While it is not always the most natural for me, I really believe play and sensory activities are so important for learning and development, and let's be honest--they are just fun! Sometimes I have a hard time letting go of control and just rolling with this kind of open-ended activity and exploration, and it often gets pretty messy (another challenge for me to let go and enjoy). But, I see how much they love it! Zeke can play with his sensory bins or materials for a shockingly long time, over and over again.
What has surprised me even more, in some ways, is how much Isaiah still enjoys them! I expected Ezekiel to have fun with them, but I had anticipated using them largely for him while Isaiah was working on other "big kid" stuff, but Isaiah so badly wants to do them as well, that I've had to set aside time, at least when I introduce them, for both boys to enjoy them. Then I can pull them out again and again for Ezekiel to enjoy for his "school" time.
This is also one of the areas that requires notably more creativity here, as we don't have craft stores or dollar stores or things like that, so I find ideas and adapt to what we have here. It is also hard for me at times to let them just play with food items when we are in a place where so many people don't have enough, so I am trying to stretch things and reuse things as often as we can. I also am learning to view this as some of our "treats" or splurges. There is much more to be said for stewarding our resources in a place that the poverty is much more visible and to learn how to live generous lives and walk in grace and joy and allow that to minister to lives around us rather than feeling guilty and denying all pleasures, as that does very little good to anyone...but that is for another discussion!
For now, here is our Christmas sensory bin:
Rice is plentiful here, so we dyed some green and then tossed in some pom poms my mom had sent in a care package, a couple small stocking ornaments purchased from a local shop, and a couple of tiny jingle bells I had brought along. Ezekiel just loves scooping stuff right now!
We also made some gingerbread cloud dough, which was a HUGE hit with both boys!
Future play times with it were kept outside! The boys played with the same batch of it over and over and over. The neighbor boy (who is 6 years old) came by once when we were playing with it, and when he came by a few days later, he told Isaiah to ask his mom if they could play with that cloud stuff again! So fun to see other kids come and enjoy it as well.
Another day, we mixed up some Christmas Swirls. This wasn't one that could really be reused, but the materials for this were super cheap (other than the food coloring, which I always keep around anyway and used a pretty minimal amount for this).