Sensory Play & Development, Part 2: Sensory Play at the Park!

If there was one place in the world that my daughter would name as her favorite, it would probably be… no, not home… not the library… the park! We have been taking her to the park since she was a month old. We are lucky to live in a place with gorgeous weather year-long, and we take full advantage of that by spending a lot of time outdoors. Over the summer, we decided to visit a new park every week! Some of our favorite parks are Coyote Point Park, San Mateo; Magical Bridges Park, Palo Alto; Washington Park, Sunnyvale; and gosh, the list is endless! But on most days, you’ll find us at our neighborhood playground, Sylvan Park, Mountain View.

The park has proven to be a wonderful place of learning and fun for us. We can spend hours there, playing in the play area, practicing crawling and then walking, or just chilling out on the grass with books and toys. Through the summer, we had countless picnics at the park. She would get excited by the dogs and squirrels and birds and more. The number of things to do was seemingly endless!

Here’s a list of activities we have done at the park, along with the age at which we did them. All these activities promote sensory development and should be a part of a healthy sensory diet.

  1. Walks: This may seem elementary, but seriously… walks. And I don’t mean making the kid walk, necessarily. We started taking walks to the park with her when she was about a month old and I was ready to go out again. The park was a wonderful source of fresh air, especially since we were having a very hot summer last year when she was born. We would take her in the stroller, and she would sometimes sleep, occasionally gaze out. Sometimes, when she was awake, we would sit at the playground watching the bigger kids play, showing her all that she would play with one day.
  2. The infant swing: The infant swing, with the inserts for tiny infant legs and a bar to prevent the tender child from falling, is one of the safest first plays for a baby. A rode the swing at just under 4 months, when we were confident her neck had gained strength and was stable (Please ensure of this!). The swing helps them gain a sense of movement, and best of all, helped her sleep!
  3. The sights: Another seemingly trivial activity, but one that I can see she has learnt a lot from. When she was really little, my mom would walk her around showing her all the things to play with as she would grow up. Later, she watched animals. Her latest favorite is watching planes flying over the park!
  4. The slide: This certainly came later, at about 6 months. Of course, this was more of us holding her and moving her down the slide ourselves and her actually sliding down at that age. While she was a little apprehensive at first, she slowly started loving it and it helped develop her vestibular system / her sense of movement. By her first birthday, she had learnt to come down the slide herself!
  5. Climbing up steps and ladders: The steps at the park were a little lower than the ones at our home. The crawlers and walkers both develop a good sense of height and distance as they navigate the steps at various levels.
  6. Crawling all over: Out playground has an area with a relatively soft floor where kids can comfortably crawl. That apart, our slide structure had a fairly secure area where she could crawl back and forth. This fostered a sense of independence in her, and she would proudly traverse the slide structure herself.
  7. Climbing up slide: And by climbing up the slide I mean going from down to up on the slide, not the steps. This is great exercise for the knees and hands, and again develops their sense of height.
  8. Walking: Children learn a lot by imitating, especially each other. The park is a great place to practice walking, especially on different surfaces. The softer child-safe ground with slightly higher friction, the grass, the regular sidewalks… the possibilities are endless!
  9. Playing on lawn: This was a summertime favorite of ours, to spread a blanket on the grass, have a picnic and just lay and play. The grass is a wonderful exploratorium for kids, as they dig through the grass discovering plants and leaves and flowers. Of course, it is messy and make sure they don’t eat what they find! You could give your kid a basket and have them collect leaves, twigs and pebbles as an activity.
  10. Playing in sand: This is her latest, and the one about which I was most apprehensive since she still prefers to explore with her mouth. Playing in the sand is wonderful sensory play, but I wasn’t comfortable adding sand in her diet 😉 While playing in the sand, she learns to scoop up small amounts of sand in her shovel and dump it in her bucket, fill up her bucket and dump it out, among other things.

These are just some of the things we’ve done at the park, but the rest is for another post. As the colder months approach, the time we spend at the park is reducing but we aren’t giving up yet! Instead of going in the evenings, we spend our mornings there now. We love the park too much to let go just because it’s winter!

Does your child like the park? What is his/her favorite activity at the park? Do you have a favorite neighborhood park? It’s your turn to share!

