Sensory Play in the Sink is a great way to have fun with water
Sensory bins are amazing, because they allow a child to explore their world through their senses, touching and feeling. It also allows them to work on their motor skills, and learn through play.
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But once they're tall enough to reach the sink (with a stepstool), you don't even need a bin! And while I absolutely love our water table for outdoor sensory water play, sometimes that's not a great option. In winter playing with water outside is too dang cold, and sometimes here in the desert during summer it's too hot for anything shy of a swimming pool.
That makes sense. So what kind of toys should I use for sensory play in the sink?
Sensory play can sometimes feel overwhelming, but it doesn't need to be complicated or fancy! I like to use Little People for this activity, or the animals from my son's farm set. The most important thing is to not use toys that can get water inside of them. Because mold is nasty.
You'll also need a plug for your sink, and it's fun to add a little bubble bath or dish soap. Pro tip: using the sprayer to fill the sink will help the bubble bath foam up more than the regular water stream. Alternatively, a little blue food coloring would encourage imagining their toys are swimming in the ocean.
One thing to remember about sensory play is that it's intended to be child led- they're exploring what you've put in front of them. So if they don't take to pretending the toys are taking a bath or swimming and are more interested in popping bubbles or splashing, go with it!
What can my child learn from giving their toys a bath?
There are a few things that your toddler can get out of this sensory play in the sink. For one, it reinforces the importance of hygiene. As anyone who has watched Frozen daily for any part of their parenting journey knows, Kristoff doesn't smell better than reindeer. Dude probably needs a bath.
If your child dislikes bathtime, this may be a great activity to ease them into it. One of the things sensory play does is to build trust with different textures and sensations by playing with it in a low-stakes environment. If they learn to enjoy water play on their terms, it can make other water activities feel more positive and safe to them as well.
Your child also gets to explore density with things that can sink or float. My son was a little surprised when Kristoff sank, since the toys he plays with when he takes a bath all float. Some toys may float initially but can fill with water and then sink- a water bottle can be a great household item to demonstrate that with.
What are the other benefits of sensory play?
According to Goodstart, sensory play encourages kids to explore and investigate. This helps build pathways and connections in their brains, which is part of why it's considered so great for child development. It also allows them to focus on the play, which can foster their ability to focus in more distracting environments.
Sensory play in the sink also helps little ones build their motor skills. Any sensory play will provide practice with their gross motor skills, and some will also support fine motor skill development.
What are some other ideas for sensory play in the sink?
Scooping things out (hey wine-loving mamas, here's a use for those corks!). A kitchen spoon or soup ladle work great, just be sure your "scoop" is big enough for the size of objects your little one is scooping.
Sink or float game- ask your child before they put something in the water what they think will happen. Look at your little scientist, hypothesizing!
Colors- change up your water with a few drops of food coloring. You can do blue to make it like the ocean, red to make it like Mars for their space toys, or mix colors to create different ones.
Falling water- give them a small colander or bath cups with holes in the bottom so they can explore the sensation of falling water lifting them out.
If you enjoyed this post, you might also like this Easy Sensory Bin with Oats for Babies and Toddlers.
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What's your favorite way to do sensory play in the sink?