Sensory Play: What Is It?

Posted Friday, August 30, 2013

These days the topic of "Sensory Play" is all around us. There are pins about it on Pinterest, articles about it in child magazines, and even a plethora of information and activities about it on kid-blogs. But, what is Sensory Play? And is it really necessary?

What is Sensory Play: 

Sensory Play includes any activity that stimulate your child's senses: touch, smell, sight, taste, and hearing. Sensory Play can facilitate exploration, and encourage the imagination of your child. The purpose of Sensory Play is to encourage children to play, create, explore, and imagine.

What experts and research say:
  • Children learn best and retain the most information when they engage their senses
  • Sensory play contributes to brain development. Think of it as "food for the brain."
  • Sensory play builds nerve connections in the brain's pathways making it easier for the child to complete more complex tasks
  • Sensory play is a great tool for calming a frustrated or anxious child
  • Sensory play opportunities and a child's exposure to sensory play activities is declining in classrooms as well as the home
How can it help:

When babies first encounter the world, they don't have words to figure out what's going on, so they gather information through their senses. We see all kinds of toys on the market that babies can chew on, touch, hear it jingle, or even see because the patterns are black, white, and red. These toys are focused on building a baby's senses. As the babies grow older, they become toddlers. We all know how much toddlers love to explore with their hands, touching everything in sight. Ever have a toddler that loves to turn on the water and stick their hands in? They are exploring through their senses. It is through senses that babies, toddlers, and children make sense of the world around them. By giving children sensory play activities, you are building their cognitive, creative, social and emotional, physical, and linguistic skills. 

Sensory play sharpens problem solving and decision making skills. Hand a child a ball of play dough and let them decide what to make. Stick a toddler's hands in a bowl of water with cups to pour the water, and watch them figure out how to fill the cup up. These are some examples of ways that sensory play can build connections in the brain.

How children use the materials presented to them is much more important than you telling them what to do. We see so many sensory bins, sensory bowls, sensory foods all over the internet today, and these materials can really build the creativity spark in a child's mind. Will the rainbow rice be used as rain pouring down on the dinosaurs or will it be scooped into cups as ice cream? The imagination of a child is really allowed to flow independently during sensory play. 

These Eggs Crayons from the Childhood Store are a great way to get kids to be creative. I love crayons for creative play because there are no wrong ways to create with crayons. Crayons provide an open-ended opportunity to draw and create anything the child chooses. The shape and chunkiness of these crayons are perfect for grasping, and can be held by even the smallest of hands. 

Social and Emotional: 
Sensory play allows a child to be completely in control of the situation. Children are in complete control of their actions and decision making, allowing them to feel more independent. When playing side-by-side with another child during sensory play, children gain the necessary skills they need for cooperative play.

Sensory play is best known for sharpening those fine motor skills that kids will need later in life. Tying their shoes, using scissors, holding a pencil, and zipping zippers are just a few processes that require fine motor skills. Sensory play can help build fine motor by allowing the child to manipulate the materials, by mixing, measuring, pouring, scooping, and more! 

I love this Montessori set from Apples n Amos. It allows the child to fill the cups, stack them, sort the objects by color, and even use the clothespins to grab onto the cups--pinching those clothespins are a great way to build fine motor skills!

Sensory play encourages children to explore new language and vocabulary. If you hand a child some play dough, ask them to describe what it feels like. They may come up with words like "soft" or "gooey". I recently made my 5 year old some colored rice to play with and while I sat outside with him while he explored, he looked at me and said, "The rice is ice cream. You be the customer, and I be the chef." I didn't even know the words "customer" and "chef" were part of his vocabulary. Therefore, sensory play can encourage all kinds of linguistic skills!

As said before, babies use nothing but their senses to make connections about the world around them. I've gathered a few of my favorite baby sensory toys from the EtsyKids Team. 

This Wood Cotton Teether Ring from Little Tadpole Designs is perfect for babies to chew on, pull, and feel. It can stimulate a baby's senses of touch, sight, and sound.

