We have an excellent local Sure Start centre. When Ben was 2-3 months old, we did a baby massage course there. At 6 months, we did a course called ‘Baby Moves,’ which was an introduction to sensory play. Now at 9 months, we’re just completing the ‘Little Explorers’ course, which extends the sensory play.
Part of the Sure Start agenda is to better equip parents to “give children the best start in life.” We live in one of the more deprived areas of the country, which may be the reason why the provision at the centre is so good. I certainly have benefitted from attending the courses, and I believe Benjamin has too.
One of the aims of the courses that we have done is about equipping parents with the skills and confidence to carry out sensory play at home. I particularly enjoyed the session on ‘Treasure Baskets,’ which gave me loads of ideas for alternatives to Ben’s usual toys. During that session, he loved banging together a metal dish and a wooden spoon – things that I found easily enough in our home but which I hadn’t thought of giving to him. Similarly, he loves playing with different textured fabrics, and will happily wriggle around with a couple of my scarves for entertainment. A real favourite was a piece of foil survival blanket (the kind you get after doing a marathon) – a really unusual texture for a baby to encounter.
Today’s session was completely different to anything he had experienced before. There were 4 big trays on the floor when we went in, and we had been advised to bring a change of clothes. In the first tray were porridge oats, sand in the second, shredded paper in the third and cornflakes in the fourth. Needless to say, Ben definitely preferred the cornflakes, and sat in the tray for ages, happily eating a second breakfast.
Photography isn’t allowed at the centre apart from the official photographs (we’ll receive photos of us and our children when we go to the last session next week), so I’ll illustrate sensory play with a lovely photo of Ben’s first time in a ball pool. This was taken a couple of months ago by my sister.