by Jenn Wagner
Apr 20, 2018


Sensory Play

What do a pool full of shredded paper, stack of foam blocks, and sticky wall begging to be covered in an array of colors and textures have in common? They’re all explorations awaiting babies and toddlers at the Big Brooklyn Playdate!

On the day of the Playdate, children ages 0-3 and their caregivers enter a magical world of play and learning at Brooklyn Public Library’s Central Library. Hands-on, open-ended activities, known as Play Recipes, not only enchant and engage children, but activate their brains and spark learning. Pulling a colorful scarf out of a tissue box is really a lesson in cause and effect: when baby reaches into the book and pulls, something interesting comes out. Exploring a sensory bin filled with peas and cups is really an opportunity to act as a scientist, noticing how objects, look, feel, and sound, and problem solving through scooping and pouring. Pushing pipe cleaners through the holes of a colander is really a chance to build fine-motor skills and develop spatial relations as little hands make sense of the object’s interior and exterior. And through all this, caregivers are there, bonding with their children and encouraging powerful language learning, as they ask questions, describe what they see, and use new vocabulary.

Play at the Library

Just like grandma’s recipe for Old-Fashioned Apple Pie, Play Recipes are meant to be shared. The ingredients are everyday objects and our hope is that caregivers leave the Playdate excited to try some new play ideas in their own homes. Want to get started right away? Here’s a sneak peek at some of our favorite Play Recipes. Happy learning!

  • Ball Drop: Tape several paper towel or toilet paper tubes onto a wall and make ball chutes. Take a small ball, a yarn pom-pom, and/or a ball of aluminum foil and drop them down the chutes. Challenge your child to make a prediction by asking, “What do you think will happen if we put the ball into the hole?” Experiment by dropping two different balls down different chutes. Talk about why one might have fallen out faster than the other.
  • Sink & Float Bottles: Gather small items from around the house, such as rocks, cut straws, pennies, sequins, rubber balls, plastic toys, and uncooked spaghetti. Add these items to an empty plastic bottle. Fill the bottle up with water. Tape the cap on tightly and let your child explore. Ask, “What’s happening in the bottle?” Introduce the words “floating” and “sinking.” Say, “Look! The ball is going up. It’s floating. The rock is going down. It’s sinking!”
  • Tugging Box: Get a box and punch some holes in it. Thread different types and textures of rope and ribbon through the holes and tie knots in both ends. You can use a pipe cleaner to help you with threading. Let your child explore the box and pull the ribbon. Talk about the textures of the ribbons and robe. Are they soft? Bumpy? Prickly? Describe what your baby is doing using vocabulary like “pull,” “push,” “through,” open,” and “close.”


Sensory Exploration

For more fun ideas, join us at the Central Library on April 25, 2018 from 10:30am-12pm for the next Big Brooklyn Playdate. Check our calendar for smaller playdates at library branches throughout Brooklyn.



Very interesting and innovative way for babies and toddlers to learn and explore while interacting with their parents or caregivers. Great ideas here, especially because everyday items are used in a fun way. It reminds me that babies and toddlers are often more interested in playing with the boxes their toys are in rather than the toys themselves!

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