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Sensory Activities for Young Children

So What Is Sensory Play?

Sensory play includes any activity that stimulates a young child’s senses such as: touch, smell, taste, movement, balance, sight and hearing. Sensory activities facilitate exploration and naturally encourage children to use scientific processes while they play, create, investigate and explore. Providing opportunities for children to actively use their senses as they explore their world through “sensory play” is crucial to brain development, as it helps to build nerve connections in the brain’s pathways.

Blowing Bubbles

Bubbles are always fun, and you may think that it is just a simple activity. But did you know that blowing bubbles actually helps with language development in young children? When properly blowing a bubble, it helps to strengthen the muscles in the mouth that are used for speech.

Child Blowing Bubbles

Moon Sand

Sand play of all types can be calming for a lot of children and can help them develop a sense of texture. We like this moon sand here because of the way you can mold and sculpt it. Playing with moon sand can strengthen the small muscles in the hand, which can help with pre-writing skills for a young child.


  • 8 cups flour
  • 1 cup baby oil
  • (or essentially 1/4 cup baby oil for every 2 cups of flour)
  • Pro Tip: Make this mixture outside on the grass, your carpet or flooring will thank us later!
Child playing with sand

Washing Station

Bring out any wash basin or small tub and let your children wash–baby dolls, toy trucks, cars, dishes, almost anything will work. Bring out the soap, sponges, and washcloths.

Water play boosts the senses by providing the opportunity for the children to feel the wetness, hear the splashing, taste the droplets, and see bubbles. It develops eye-hand coordination, math and science, concentration, social/communication, and physical skills, and can also help calm overwhelmed children.

Music Shakers

Gather little items around the house that make different noises (dried beans, dried noodles, coins, small pieces of toys) and put them into a toilet paper roll or paper towel roll. Glue/tape/staple the end together and shake, shake, shake!  Sound is often forgotten as a sensory mode, but is very important and can have a huge impact on future learning.

Kids music shakers

Shredded Paper

While it sounds like this may be messy, hear us out! Let your children tear up magazine pages or newspapers, cereal boxes, unwanted junk mail, etc. Tearing and being able to tear is the first step to being able to hold and use scissors correctly.

Shredded paper

Early Learning Coalition launches recruitment campaign

As featured in:

Staff Report

The Early Learning Coalition of Northwest Florida (ELCNWF) last week announced the launch of Kickstart Success, a new campaign aimed at addressing the critical shortage of childcare teachers in the seven-county region of Bay, Calhoun, Franklin, Gulf, Holmes, Jackson, and Washington counties.

The campaign is meant not only to highlight the need for childcare teachers in Northwest Florida, but also to underscore the importance of their role in a child’s lifelong learning journey. The campaign encourages Floridians to give both their career and children’s education a head start at the same time by becoming a childcare teacher.

As part of the Kickstart Success campaign, ELCNWF has launched compelling advertisements through social media, television streaming, and out-of-home opportunities in the geographic region. The advertisements direct viewers to a campaign landing page,, where interested parties can get connected with childcare centers.

According to a recent survey of registered voters within the seven-county region, about half of residents (48 percent) believe there is a critical need or shortage of childcare teachers in their home area. This is the case for 70 percent of those with children under the age of 5, the primary attendees at childcare centers.

The survey also found that this profession is highly valued by residents in the area. Nearly nine in 10 voters (88 percent) in the seven-county region say their child’s childcare teacher made a positive impact on their future. Additionally, nearly nine in 10 agreed that childcare teachers are integral to a child’s life and early development.

“Childcare teachers kickstart lifelong learning and success for children in Northwest Florida, and this career path also helps them kickstart their career in early education,” said Suzan Gage, executive director of ELCNWF. “That’s what this important campaign is all about – highlighting this meaningful profession to the community and ensuring that there are enough childcare teachers available to give local children the headstart on their education that they deserve.”

The Early Learning Coalition of Northwest Florida works to provide Northwest Florida families access to high-quality childcare, supports to cover the costs of childcare, and other services and resources to ensure a child’s success in school and life.

The survey’s findings

Some of the key findings from a survey of 400 residents across the Northwest Florida region, conducted by The Early Learning Coalition of Northwest Florida:

  • 4 in 10 (42 percent) of residents with children age 5 currently have a child enrolled in an early education program.
  • Half (50 percent) of residents with children ages 5 through 17 report their child used to be in an early learning program. 
  • About half (48 percent) of respondents believe there is a critical need, or shortage, of early learning educators in the area they live. 
  • 70 percent of residents with children under age 5 believe there is a critical need, or shortage, of early learning educators in the area they live. 