This Tag Toy from Ohhhhhzaza is awesome because it stimulate a baby's sense of touch, sight, sound, and taste (if they choose to chew on it). This toy stimulates the sense of sight with all of the beautiful colors; stimulates the sense of touch with the soft cotton feel and the variety of ribbons; and stimulates the sense of sound because it comes with a crinkle noise inside! 

This Soft Quiet Busy Book from Caterpillar3 is a great book to share with your baby. It's interactive, soft, and colorful! Babies are easily able to grab the pieces or hug the caterpillar. 

Finally, here is a collection of some great Sensory Play materials that you can make at home! They are sure to please your little one, and provide them with hours of endless Sensory fun!

I hope this post gives you all a better idea of what sensory play is, the importance of sensory play activities, and how you can better incorporate it into your child's daily play! Of course, if you google "sensory play" or do a search for it on Pinterest, you'll find a boatload of ideas and activities! 

Until next time, 


Erica's shop eLeMeNO-P Kids offers toys for the learning child. 
Follow her on FacebookTwitterPinterest, and her Blog. You can also shop
her Website.

Meet Etsy Seller PatrioticPrincess2

Posted Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Today we would like to introduce you to Keena
and her Etsy shop PatrioticPrincess2

PatrioticPrincess2 has been selling on Etsy since April 2012, they create and sell beautiful dresses for little girls. Today they are sharing a little about their shop and selling handmade items.

ABU ACU Navy Marines Memorial Day Pageant OOC - PatrioticPrincess2 Baby Doll Pageant Red White Blue Patriotic Stars Dress - Custom Order Allison - PatrioticPrincess2 One Shoulder  OOC Petticoat Dresssize 5T/6 - PatrioticPrincess2 Pageant Babydoll Flower Girl Birthday Dress - PatrioticPrincess2

What motivated you to start your shop?
Patriotic Princess2 began when I was looking for a unique dress for my Grandbaby to wear for her 3rd birthday. I ordered one from online which I loved, but there were so many elements about it that I wanted to change to make it better. So the next month I designed a dress and loved it so much I started offering them for sale just to see if there was any interest. I was still Active Duty at the time, so I sold part time for the first year only taking a few dresses in between my work schedule. 4 months ago I officially retired and opened my shop full time. From there it just started growing.

What is the story behind your shop name?
My shop name was originally Pretty in Pink Dress Designs. When I first opened my shop on Etsy it was on a whim. I did not research or put any thought into branding. I was still active Duty Air Force and just dabbling part time into what I thought was a hobby. Since then I have retired from The Air Force and decided to take a break from Human Resources. I started making small changes to my designs and tweaking my shop and new that I needed to change my name to something that suited me and my personality. Patriotic Princess2 is me.

What surprised you most about having your own craft / online shop?
That people are just as enthusiastic about my dresses as I am. I love hearing from my customers and getting pictures of their precious girls wearing my creations. It is the best part of having my own shop.

What is your favourite creations from your shop?
I love all my dresses, but if I had to choose it would be any of my Military dresses. The Armed Forces will always have a special place in my heart.

What do you find most challenging about being an Etsy seller?
Establishing business hours because I feel like I am doing some aspect of Etsy 24hrs whether it's sewing, packaging,marketing or communicating with my customers it's hard to stay organized.

What's your personal philosophy behind your shop / products?
It's important to me that my dresses keep little girls looking like little girls. I like my dresses to have lots of twirl and ruffles so that the girls can look and feel like princesses.

How would someone (other then you) describe you?
Silly, nice, loud, hyper

What do you do when you aren't working?
I love spending time with my family, going to the zoo, the lake etc...

Anything else you'd like to tell us or share?
I'd love for my business to grow to the point where I can use this as my sole income for my family. I absolutely love what I do. I truly believe that with hard work and dedication anything is possible.

