“Play is often talked about as if it were a relief from serious learning. But for children, play IS serious learning. Play is really the work of childhood.”

These are the words of Fred Rogers, the much-adored host of the popular PBS children’s show called ‘Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood’. And coming from an individual like him who has been dedicated to children via the medium of television for years on end, the words carry weight.

“Play is often talked about as if it were a relief from serious learning. But for children, play IS serious learning. Play is really the work of childhood.” - Fred Rogers

Kids, especially infants and toddlers make use of all their senses to explore the world around them – touch, smell, sight, hearing and taste (my once-upon-a-time toddler used to put everything she could get her hands on into her mouth! I guess the sensory perception of taste is the most well-developed in young kids, perhaps that’s why). Thanks to the internet, there is no lack of good craft activities for kids online as well as other ways to get their creative juices flowing. But as they grow older and fall into the general scheme of things, sensory play tends to take a backseat as other more ‘pressing subjects’ need to be studied and learnt.

It’s the season of fall – that time of the year when colored leaves akin to flowers dot the countryside, hot chocolate becomes your ideal companion in the windy evenings as you wrap your scarves snugly around yourselves, and friends, families and loved ones all begin planning for the gala festive season to commence. What time could be more ideal to indulge in some quality family time with your kids in tow, and some fun sensory play ideas to keep you company?

  1. What’s in the Bag?

Remember this game (an all-time favorite at preschool kids’ birthday parties) in which there is a non-transparent paper bag handed to the kids, filled with household objects of various kinds – a toy car, pebbles, paper clips, cherries and the like? Well, our ‘What’s in the Bag’ game is pretty similar, except for the fact that it’ll be full of all items characteristic of fall – small pine cones, one of a pair of woolen socks, acorns, a dried-up bunch of leaves and even apples. All you need apart from these is a colorful handkerchief to use as a blindfold and you’re set! This activity helps toddlers focus on their sense of touch and have fun while at it, as they discover new objects in their bags.

  1. Reflection Fall Play

Did you know that a mirror can be an ideal, fascinating sensory playing surface for kids? I just came across this idea in a kids’ magazine the other day, which talked about how captivating it is for kids to play around with small objects and a mirror, and does its bit in the development of the senses of sight and touch. And hence this ‘Reflection Fall Play’ idea took shape. For this activity, any flat mirror would do. Place it ideally on a sturdy table in your garden or courtyard and supply your kids with objects like colorful buttons (a word of caution: adult supervision required here if the kids are too young), pebbles, sea shells, leaves, bits of cotton wool, uncooked penne or fusilli, maize kernels, popcorn and similar small objects.

When I tried this activity with my kids, they had the time of their life designing all sorts of imaginary objects on the mirror (which had the sky as a background if you looked on to it from above, hence all the more engrossing). So there were clouds (made up of cotton wool), mountains (an inverted ‘V’ made out of fusilli) and the sun peeking through the peaks (a big yellow button between the mountains). I even came across this interesting play dough and mirror idea online which can be so much fun!

  1. Noodle Brooms/Brushes

I am yet to come across a kid who dislikes noodles, and that’s the precise reason why children will relate to this activity very well. More so, since this is a pretty messy activity (not that the children are complaining!). Take a bunch of uncooked long noodles, tie a piece of string near one end and then boil the entire bunch in water for around 8 minutes. Once it cools down, your noodle brooms/brushes are ready to be dipped into paint and splattered all over the place! If there is a larger group of kids involved, let there be an autumn-themed painting competition of sorts. You could spread large chart papers on the dining table and supply each kid with, say, three colors of paint. And then sit back and enjoy watching the young Picassos go bonkers in their endeavors!

The icing on the cake would be a noodle meal to follow up this fun noodle activity… That is, if you have any strength left in you to whip up a quick snack after all the cleaning up!

Thanks to my kids and their doings, I’ve got the quote – ‘Creativity is messy and we are very creative’ – framed and put up on the walls of our playroom at home. As long as they are having fun and learning in the process, I’m okay with clearing up the mess after them!

"Creativity is messy and we are very creative" quote for children's room or playroom

Author Bio:

Corinne Jacob is a wannabe writer who is convinced that kids learn best when they’re having fun. She is constantly on the lookout for new and exciting ways to make learning an enjoyable experience. Corinne loves all things that scream out un-schooling, alternative education and holistic learning.