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At home: The Christmas Sensory Tray

It's the most wonderful time of the year!

We've been thinking of ways to use Joey's new Tuff Tray for him to explore new sensory items, and Christmas seemed like the perfect time, given all the new sights, sounds and smells etc he would have around him. So I set about setting up a Christmas themed sensory tray, using things we simply had lying around. It was by no means something that I went out of my way to buy things for, and that's what makes this so fun!

On the tray, we had:

  • A foil blanket (initially as the 'base')

  • Christmas lights

  • Bell rattle

  • Wooden rattle

  • Slinky

  • 'J' Christmas stocking (from Matalan in 2018)

  • A ribbon ring

  • Tinsel

  • Flashing spiky bauble

  • A variety of baubles

  • A reindeer plush toy

  • A snow globe

  • Flashing spinner wand

  • Homemade sensory bottle (glitter and water, easy!)

So, how did Joey like the tray? Well, unlike the whole of Instagram would lead you to believe, he wasn't that into it at first! Perhaps he was tired from nursery, or he was feeling overwhelmed by everything in front of him, but it took him a really long time to warm up to it. 'Warming up' to activities is something we're now accustomed to with Joey; he's not a child who will go head first into a situation without thinking. He thinks A LOT. He comes across as very shy and that's something I've spoken about a bit on Instagram.

He started off initially by pointing at different things on the tray and trying to copy the words as I said them to him. He was very hesitant about some items (the tinsel in particular) and seemed to dislike the foil blanket being underneath everything. To try and make him feel more comfortable about the whole activity; I responded to his cues and I quickly whipped the foil blanket off in the hope that he would explore more. And he did!

He was mostly taken by the snow globe, and did a great job turning it over and placing it back down and watching it (despite it being very heavy!). He also really enjoyed the homemade sensory bottle (just glitter and water) that we'd had in the cupboard for quite a while now. And once he noticed the flashing spinner wand was on there... Well that was the only thing he wanted to play with from then on!

Despite having Christmas music on and trying to encourage him to shake the bell rattle with me, he didn't seem to want to join in which is unusual for a boy who loves his music so much!

You'll notice from one of the photos that a dinosaur figurine made it's way onto the tray at some point - he's obsessed with dinosaurs at the moment so pretty much everything we do either has a dinosaur involved or he inputs one.

I definitely learnt a lot from this activity - in hindsight there were probably too many items on the tray for him to explore, and perhaps less really is more in this case. Not only that, but now he's walking (running) around more confidently, the last thing he wants to do at the moment is sit still in the middle of a tray and explore things around him. He's very much showing his independent streak by circling round the tray and picking what interests him.

Will we do it again? Absolutely. Themed sensory trays are fab to explore on Instagram and Pinterest (try using #sensorytrays to explore). But I certainly won't be buying anything special to do them going forward. We'll see what items we can use from around the home. And, when baby #2 is here in April, Joey will be of an age to help put these trays together with me for the new baby, and that element is really exciting!

We've since tried other 'Christmassy sensory activities' like making gingerbread, and have found he's just really hit and miss at the moment. It seems like teething, a bout of tonsillitis and a couple of afternoons at nursery can really take it out of a kiddy. My advice is to generally respond to whatever cues your child is showing you; if they're overwhelmed in particular, tone it down or try again later. There's a lot going on for babies that they can't communicate with us, so we have to try and anticipate that for them.

I've included some videos below so you can get a sense of some of the 'movement' that was on the tray - some of the bits that Joey in particular enjoyed!

Lauren x


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