When my oldest daughter was around six months old, she began to sit independently. As wonderful as it was to witness her meeting a new milestone, I very quickly learned that this new skill came with its own set of obstacles. No longer was my little lady content to play with her infant toys. The mama in me knew that I wanted to find a way to entertain her effectively, allowing me to tend to household needs. The homemaker in me knew that I didn’t want to spend a small fortune on pre-made activity centers that she would quickly grow out of in order to achieve this goal. Lastly, the occupational therapist in me knew that I wanted the activity to involve both sensory and practical elements. This knowledge led me to grab my kiddo and head to the dollar store for a field trip and a plan to build a sensory board!
(Don’t have a baby of your own? Continue reading because this craft would make for a wonderful gift for those babies in your life whether you are a grandparent, aunt/uncle, sibling or friend!)
While walking the aisles of the dollar store I decided to focus on items that seemed to draw my baby girl’s attention most. If she lit up when seeing it, it went into the cart (bright colors won every time). I then decided to focus on items that would require her to use finger manipulation and fine motor skills, along with fun new textures. Lastly, I wanted items that would expose her to practical use but be able to stand the baby test (i.e. not breakdown if pulled, licked, pinched… if you are a parent of a baby, you know this test all too well) and maintain safety (not include choking hazards). Thirty minutes later, I walked back out of the store with multiple bags, a happy kiddo and a plan.
How I built my board(s)
Turns out I had enough supplies to create TWO sensory boards. While I possibly could have fit everything onto the one board, I know all too well that sensory overload is quite real when it comes to little ones (heck, even for most adults). With that said, I decided less items allowed my little lady to focus on individual items more effectively. Furthermore, two boards allowed me to not overwhelm her with both simultaneously, but rather to swap them out time and time again as her interest began to dwindle with one.
- Poster board (s). While at the dollar store, I decided to pick up two heavy duty poster boards to display the items. As I figured a simple thin poster board would likely not be able to acquire the weight of all the items and would diminish its ability to maintain a propped up position.
- Glue gun/sticks. I found it easiest to secure all items to the board with a hot glue gun. You could try double sided sticky tape but that definitely would not have held up to my baby’s strange super human strength.
- Items for the board. I obtained the majority of my items from the local dollar store. However, a few items that I chose to incorporate I had laying around the house or in my craft kit. (These items can be found at JoAnn Fabrics or Michaels.)
- Here is what I included on my boards: colorful pom-pom balls, colorful paper clips, measuring spoons, dish scrubber, sponge, colorful fabric cut into fringes, a mirror, a lock (combination written below so adults can open and close. No, I did not expect my baby to be able to do this ;)), clips, a beaded necklace, puffy flower stickers, a fabric doll, bright colored shoelace, wood pig/sun, magnetic bright colored numbers, orange ice pack that had gel inside, puffy book with different colored pages, calculator, buttons and a pill organizer.
After playing around with the layout of items, I decided to secure them all down and my sensory boards were finished! I could now prop them up against a wall, couch or wherever the location may be (that is the beauty of these boards in that they go where you go) and allow my curious baby to explore away!
Taking my sensory boards on the GO with sensory cards
After having leftover supplies from my dollar store run and seeing the success the boards were bringing about, I decided to turn my sensory board into sensory cards!
Also at the dollar store, I located some soft rubberized cards. I decided to once again get out my glue gun and begin hot gluing items to the cards. More than ever I incorporated household items… tin foil, sand paper, etc. The more textures, the better! I placed all cards into a plastic ziplock and decided that these cards would only be used on the go in order to save their interest.
Here is what I included on my cards: colorful magnetic numbers, pasta noodles, different colored beans, sand paper, different textured craft paper, penny/nickel, cut up sponges, puffy stickers, accordion folded paper, tinfoil, paper clips, buttons, cut up fabric/string, color pom-poms balls and fabric cut with fringes.
I can’t tell you how many times these sensory cards came in handy! Sitting in church, while out to eat, in the doctor’s waiting room… if there was a time we needed to occupy our little lady, out came the cards! Again, not wanting to over-stimulate, I would take one card out at a time and allow her to explore it. As she would grow bored, out came another card! Rarely did we ever have to go all the way through the cards in one session. (Note: I wouldn’t recommend giving these to your child unattended (i.e. on a car ride) unless you are sitting next to them so they wouldn’t somehow pull off a small item and decide to put it into their mouth).
All and all, sensory boards and cards get an A+ on my list. I absolutely love the fact that they can be personalized, created without spending a small fortune and allow my kiddo sensory and educational inspired learning!