"She works with her hands in delight." Proverbs 31:13

PatrioticPrincess2 is offering 15% discount to our blog readers. To use the coupon visit her etsy store and enter code "ETSY15" at checkout. Valid until 28th September 2013

Pageant, Princess Bubble Dot Birthday  Dress 6m, 12-18mth, 2T, 3T, 4T, 5T - PatrioticPrincess2 ABU Princess Pageant OOC Casual Wear - PatrioticPrincess2 Dora the Explorer Pageant/Birthday OOC Dress - PatrioticPrincess2 Smurfette Cotton Pageant Birthday Crowning Dress - PatrioticPrincess2

Ways We Are Greening Our School Year....

Posted Monday, August 26, 2013

The new school year is upon us and with two children in Elementary school I have been trying to think of different ways to make our school year a little more eco-friendly.

Here are some ideas that we will be focusing on this year:

Clothes- We buy a lot of our clothes at local consignment sales.  I try to buy brands that I know will last through two girls so that my youngest can wear the same clothes as my oldest. 

Supplies- We try to reuse anything from last year that is still in good shape. Did my oldest use the 4 dozen pencils last year that were on her supply list? No, we have about 3 dozen left over from last year that we will use again.  We also try to buy natural and non-toxic supplies.  When shopping for supplies make sure that you check your labels and all your supplies are PVC free. This vinyl is identified as a #3 plastic or has the letters "V" or "PVC." Also look for scent-free and water based items.

Litter Free Lunches- most of the items we use to take lunch to school in are reusable.  We use reusable sandwich and snack pouches, stainless steel bottles for drinks, fabric napkins, and cloth lunch bags to carry our lunches in. I also ask that they return the utensils I put in their lunches so they can be used again as well, creating less waste. If you are shopping for new lunch bags be aware that some vinyl soft plastic lunch bags still contain lead. 

Travelling to and from school-We are fortunate to have our school in our neighborhood.  We can choose to walk to school or take the bus.  Unless there is an unforeseen circumstance we will be walking to and from school everyday.

Do you have any tips for greening the school year? I would love to hear what other people are doing.

Dorinda's shop, Raising Green Kids, offers eco-friendly products for your family. Follow her on Facebook and twitter and at her blog.

Treasury Challenge #16 - Back to School

Posted Saturday, August 24, 2013

The theme for the EtsyKids Team treasury challenge #16 was "Back to School". Our team members created lots of beautiful treasuries featuring some amazing items, but the winner with 165 views is...

PRINTABLE Back to School Party Invitation - yourblissfulday Back to School Apple Woven Headband - Teacher Woven Headband - Red, Emerald Green, Apples Headband - Etsykids Team - KatiebugBows Custom Appliqued Pillow on Minky dot gecko lion bird octopus bedroom bedding apartment soft cozy - LittleBirdbygrace School Daze Girls Jumper or Tunic etsykids team - cre8tive
BRIGHT FLOWERS Classroom Chair Pocket School Cover STD - CoffeeKidsNDolls Blue School House Shirt Pants Outfit, Custom Boutique - RedElephantClothing Ikat Diaper Bag, School Bag, Work Bag, with Waterproof lining, Made to Order - yellowbluebag Felt ABC Apple Hair Clip - Back to School Clippies - First Day of School felt hair bows - MasterpiecesOfFunArt
Back to School Insulated Lunch Tote, Pirate Ships - Drawstring Top, Machine Washable & Dryable - AThreadofGrace First Grade is Awesome Boys Back to School Applique Shirt---Pencil Shirt---Personalized - belovedbows Personalized Back to School Apple Trio - cortsthings Alphabet Magnets Learning Toy - Mid Century and Modern Type Face - Home Schooling magnets set - Back to School Learning - WalterSilva
Back to school Handmade  Light blue linen girl dress and hair clips  -  Rustic Linen flower girl dress and hair clippies in light blue - lefthandedcraftclub School Backpack Tag Book Bag Tag Back To School Bag Tag Animal Print Bag Tag Personalized Backpack Tag Party Favor Zebra Print Book Bag Tag - Toddletags Crayon Roll Up - Crayon Holder - Kids Organizer with Pad & Crayons - Back to School, Green - KatelyB Back to school chalkboard print - digital file - polkaprints

Thank you SewingSweetTracy for creating such a lovely treasury!