Sensory Play & Development, Part 1

Sensory development is a term parents come across fairly early in their kids’ life. Sensory play refers to any activity that helps in developing the child’s senses, any one or all 7 of them. Nope, that wasn’t a typo – while looking for new sensory play activities to try out on A, I learnt that in addition to the well-known 5 senses, there are 2 more less-known ones bringing the total number of senses to 7! [1]

So we all know of the 5 senses: touch, sight, hearing, taste and smell. In addition to these, there is also movement (carried out by the vestibular system) and body awareness (carried out by the proprioception system). In my next couple of posts, I’ll be diving in and exploring more about what these two senses are about and what kind of activities help develop these senses.

Stay tuned!


Choices, choices

My toddler is 15 months old. She has been trying to assert her independence in various ways, such as not wanting to eat a particular food, or not wanting to do a particular activity. She is ready to interact, to express her emotions, and to make her opinion known.

Allowing her to make choices is a great way to accomplish all of the above. The key is to allow her to pick between two viable options so that she feels in control and learns to share her opinion. She chooses her snack in the evening (from options such as fruit, cheese, crackers – no unhealthy items in the options, at least until she has eaten her healthy snacks first), which book to read (from a stack of baby-friendly board books) and which toy to play with. I haven’t tried letting her pick her own clothes yet, but she has shown signs of being ready for that, too.

She learnt to love making choices! When shown her options for snacks, she would look eagerly back and forth, eyes gleaming in anticipation. She would then grin widely and reach out pointing at her choice. The “pointing” is very important in toddlers, it’s often one of the early forms of communication.

Recently, she took this one step further. She looked around, found her box of crackers, brought it over to me, and pointed, indicating that she wanted them! Needless to say, we were thrilled by this new step in communication. Can’t wait to see what’s next!

My foray into #NaBloPoMo

In an attempt to breathe new life into my blog, I’m going to attempt National Blog Post Month, or #NaBloPoMo!

For an outdoors-y daughter like mine, the colder months are a really hard time. Both for her, and for me! Through the summer, we spent most of our time outdoors. At the park, playing on the lawn, having picnics… you name the time of day, we’d be outdoors. Come autumn, however, and our days of picnics are packed away until the warmer days.

The change in pace makes my little girl very bored by evening, and sends my imagination into overdrive, trying to think of ways to keep her occupied. This month, I’ve decided to kill two birds with one stone, and post everyday a new activity we tried, a new way we kept occupied, a new kiddie recipe, or just what we did that day. I may write a long post, I may write a short post, or I may just post a picture. But this blog shall be revived!

Stay tuned!


Cognitive development in babies

This fascinates me as I watch my daughter A (13 months old) learn various things, like how to communicate, how to do things for herself like eat / brush her teeth / comb her hair and so many other things. She does not speak yet, but she is learning to communicate her needs through some actions and of course a lot of yelling.  But why does she yell so much? The reason she yells is because at the moment, it is her easiest way to communicate. We have been trying to teach her various other methods as she does not speak yet, such as baby sign language and pointing. She has started pointing at things when requested, such as car, plane, fan, baby. Over the last few days, she has started making sounds like “ka”, “pa” and “fa” which we can only assume she means car, plane and fan.

Thinking back to my days of research, my framework relied heavily on Bloom’s Taxonomy, which I chose to use over SOLO and a few other options I had. I have spent many months questioning my choices nonetheless always returning to the simplicity of Bloom’s Taxonomy which seemed to apply to so many real-life situations as well. I can’t help revisiting Bloom’s Taxonomy of Cognition as I see A’s cognition grow leaps and bounds. To recap for those who need it, Bloom’s levels of cognition are Remember, Understand, Apply, Analyze, Evaluate, Create. At first, A did not know anything about the car. (I imagine, as her dad and I kept pointing at our car exclaiming “car! car!” she must have been thinking “these people are nutso!”) However, slowly, she started associating the “car” with our car parked outside home. She remembered what we told her and she now pointed outside our home when we said “car”.  Slowly, she understood what she was pointing at, what we were telling her and would point outside the house promptly. After awhile she learnt to apply the concept of pointing to a car in a different way – she would point at other cars when she was at the park! She has now learnt to identify a car.

I find that this strategy has been working to teach her about many different objects and with many different processes she needs to apply in her daily life. She has even learnt to brush her teeth in this way!

The human mind is amazing, and it is so wonderful to watch a tiny mind grow!

I wasn’t sure what to write for my first post, but oh well, here goes nothing…

Hi! I’m Vyshnavi, an edu-tech researcher and new mom. Often, I find my two worlds colliding as I watch my daughter learn new things and wonder how her mind learns, and how I can help her learn better. Here I document my thoughts and ideas.

Thanks for joining me for the ride!