"This is my favorite thing I've done all summer!", my eldest daughter exclaims, as she carefully sketches the finishing touches on her stone.
Let's backtrack for a moment.
I was starting lunch, and was noticing that the kiddos were looking, well, kind of antsy.
"Want to look for rocks?" I ask, to an assent of cheers, as they scamper away to grab little plastic bags and their shoes.
Finishing up their lunch, I make my way to the yard and see my three little explorers in separate yet close areas of the same grassy area, grabbing large stones and placing them into their plastic bags.
Think of all the messy play and the sensory benefits this type of play reaps-specifically on the tactile system, responsible for touch.
As this was a child-directed activity, the child had complete control over the stimuli, leading to improved sensory processing, and overall self-regulation.
I have found the most success utilizing natural ingredients in sensory exploration with children with sensory integrative or modulation difficulties, as they tend to ground children (and adults!) to their center.
"Look how strong I am!" My eldest daughter exclaims, a while later, holding a bag filled with rocks over her head, a look of pride evident on her face.
Of course, my son follows suit.
We make our way inside, with a promise of a super-fun project.
They were pretty confused.
You mean, we can have the rocks inside the house? We can keep them? Yep, they were pretty confused!
First, I had each child wash two rocks each in the sink.
Turning the sink on to the proper pressure requires good hand control and stability, and holding the rock while washing it requires good fine motor strength and coordination, as well as bilateral upper extremity coordination and integration.
Searching for dirt worked on visual motor and perceptual skills.
Next, I gave each child a few paper towels and they scrubbed their rocks dry.
This works on crossing midline, bilateral upper extremity coordination and integration, and fine motor strength and coordination.
Each child was then given a plate.
One rock was placed on the plate, where they were free to decorate it with markers to their heart's content.
When they were through, they placed it into the community/family centerpiece bowl, and moved onto their last rock.
We acted as scientists, talking about our observations; for example, when a rock had a smooth texture, all markers were able to easily write on its surface, but when a rock had a rough texture, my children noticed that highlighters worked best.
We utilized cognitive skills, fine motor skills, visual motor skills, sensory skills (mostly tactile), and imaginative play skills.
Finally, all the rocks were completed and they were placed in a bowl as a display piece in the kitchen.
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