You know how it goes: You buy your child a brand new toy, and all she wants to do is play with the box. So don’t be surprised if your child comes home from preschool chattering about how much she loved a sensory box activity. Sensory boxes are filled with some sort of dry material with an interesting texture, such as rice or beans, as well as spoons, cups or small toys. They engage your child’s senses in a way that develops a wide array of skills.
Hand-eye coordination lets the brain direct the eye to follow moving objects. Sure, following a ball and whacking it with a bat is easy for you, but preschoolers need ample practice. Letting a preschooler manipulate objects in a sensory box helps develop hand-eye coordination. Ask your preschooler to find the largest and smallest objects in the box. Direct her to move a scoop of beans from one corner to the other corner. Draw a circular track and ask your preschooler to wheel a toy car around it.
Fine Motor Skills
Since small objects will fit inside a sensory box, they provide a simple way to work on your preschooler’s fine motor skills. These are the small movements in your child’s fingers and hands needed for things like holding a pencil. Ask your preschooler to pick up individual beans from a sensory box. Ask her how they feel in her hand — are they rough, smooth, hard or soft? Give your child a measuring cup and have her move beans from one area of the sensory box to another. This process strengthens her fine motor skills.
Sensory Processing Integration
Sensory integration combines all the senses to help your child process where she is and what’s happening around her. It also helps her determine how to act in a particular situation. For example, sensory integration helps her dodge a flying toy or tells her to come to the kitchen when she smells dinner cooking. Sensory boxes can engage all of a preschooler’s senses. For example, moving the beans around the box creates sound. Some of the materials likely have a particular smell, and some objects are larger than others. When your child moves her fingers through the box, it ignites her sense of touch.
Preschoolers love having the power to manipulate objects in their environment — your preschooler is the queen, and the sensory box and objects are her minions. While playing with sensory boxes, preschoolers are in control of the moment, and they find that feeling very relaxing. Ask your preschooler to listen to the sounds the beans make. Move her hands fast and slow and listen to the different sounds. Ask her what it sounds like. For instance, does moving her hand slowly in the beans sound like the ocean waves?