Little Explorers: Sensory Playgroup

side note before I get into this post: you may have recently started seeing ads.  While I used to pride myself on being an ad free site, I do need to find some way to try and supplement the money I put towards the hosting and maintenance of Miss Meg’s Storytime.  After all, I do live on a small town librarians salary ;)
I am going to see how using google adsense works for the time being, and I truly truly do apologize for any inconvenience.  Hopefully it will not need to be a long term solution. -Meg

Sensory storytimes and playgroups are happening all over the place and I’ve been wanting to try it for awhile so I was excited when we started getting requests for Friday morning programming (when I had previously been told no one comes to) and could try it out!  We are offering a sensory playgroup once a month for the spring and may continue it through summer or start it up again in the fall.  Our first group was a great size for our first time and was very mangeable…there were about 10 kids that came.

In addition to having a sensory enriched setting I also wanted to have a lot of DIY toys and activities that parents could replicate at home.  Out of all of our stations, only one was fully store bought!

Little Explorers | Miss Meg's Storytime

I advertised the playgroup as a sensory playgroup that encourages participation from both caregiver and child.  It was open for ages 6 mos to 5 years and we had kids come that were every age in that range.  I set up the room with different stations and had a powerpoint slide up explaining the guidelines of this group.  Since we already do a regular playgroup and I had many families come that go to our other playgroup I really wanted to set up the expectations I had for this one:

Little Explorers | Miss Meg's Storytime

I was very impressed with all of the grown ups in the room– they really stayed with their tiny human and interacted.  It was so so so amazing to hear all of the great conversations that were happening in the room:

Do you like touching this?  It feels crinkly!

How does that feel on your toes? Hot or cold?

Is that slippery?

Here are the different stations we had set up:

Dyed Sensory Noodles

Little Explorers Noodles | Miss Meg's StorytimeLittle Explorers Noodles | Miss Meg's Storytime

Source: Growing a Jeweled Rose

This was a HUGE hit.  Biggest recommendation: lay down a tarp or something.  If you have carpet- lay down an extra big tarp.  The noodles got stuck to the shoes and then ground into the carpet quite a bit.  Towards the end a few kids had taken theirs shoes off and it was like a whole nother level.  We had a relatively small group and all of the parents were attentive so that’s why I didn’t ask shoes to remain on, but it was a bit of a hazard because the noodles were so slippery so I’d keep that in mind.
As for making the noodles, the tutorial on Growing a Jeweled Rose is great.  I made mine the night before and they were just fine the next morning.  I actually used Easter egg dye (I ran out of food coloring and Walgreens didn’t’ have any and it was 9pm so I wasn’t about to drive to a grocery store) and it worked great as well!  Half of the green and the pink/orange color were dyed with the egg dye.  When making it, I would recommend wearing gloves because your hands will most likely get stained.  Unless I am just a messy person which is completely possible.

Amount of prep time: 1 hour (I did 3 batches of noodles)

Sensory Board

Little Explorers Sensory Board | Miss Meg's Storytime

source: mamiblock , linked on Storytime Underground and my local CT chapter of SU

The video is not in English but if you google diy sensory board and look for it in pinterest there are a TON of ideas.  For ours, I tried to use whatever I already had and it ended up being relatively cheap.  All I bought was the board (a trifold board), some sparkly pipe cleaners, hair gel, and the orange fuzzy fabric.  We had an old numbers puzzle that was just sitting in storage so that’s what I used for the numbers on the top right corner.  Behind the board I have two zipper boards and a pull box (both from Laughing Kids Learn).  These were very simple to make and were also a big hit.  The pull box was a great way to introduce cause and effect!

Prep time: The longest thing to do was the pipe cleaner star and combined with the zipper board and pull box it probably took about 2 hours total.

Paper Pool & Bubber

Little Explorers Bubber | Miss Meg's Storytime Little Explorers Paper Pool | Miss Meg's Storytime

Both of these things were introduced in our regular playgroup before I was even here, so they are already crowd favorites.  The paper pool is very simple: shredded paper in a kiddie pool!  I have also seen some librarians do it on a parachute or just on a tarp.  The second thing is called Bubber and it is usually a favorite toy with the parents and we get questions constantly about what exactly it is.  Bubber is similar to play doh but doesn’t create a big mess, doesn’t dry out, is easy to pick up off the floor and is wheat, gluten and casein free and 100% safe and non-toxic.  It is like strange new miracle stuff, basically.  We have a bunch of play dog toys in with it including little letter stamps.  The most popular toy with it, though, is a little toy play doh knife.

Prep Time: this one you don’t have to do any pre-set up!  Except for shredding paper… But we get ours from a staff member’s husband who is a professor and shreds stuff at school.

Coloring Table

Little Explorers Crayon Table | Miss Meg's Storytime

The picture isn’t great for this one so hopefully I can explain it well enough… This is just a table set on the floor without the legs up with plain paper taped on the top.  I made some homemade crayons with little broken crayon pieces we had donated and set them out for the kids to draw and color and explore!  The crayons were made in a muffin tin and cooked at 275 for about 16ish minutes.  There are a lot of diy crayon tutorials online to look up!  (I initially googled “crayons from crayons” and somehow google knew what I was getting at…)

Little Explorers Crayon Table | Miss Meg's Storytime

The crayon table was near the noodle area so toward the end it ended up being a little bit of a crayon and noodle collage :)

Prep Time: 30 minutes (if you soak the crayons in water it is so easy to take their wrappers off before you cook them!! Really saves time)

Baby Zone

Little Explorers Baby Zone | Miss Meg's Storytime

Baby zone was a very low key area of the room.  I set up some fleece fabric scraps I had from previous projects into a patchwork type layout, put some board books out and foam pieces that were used year ago for a project of some sort.

Prep Time: 10 minutes, maybe


All in all, this was a super successful program, but it did take quite a bit more prep time than I put into our regular playgroup.  We will be meeting monthly through the spring and will probably continue it beyond that.

Do you do a sensory playgroup or storytime? I’d love to hear about it! What do you call it, what do you include, how is it received?

5 thoughts on “Little Explorers: Sensory Playgroup

  1. I love these ideas! I do a program called Messy Mondays on the last Monday of the month for babies. It just started in January 2016. First, we did paint bags; a piece of paper in a Ziploc bag with paint! Babies could squish it around create their first “masterpiece.” A few weeks ago we made Ocean Sensory bags with hair gel, foam stickers, letters, and glitter. I’ve been focusing on things caregivers can make with their baby and take home, but you have great ideas for play at the library. I can definitely see doing the noodles next month!

    1. I want to do the paint in the baggies!! How far ahead of time did you add the paint? Did you use cardstock? I was looking into it for this program but I couldn’t figure out logistics. The ocean sensory bags sounds awesome as well!!

      1. I added the paint while people were there, so there was a little line and some waiting. I let the caregivers and children choose the colors they wanted, so I don’t think people minded waiting! I think you could add the paint maybe an hour or two ahead of time? I don’t think the paint would dry out! And yes cardstock was definitely better than normal paper.

  2. How much pasta did you use for your three batches? We are adding this to a Messy program and I’m trying to figure out how much I need to get and make. Your three batches looks like an ample amount to have fun with.

    1. I used three of the big boxes of pasta, which would probably work out to be about 5 or 6 regular size boxes?

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