In a world where handheld devices and touchscreens seem ever present, don't be fooled, sensory books are alive and well. Our sense of touch is a powerful tool we use to interpret and learn about the world around us, particularly for young children. While the allure of electronic toys and digital devices is sometimes hard to push aside, you might be surprised that sensory-based books and activities also command the attention
(and tiny hands) of active young preschoolers.
Sensory books can take multiple forms. Who has fond childhood memories of the magic of lift-the-flap books and touch-and-feel books?
Pat the Bunny is an oldie but a goodie!
In a world full of smooth digital devices and buttons, touch is a valuable sense that can be easily overlooked. Our brain is constantly interpreting environmental information, drawing our attention to details that don't fit the expected. As I write this, a small, sticky spot on my keyboard keeps grabbing my attention. It breaks from the expected - the soft and smooth buttons my fingertips have come to expect when typing.
Sometimes, there are experiences that technology
simply can't enhance or replace
Sensory books don't have be purchased or professionally constructed. I've seen flocks of preschoolers pouring over the pages of self-made sensory books housed in three-ring binders. The beauty of this method is the ease with which clever adults can change the pages and keep the book full of new surprises when eager eyes (and hands) aren't around.
There are unlimited possibilities with a do-it-yourself sensory book. First it could be a general sensory book or have a theme, such as animals, colors, or other early childhood interests. The trick is to provide a diversity of items for the young reader to get lost exploring. Roaming the aisles of your local arts and craft store or cleaning through drawers in your classroom or home will no doubt unearth unlimited possibilities for your sensory book.
The lady bug page (pictured below) is actual a felt page purchased at a scrapbooking shop. Cardboard ridges, crinkle paper, fabric, sandpaper, foil, and bubble paper all provide a few possibilities. The options are endless, based on what you have on hand and, more important, who your audience is.
Simple pictures from magazines, computer print outs, old books, stickers, and even torn book jackets provide a visual component that helps tie your theme and book together. We process information within the context which it is presented. Rows of fringe (pictured above) are interpreted differently within different contexts. When included in a book about birds, it can feel like feathers. Nut in a book about homes, the fringe can remind us of the feel of plush carpet or furniture. An advantage of including the fringe on it's own page is that you can reuse and reorganize the pages you already have into new themes. Never re-invent the wheel when you don't need to.
If you're feeling really creative, don't shy away from mixing mediums either.
When you find the right item to embed within your picture, go for it!
Who can resist touching the cotton ball used for a bunny tail?
A few tricks of the trade...
If your book is in a classroom or you want it to last awhile, consider using card stock instead of plain paper or construction paper. Laminating pages before adding sensory aspects provides another layer of protection too. And when your book needs a minor fix, clear packing tape offers reinforcement without distracting from your content.
However, keep in mind that a well-loved book, will also look well-loved
(the highest compliment possible in my book!)