SewingSweetTracy sells handmade smocked and embroidered clothing and accessories for children. We just love this drawstring cinch sack backpack that you can add your monogram to, perfect for school!

August Design Challenge. It's time to Vote!

Posted Thursday, August 22, 2013

For August our Design Challenge theme was "Fall Back to School", as chosen by last months winner 5littlemonkeysdesign.
We have lots of lovely entries from our team members, browse down and vote for your favourite item!
Voting is open until 27th August.

Meet Etsy Seller MaxandMeDesigns

Posted Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Today we would like to introduce you to Stacey
and her Etsy shop MaxandMeDesigns

MaxandMeDesigns has been selling on Etsy since September 2012, they sell beautiful, unique art and jewellery handcrafted using vintage postage stamps from all over the world. The perfect keepsake gift for someone you love. Today she is sharing a little about her shop and selling handmade items.

Purple Vintage Postage Stamp Letter Art  (A - Z available) Unique keepsake gift for birthday, new baby, christening, nursery decor - MaxandMeDesigns Babushka Doll art - Original art, handmade from Vintage postage stamps. Keepsake gift, nursery decor, new baby gift - Max & Me Designs - MaxandMeDesigns Oh Deer - Unique Vintage postage stamp art. Perfect for gift for Fathers day, anniversary, birthday or housewarming - Max & Me Designs - MaxandMeDesigns Love Heart Vintage postage stamp art. Keepsake gift for engagement, wedding, birthday, anniversary, Mothers Day, nursery decor - MaxandMeDesigns

What motivated you to start your shop?
Max & Me Designs began when I was looking for a unique piece of art to hang in my new baby boy’s nursery. While cleaning out the cupboards I came across my old stamp album and decided to use the stamps featuring boats, cars, trains, sports and animals to create something as special and unique as my new baby boy. And so the very first Max & Me Design was born.... The original piece, a monogram of the letter M, still has pride of place in his room.

Before I knew it I was selling my artwork at local markets, on my own website and at selected retail outlets.  While my designs began as nursery decor the range quickly developed to include designs and products that will appeal to everyone, whether you're young or simply young at heart.

What is the story behind your shop name?
My little boy, Max, was the inspiration for the very first piece of Vintage postage stamp art so “Max & Me Designs” seemed like the perfect name for my business.  Max is now 1 and a half and he’s the perfect CEO!

What surprised you most about having your own craft / online shop?
It seems that everyone has a family member who has collected stamps at some time in their lives.  I am always amazed by the generosity of people who send me their old stamp albums.  I feel very honoured that they would entrust a piece of their family history to me.  Many people order custom made designs which include stamps from their family's collection.  It's a lovely personal touch that makes the design a true keepsake.

What is your favourite creations from your shop?
My favourite creation (at the moment) is the With All My Heart Vintage Postage Stamp Art.  This unique artwork is handcrafted using genuine upcycled postage stamps from all over the world.  The heart outline is created using a range of handcut hearts in different sizes.  It is one of my best sellers and is often purchased as a gift to celebrate the arrival of a new baby or for an anniversary (the first wedding anniversary is traditionally a paper gift).

What do you find most challenging about being an Etsy seller?
I love selling my products on Etsy but as the handmade market continues to grow it can be hard to be discovered in searches.  I've found that building a connection with people via social media and Etsy teams like Etsy Kids has made me feel like a true member of the Etsy community and allowed me to show my products to a wider audience.

What's your personal philosophy behind your shop / products?
All of my creations are built on the idea of upcycling everyday items into something that will be valued and treasured.  I love the nostalgia and history that is inherent in every piece, and always wonder about where each stamp has been and the stories they could tell.

