Sensory Exploration and Concept Building

Children receive information through their senses, so sensory exploration is key in the discovery process.
"Materials that include open-ended play... are the best toys you can offer. The possibilities for making discoveries and discussing them are unlimited with sand, water and paint. Such materials promote exploration and discovery." ~Jill Frankel Hauser in Growing Up Reading.
As mentioned in my last post: You can help this process by giving them language to describe their discoveries. This helps them to build concepts that will have a lasting impression on them.

Here are a few ideas for water and sand play.


What child doesn't love a sandbox? The bigger and deeper the sandbox the better! My older boys still have such fond memories of our sand box when we first started homeschooling.

Explore sand with:
  • measuring cups and spoons (measure, scoop and pour)
  • molds (make sculptures and talk about their creation)
  • shovels (dig holes and tunnels)
  • sieves (sift sand free of twigs and stones)
  • funnels (experience how a funnel works)
  • water (add varying amounts and talk about the change in the sand's consistency)
From our alphabet fun with the letter S.

As they mix, mold, pour and dig in sand, ask if it is dry, damp, or wet? Which sand cake is big, bigger, and biggest? Is the sand rough or smooth?


Water is readily available for most and can be enjoyed in a bathtub, wading pool or even a small tub or tray (but always requires adult supervision).

Water play with jars.
Explore water with:
  • plastic bottles 
  • sponges 
  • wash cloths 
  • plastic tubing 
  • funnels
  • meat basters
  • measuring cups
  • spray bottles
  • paint brushes
  • plastic medicine droppers
  • soap 
  • egg beaters (add a little soap and make bubbles)
  • every day objects (which items sink or float)
  • ice cube trays (freeze water, make ice sculptures with salt)
Eliana is setting up a hand washing station as I type. She is using the bath mat and her play sink. She will add some baby wash cloths and foaming soap. She did this the other day (without me knowing) and insisted I go wash my hands.

We are passing a cold around so I have been stressing the need to wash our hands often ~ she was paying attention! It was a great time to reinforce what germs are and how they make us sick and why what she was doing was a good thing.

While in the bathtub yesterday, she was squirting water with a plastic dropper. I showed her how to squeeze it to push the air out so that it would suck the water in. After she figured it out and played for awhile, I then asked her if she thought it would work underwater. She guessed it wouldn't, so I encouraged her to test that theory. She discovered that the air can still be pushed out of the dropper while under water, but the water won't come in until after she stops squeezing.  I told her that is what scientists do to learn about the world around them!

These are simple activities, but the key is to discuss what is happening with your child!

Discussion gives them the language to go along with the experience!

Tomorrow I will talk about PAINT!

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Be sure to visit these brilliant women in this 10 days adventure between February 7th-18th! We love these ladies and we know you do too.

10 days of socialization for mom | The Homeschool Chick
10 days of classical education | Milk & Cookies
10 days of large families | Chocolate on My Cranium
10 days of special needs | Special Needs Homeschooling
10 days of struggling learners | Homeschooling the Chaotic Family
10 days of homeschooling girls | Homegrown Mom
10 days of homeschool enrichment | Confessions of a Homeschooler
10 days of building a spiritual legacy | Mommy Missions
10 days of frugal homeschooling |The Happy Housewife
10 days of Charlotte Mason | Our Journey Westward
10 days of unschooling | Homeschooling Belle
10 days of organization | Confessions of an Organized Homeschool Mom
10 days of getting started | Blog, She Wrote
10 days of homeschooling boys | The Tie That Binds Us
10 days of homeschooling Montessori | Fruit in Season
10 days of preschool | Delightful Learning


  1. Great ideas! My preschoolers love playing with water (outside) and making fishing poles and fish (with magnets, paperclips, cardboard, sticks and string). They have also always loved playing with uncooked rice and jars, spoons and funnels.

  2. Cut ideas! I might have missed this but where do you get the colored sand?

  3. What a GREAT post! The part about discussing what is happening really struck with me. I think I do that, or at least try to... but it can be easy to say too much or take over what they are doing, or, in trying not to do that, to just sit back quietly. I'm working on giving them the language without taking over their experience.

  4. Not sure why, but I'm quite sure this post was NOT sent to my email. You are so fun, Chel!