Sensory Stations can bring great, natural learning opportunities to a child’s everyday; yet still providing you opportunities, as the parent, to teach concepts that would otherwise be taxing or potentially lengthy (like learning by rote).
Sometimes sensory stations seem obvious, but so much so that we forget to do them, or how to use them in an educational way. I went ahead and *used what I had* (this is a key phrase… do not go out and get something! You can do this right at home and still have fun!) and put a couple things together here to discuss some ways you can start to incorporate “noises” at home, particularly when trying to develop hearing and listening skills.
FOUND SOUNDS: Found sounds often become an important discussion when we talk with older students about instruments; for example it’s important that they are aware of how to describe that sound, and know how that instrument produces that sound. This is a precursor to that, by providing a discussion, an ear training, and a vocabulary for those later years. Discussing loud sounds, soft sounds, high, low, rough, smooth, and silent sounds (that’s important too!). Go on a walk, or go around the house with some containers- you can buy some or use old film canisters, pill bottles, or tupperware to hold your treasures- then you display everything and do some compare and contrast. For little ones, you can do as I have it here, I have everything preset with lids taped shut and they’re easy shaker containers, when one gets used I am sure to mention what I see inside and what I hear.
*Everything in this photo I either already had or snagged at the dollar store through my days of teaching, so don’t feel intimidated or as if this is a big project, it’s as big as you want it to be! if I didn’t need to use it for classes, I probably would have just scooped up some dirt and rocks from my backyard, some noodles and sugar from my kitchen and gone from there (which I recommend) In the containers I have… macaroni, rice, coins, styrofoam balls, wooden dowels, sand, glass stones, beads, puff balls, and rocks.
TEACHING LISTENING: A great introduction (or re-introduction) is the book “The Listening Walk” by Paul Showers. It takes a child on a walk with her father and dog as she recognizes what she hears. She notices how her father “thinks” as she “listens”, and then she shares all the sounds that fill her ears along the walk. Once you’ve graduated from animal sounds, this is a nice book to introduce as you can review lawnmower, chainsaw, airplane, shoe, sprinkler sounds (which have more than one sound!) and more sounds from your environment. Now, since we don’t all live in the same place it’s so important to read this book (more than once) and then practice taking your own listening walk and take stock of what you hear in your OWN world! If you have preschoolers or kindergarteners at home, afterwards they can help you write a list of everything they can remember from the walk, with younger ones see if they can recognize sounds by asking them questions about what they see and hear.
I also have a pack of paper doll bodies that I reference to label what parts of the body we use to listen. You can keep this simple with just the ears, or you can expand – especially if your little one is headed to a classroom this fall- “ears on, mouth off”; or “hands down and still” (sometimes this looks like crisscross applesauce) … you can check out any ‘whole body listening’ concept and find the phrases that work for you.
Since we are able to get outside right now, you could trace their body with chalk and ask them “what do our hands do when we listen?” I like the paper dolls because they can fold the arms themselves and further manipulate or add to the body as they see fit. (There are also great pre-made charts already out there that you can easily grab) 🙂
WATER PLAY: Children love water play! Be it the calming, repetitive nature of scooping and pouring, or the release of energy that it brings us all (either relaxing or exciting). It can also help develop gross and fine motors skills along social skills when we have to share space, or experience something like water on our face unwillingly.
It’s also another opportunity to recognize the names of sounds that you might not get to hear elsewhere, “splash”, “spray”, “plop”, “drip”, “sprinkle”… these are your average onomatopoeia words, but highly specific to a water based area. In addition to these special words, you can throw in some metal bowls and kitchen utensils and discuss how they sound in the water- maybe they sound the same as they do out of the water? Maybe one has a lower sound or a higher sound when it has water inside? Does a wooden utensil have a different sound than a metal utensil? You can do this in the bathtub on a rainy day, or add everything to your little pool or water station outside.
Your options with developing listening skills are truly limitless! Sensory Stations, listening and identification all go hand in hand as long as we are able to provide an opportunity for examples!
Keep trying and keep having fun!