Spring sensory play: Videos & activities for early learners

By Shelley Harris, Children’s Librarian

Play is how kids learn. We say this so often because it’s one of the most important things for adults who raise or work with kids to remember. Librarians included!

Babies, toddlers, and preschoolers learn best when they can explore the things and world around them in their own way and own time.

For some kids and adults, this stays true! Some people learn best by doing something or observing it being done. Others learn best by reading or listening. I learn best when I can read and then write down what I want to remember. I learn very little when I can only listen. What works best for you?

Below you’ll find videos about play, books about play, and lots of fun ways to play together!

Watch these videos

Jenny and I love talking about play! Here, Jenny shares some fun songs to inspire play, and I share how to share play with books.

In this video, Ruthie is worried about Miss Jenny because they haven’t had any play time together lately. Jenny forgot that play is so important for kids, and knows that Ruthie needs the time to learn and be in charge.

Try these activities

  • The National Association for the Education of Young Children lists ten things for caregivers to know about play.
  • You can help kids by offering things that help them explore using all their senses. This website explains how sensory play can benefit kids. This includes regulating behavior and emotions, increasing language, and improving fine motor skills with their fingers. 
  • No Time for Flashcards and Teaching Mama have great ideas for creating sensory tubs for toddlers and preschoolers. There are so many ways kids can decide to play with them, and you can help them include other skills like counting and sorting.
  • Alison McDonald also has some fun ideas for spring activities. Kids can fit fake flowers into the holes of an upside colander to practice art, math, and fine motor skills. Don’t have fake flowers? Try pipe cleaners, dry spaghetti, or other items around your house.

Read these books

Looking for fun books to inspire play?

  • Try Molly Idle’s Flora series. These are wordless books that encourage imitating animals in fun ways. They are available in print and on Hoopla.
  • Many books by Jan Thomas inspire giggles and interaction. My favorite is Can You Make a Scary Face? but Is Everybody Ready for Fun? is also excellent. 
  • It’s a lot of fun for kids to imitate the animals that Marta finds on her walk: big and small, loud and quiet, fast and slow. Marta! Big and Small is bilingual in English and Spanish.

Borrow & explore fun outside play kits

  • The Outdoor Science Discovery Kit is perfect for nice days, with stomp rockets and sunpaper for making patterns outside.
  • The Supported Gardening Kit is filled with tools for gardening and comes with supports for kids with disabilities, including a social narrative and topic communication board. It also includes a copy of Errol’s Garden and discussion prompts to have with kids.
  • Who doesn’t love the idea of an Animal Poop Discovery Kit? Learn about animal tracks and droppings with a fun game and guide.
  • Our Green Goddess American Girl doll loves gardening! Kids can come up with great stories and exploration with dolls, and this one is an ambulatory wheelchair user who comes with crutches and a wheelchair.
Shelley Harris

About Shelley

Shelley is a children’s librarian with a passion for early literacy, serving and celebrating the disability community, and exploring technology. She can often be found practicing storytime songs with her black lab, Bingo.