How would someone (other then you) describe you?
Organised, creative and determined

What do you do when you aren't working?
Hmm, well I guess that depends on how you define "working".  As a mum who works part-time as a primary school teacher and also runs her own small business there aren't really many times that I'm not working in some sense of the word.  So I guess the answer would be sleeping ;)

Please tell us a little about the children's items market / handmade movement in your Country? 
The handmade movement is very strong in Melbourne, Australia.  There are a range of amazing handmade markets of which my favourites would be the Warrandyte market, Red Hill market, Finders Keepers, Piccadilly Market, Huckleberry Market and the Fine Design Market.   I love visiting a market on the weekend and not only being able to support local artisans but also knowing that I have bought something that is unique and special.

Anything else you'd like to tell us or share?
Feel free to find Max & Me Designs on Facebook to find out what goes on behind the scenes

Would you like 10% off your first order? Simply join MaxandMeDesigns mailing list to find out about exclusive offers, enter into our monthly subscriber only competition and receive 10% off your first order

Rainbow Love - original art. Handmade from Vintage postage stamps. Perfect gift for 1st anniversary, wedding, engagement - Max & Me Designs - MaxandMeDesigns Your baby's initial in Vintage  postage stamps (ALL letters available) personalized art, nursery decor - MaxandMeDesigns Giraffe - nursery art - Unique, handmade from Vintage postage stamps. New baby gift, baby girl decor, christening gift - Max & Me Designs - MaxandMeDesigns Kokeshi Doll - Unique Vintage postage stamp art. Perfect for gift for Mothers day, birthday gift, nursery decor - Max & Me Designs - MaxandMeDesigns

Hangin' Out

Posted Tuesday, August 20, 2013

As our heat wave finally settles down here in the North, (you won't find me outside in 100 degree weather....ok maybe at the lake) it is the perfect time to get those clothes outside on a clothesline. **For the record, we don't have a dryer so we have to line dry regardless of heat. Thankfully my husband installed a clothesline in the basement for those unbearable days.

Why on earth would I use a clothesline over a dryer?

According to Drying for Freedom, an organization spreading the word about the attack on clotheslines across the country,  using an electric tumble dryer 148 times a year puts out 159 kg C02 (carbon dioxide, greenhouse gases) a year. But lets be honest, we use it more than 148 times a year.

BUT that is not why we started line drying here in our home.

Line drying is cheaper than using a dryer. We managed to drop $30 off our electric bill the first month we completely stopped using the dryer. I love saving money!

Line drying is easier on your clothes...what exactly do you think lint is?

Speaking of lint...half of house fires between the years of 2008-2010 were found to be caused by dryers and lint. (FEMA)

Line drying eliminates the need for harsh chemicals such as bleach and dryer sheets. (If you are looking for an alternative for dryer sheets, check out our team member Raising Green Kids who sells wool dryer balls). 

The sun is a powerhouse for cleaning. It has the ability to brighten whites (it can also fade colors if left outside too long). It has the ability to sanitize diapers and remove stains.

Ready to start line drying? I talk about my routine for laundry (we have a baby in cloth diapers) and tips and tricks that I have discovered over the years over at Crafted by Mama

Jacki can be found blogging about handmade and natural living at Crafted by Mama, on Facebook, and on Twitter. She sells kids clothing, maxi skirts and reusable items on Etsy at Crafted by Mama.

Tots 'N Tails: Big Fat Positive

Posted Sunday, August 18, 2013

And we're back for our second post! Lucca, the two legged babe, is in time out so we, Stella and Bodhi, the four-legged children, are in charge. We're thinking that we'll start at the beginning and, each month, tackle a new phase in our blossoming tot and tail relationship. So...the beginning. Well, that would probably be in the glory days, when it was just the two of us, Stella and Bodhi. Actually, Stella would say the true glory days were when she was an only child and enjoyed undivided attention. But, even when Bodhi, the simple dog, was added to the mix, the days were still filled with frozen Kong treats and long romps at the dog beach. Excuse us...we're getting a little nostalgic...

Stella & Her Ball at Dog Beach

Back to that fateful morning. EARLY morning. When Mom shot out of bed at 4 am and ran to the bathroom to pee on a stick. (Probably one of her more dog-like moments.) She came out, woke up Dad. They talked. We could sense excitement and trepidation. Dad went back to sleep; Mom tossed and turned.

