Playful learning (2-5 years)

Spring Sensory Tray

spring sensory tray

Last week, to get us in the mood for spring, and to kick start our Spring, Kites and Rainbows theme for March, I put together this Spring Sensory Tray for Rosalie. It is super simple to set up and really bright and fun for toddlers to explore.

spring sensory tray

We dyed some new rice in extra bright colours to make this tray. Follow my really easy instructions on how to dye rice, and make sure you pick several bright spring colours! Dye your rice the day before you want to assemble your tray to allow the rice time to dry. My first ever batch of dyed rice is over two years old and still going strong, if a little depleted!

Tray set up

Tray

Dyed rice

Foam flower stickers

Fluffy chicks

Scoops, tongs and tools – the Learning Resources tools are brilliant, we use them almost daily!

spring sensory tray

Ways to play

The idea of a sensory tray is that you set it up as an invitation to play, allowing your toddler to explore the elements for themselves and play in any way they want. The play is open-ended and imaginative, but this is how Rosalie chose to play:

The first thing she wanted to do was feel the chicks – she loves soft things! Then she used the tongs to pick up chicks and flowers. She transferred the rice using the tools and hunted to find all the flowers.

spring sensory tray

Once she’d explored everything she began to use her imagination and decided that the yellow tongs looked quite like an egg, and that if she put a chick inside she could pretend it was hatching! We’ve been reading a book at bedtime called Magic Molly: The Good Luck Duck, so I think egg hatching was somewhat on her mind.

spring sensory tray

She then told me that the chicks were all hungry and needed feeding and she was pretending to feed them rice.

I absolutely love stepping back and watching Rosalie play, her imagination is really developing and it’s fascinating to see.

spring sensory tray

Numeracy activity

To provide some extra learning I introduced a tray with numbers written on and suggested Rosalie might like to count out the chicks.

spring sensory tray numeracy activity

She isn’t very good at recognising written numbers yet, but she does enjoy counting. She would point to the numbers and ask me what they were then was more than happy to count out the correct number of chicks into each section of the tray.

spring sensory tray numeracy activity

Once she was bored of counting she found the dish very useful for other kinds of sorting; at one point she was using her Learning Resources tweezers to pick up individual grains of rice and transferring them to different sections of the tray based on colour!

Playful learning

Sensory exploration – different textures provide a wonderful sensory experience for toddlers, from the squidgy foam flowers to the fluffy chicks and the wonderful feeling of having rice running through your fingers. The vivid colours also provide sensory stimulation.

Fine motor – transferring sensory elements requires dexterity, and scooping and tipping rice especially uses those small hand and finger muscles and helps with hand-eye coordination.

Imaginative play – a sensory tray is an invitation for imaginative play because there is no expectation of how it is supposed to work. The freedom allows your toddler to use their imagination to figure out what to do, and come up with new ways to play.

Numeracy – by adding a simple counting dish to the sensory tray you are providing your preschooler with the opportunity to practice their numbers in a fun way that doesn’t even feel like learning!

If you like the sound of this activity, why not pin it to try with your toddler?

spring sensory tray

Rosalie – 38 months

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