If you’re the parent of a toddler or preschooler, chances are you’ve discovered the joy (and the mess) that sensory activities can bring. When my son was that age, a bin full of strange material would occupy him for many minutes at a time — certainly more than plastic toys or games or puzzles ever could. The trick to a successful sensory activity is to find something that is fun to dig your hands into, isn’t a choking hazard and, most critically, won’t make a mess that takes longer to clean up than the time spent playing with it. Might I suggest: Birdseed.
The idea comes from Linda in our Offspring Facebook Group, who tried it over the weekend with her toddler son to great success:
Just give them a large bowl or bin partially filled with birdseed, some small cups, bowls or utensils to scoop and pour the seed and/or a few small toys to bury. The materials in birdseed are small enough to not be a choking concern, which can be an issue with some popular sensory play materials such as dried beans. If you let them play with it outside, the mess is essentially a non-issue — the birds will come clean up after them once they’re done.
Just keep in mind that, while not likely to be harmful in a little taste here or there, birdseed is not processed or packaged for human consumption, so supervise them while they’re playing and don’t let them totally chow down on the stuff.
To be extra careful (and natural), you can make your own birdseed at home using a combination of sunflower seeds, millet, peanuts, cracked corn and dried fruit, and vary your recipe depending on any allergies your kids may have.