Dad - Equal Parts Excitement and Fear

Turns out, that was the beginning of the end. An expiration date was now set on us being at the top of the attention loving hierarchy. Mom and Dad were taking it very seriously. They wondered if they could love a two-legged puppy as much as they adored us. We wondered if we could love a two-legged puppy, too! And so, we all launched into baby boot camp to try and get ready for the special delivery expected in nine months.

Here are our top three recommendations on what you should do as soon as you see your lady human pee on a stick:

Send Mom and Dad to a 'Dogs and Babies' class. Those have great information on how they can make us dogs as happy and comfortable as possible when the two-legged puppy becomes the priority. Here are a few links to get you started:
  • This is the class Mom and Dad took in San Diego.
  • The ASPCA's recommendations on baby prep.
  • In case you like to watch TV like us, here's a quick video.
  • And here's a book to put on the shelf next to "What to Expect When You're Expecting."
Tackle any training "issues." Mom and Dad call them issues. We call it ENTHUSIASM! And nothing is more enthusiastic than an under-exercised dog. Just ask our mailman. Here are the areas identified in our pre-baby performance review:
  • Loose leash walking.  We like to take the lead when we walk. We like to lunge at squirrels, bunnies, cats. We like to tell other dogs to get off our sidewalk. In other words, we like to be fairly unpredictable and, therefore, very difficult to handle now that Lucca's stroller is in the mix. Mom has basically given up on loose leash walking so she did find a number of stroller friendly off-leash places for us all to play. This is fantastic because we get to go bananas all over the place and Mom can get some exercise taking the baby for a long walk.
  • No going on the furniture.  Babies are small! Like really small. Like we couldn't tell from the ground if there was a baby lying on the couch or the bed.  Mom and Dad didn't want us accidentally jumping on top of the baby so we have to have all four paws on the ground these days.  They did make up for it with some new extra soft dog beds around the house.
  • Be friendly to visitors! We like to give visitors a vigorous barking welcome.  Particularly the mailman and the UPS guy.  Mom says it scares them. And sometimes it wakes the baby. Waking the baby is bad news. Our particular baby isn't a big sleeper so when he does finally sleep...well, you better not mess it up. You think our barking is scary? You see our Mom when she realizes that a baby nap has just slipped through her fingers. Yikes!

Create Sacred Spaces. Mom and Dad started "nesting" during the pregnancy. Which is weird because they aren't birds. All of the sudden, all of this new baby stuff was going in the spare bedroom where we liked to watch the trucks go by and they began calling it the nursery instead of the guest bedroom.  They also stopped letting us go in there because it was the "baby's room" and they didn't want us shedding all over the new stuff and laying on the glider.  Gliders are soooo soft! But they made it up to us by creating a "safe zone" in the house that they promised was just for us. No babies allowed! When we go in our safe zone there are fun toys to play with, soft places to sit and yummy treats. We love our safe place now.  So whenever there are a lot of people visiting the bambino or we're a little frazzled from all the crying or tail pulling, we can go to our sacred space with its big NO LUCCA sign and have some peaceful dog time.

A special treat to help take the edge off when baby is too much!
And speaking of sacred spaces! Check out this month's treasury because it has some of our favorite EtsyKids items to personalize your baby's sacred space.  And why don't dogs get nurseries? Who says we don't want monogrammed blankets and our names spelled out with zoo animals on the walls?? Maybe that can be a future blog post!

Our 'Nesting' Treasury

Wait, wait, wait! It's Lucca! Time out is over! I promised Mom I wouldn't pull Bodhi's tail anymore. (She's so gullible!) Don't you want to hear my tip once you find out someone like me is on the way? My favorite thing to do with the dogs while I was an inside baby was long walks with Mom.  Mom's midwife said it was good for her to get lots of exercise and I found the gentle rocking of her gait to be very soothing.  So lace up and get out there!

Up next month: Put Your Pups in Your Birth Plan!  Our Treasury theme will be birthdays and birth announcements. Leave us a comment if you have the perfect item to be included.
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