Oats and sensory play? Using simple objects to facilitate sensory play

Author: “Ms Ashley”

Instagram: @earlychildhoodenthusiast

In continuation of our discussion, we’ll be talking about open ended materials. The easiest way for me to explain the idea of open ended materials is essentially objects or substances that have multiple uses for play and help carry out a learning experience; things kids use to play. For many, the immediate reference would be toys. In many cases, toys are great as open ended materials.

​​Take a look at this picture. Children will most certainly get great use out of every object here. They can bounce the ball, fly the rocket ship, etc. But if I were to pick one of the objects out of everything pictured as an open ended object for a lesson I would likely say the cardboard box. The use of what is possible with the cardboard box is tremendous. When creating a lesson opportunity or an environment that invites lots of room for exploration, having objects that are the LEAST assuming, is key. These type of materials encourage imagination! To be honest, all of the materials pictured could be used for imaginative play, as children always find a way to re-purpose their toys. What was once a bear for cuddling is now a missile to be launched! And that is perfectly fine too! But what we, as educators and caregivers need to consider, is how to MAXIMIZE the potential for inspiring and facilitating imaginative play and objects like a cardboard box work best in most cases.

Why not sticks for play?

There’s a reason children gravitate towards them. It’s because they can make sticks into whatever they want them to be. As a facilitator, we can use them for counting, writing out words, measuring, etc. There are so many possibilities! On top of all of this, more often than not, the open ended materials that I am talking about are generally safer, less expensive and maintain a certain level of practicality than fancier materials.

One of my favourite areas in the classroom is the sensory bin. A sensory bin is basically a large container where children scoop and play with the contents in the container as they appeal to the senses. Super vague but that’s how open ended play works. It is the PERFECT area for open ended play. You can basically get a tub of water, which can count as sensory play, bath time is sensory play! The same idea with sand.

Let’s take a look at the variations of themes that I use in the sensory bin when I get a bit fancier. Below is a container of oatmeal oats. That is where we’ll start.

What can we do with oats? How can we use them to carry out a lesson opportunity?

The container below can have some measuring cups added to it and you’ve got a great sensory bin.

But what if I want to talk about birds?

Or autumn?

Or how about farm animals?

As you can see, starting with the very basic can lend itself to lots of variations and open itself up to different learning experiences for children. The facilitation of open ended play is truly about YOU opening up your imagination and seeing how you can pull from what your child is playing with to create a lesson plan. I have a set of little alphabet tiles and numbers that I like to add into sensory bins so that children will become familiar with the symbols as they are playing. Just start simple. Make it easy and make it fun.

To end this note, I’m going to leave you with some pictures of some ideas for play that are sensory based and always a hit in the classroom!

Pine cones and natural elements

Fabric pieces and rug squares

Yes, those are colored pasta noodles.

Have a great day! -Ms. Ashley

Author Biography

You can find more from Ms Ashley at her website and on various social media.

Website: www.playenthusiasm.com

Instagram: @earlychildhoodenthusiast

Facebook: Play Enthusiasm

YouTube: Play Enthusiasm

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