
Black Bat Sensory Bin



For some Halloween fun, put together our simple Black Bat Sensory Bin with just a few supplies. Preschoolers loving making bat soup, counting bats, and of course, running their hands through the rice! Most low prep activities end up being the most fun. This sensory bin is no exception!

You probably have most of the supplies on hand:
  • white rice
  • bowtie pasta
  • food coloring or liquid water colors
  • rubbing alcohol or white vinegar
  • kid-friendly tweezers and scoopers
  • cauldrons
To color pasta noodles or rice, use a gallon freezer bag (ones that zip are ideal!) Add rice or noodles, coloring (food dye or liquid water colors), and a few drops of rubbing alcohol or vinegar. Seal the bag and move the rice around until it is completely colored. Add more coloring and rubbing alcohol if desired! Allow the ingredients dry by dumping it out onto a tray.

For rice and bowtie pasta noodles, use your favorite liquid water colors. If you do not have black, you can use purple food coloring – the bats will still be fun!

When the rice and the noodles were completely dry, add them both to the sensory bin (ones with locking lids are great!). Scatter the black bats on the orange rice and then added 3 small cauldrons to the bin. Kid-friendly tweezers and fun scoopers help strengthen some fine motor skills, too!

Have some ideas and experiences that you'd like to share with our families and others? As a full-time daycare and preschool in Jacksonville, T's Learning Center is always coming up with new ideas for sensory play and how to incorporate learning and fun; making it the best learning environment for our kids.