Asked whether there is a high demand for early childhood educators, 69 percent of total respondents agreed. Below is a breakdown of the counties your readers are from:

  • 82 percent in Franklin County agreed.
  • 72 percent in Gulf County agreed.
  • 85 percent in Holmes County agreed.
  • 75 percent in Washington County agreed.

Asked if there is a critical need, or shortage, of early learning educators in the area,

  • 62 percent in Franklin County agreed.
  • 67 percent in Gulf County agreed. 
  • 52 percent in Holmes County agreed. 
  • 50 percent in Washington County agreed.

Asked the degree to which respondents agreed with the statement early learning educators are integral to a child’s life and early development:

  • 100 percent in Franklin County (net) agreed (responded ‘strongly agree’ or ‘somewhat agree’). 
  • 79 percent in Gulf County (net) agreed (responded ‘strongly agree’ or ‘somewhat agree’). 
  • 97 percent in Holmes County (net) agreed (responded ‘strongly agree’ or ‘somewhat agree’). 
  • 94 percent in Washington County (net) agreed (responded ‘strongly agree’ or ‘somewhat agree’). 

How Childcare Impacts the State’s Economy and Shapes Florida’s Workforce

A Florida TaxWatch Briefing

Childcare Impacts on Workforce Participation
The economic importance of early childhood education extends far beyond the direct development benefits for children and the associated long-term outcomes. Having sufficient access to quality childcare provides an added, more immediate benefit to working parents who oftentimes must weigh caregiving responsibilities with maintaining a job. Early learning opportunities thereby support workforce participation and advancement, strengthening the overall economy. At the same time, however, childcare challenges can form a prohibitive barrier to parents seeking to stay engaged in the workforce when there is an insufficient supply of affordable or quality childcare options. Read more…

United Way distributes almost $500k to local non-profits

by: Jake Holter

Updated: Jul 14, 2022 / 06:32 PM CDT

PANAMA CITY, Fla. (WMBB) — United Way contributors are seeing evidence of their money being put to work.

The United Way of Northwest Florida is distributing nearly half a million dollars to 29 different agencies.

That’s more than three times the $150,000 handed out last year.

The Early Learning Coalition will be able to fund “Help Me Grow” services to a six-county area.

And Bay County Council on Aging’s “Meals on Wheels” volunteers are being reimbursed for the extra money they’ve spent due to higher gas prices.

President and CEO Gina Littleton said it’s exciting to see the community bouncing back after Hurricane Michael and the pandemic.

“We’re really excited to be able to say that our Community Impact Fund is three times bigger this year,” Littleton said. “I think the key reason that it’s bigger is that we just have an amazing community. We have so many fantastic supporters, so many incredible businesses that hold workplace campaigns and donate to United Way and we were very excited to be able to put almost half a million dollars back into the community this year.”

United Way will also distribute $165,000 in previously designated funds.

Click this link to learn more about how to donate.

ELC Featured on WJHG – Local organization helps struggling parents pay for child care

By Katie Bente

Published: Jul. 8, 2022 at 5:56 PM CDT

BAY COUNTY, Fla. (WJHG/WECP) – Families everywhere are struggling to keep up. If the price increases on gas and rent weren’t enough, many parents are facing another worry: how to afford child care.

At Hawk’s Nest Learning Tree in Lynn Haven, the price of staying open is steep.

“Even the cost of supplies has gone up so getting the basic needs for the children to have is hard,” Jaimie Young, Owner and Director of Hawk’s Nest Learning Tree, said.

Hiring has been even harder.

“That’s the biggest issue we’re running into is getting employment because most people can go work down the street for more,” Young said.

The child care center has been open only a year, and already, Young said she’s had to bump up her prices by about $25. And she isn’t the only one.

“I think it probably is safe to assume that childcare is probably looking at a 25% to 35% increase,” Suzan Gage, Executive Director of the Early Learning Coalition of Northwest Florida, said.

It’s a tough pill to swallow for parents on a tight budget.

“Because it can cost anywhere probably $175 to $350 depending on the age of the child and that’s per week. So times two kids and someone who’s making $15, $16, $17 an hour, you’re spending the majority of your take-home pay on childcare,” Gage said. “So families are having to ask that hard question you know is it worth it?”

It’s a question the Early Learning Coalition of Northwest Florida works to ensure no parent has to answer. The organization uses state funds to help struggling families pay for quality child care. But even then, finding a center with an opening in Bay County can feel nearly impossible.

“So in Bay County, childcare is an intense business. We’re kind of in a shortage of childcare facilities,” Gage said.

Hawk’s Nest has over 500 families on a waiting list right now. But Young said she hopes with better pay, she can recruit more people to care for those kids.

For more information on if you’re eligible for assistance with the Early Learning Coalition of Northwest Florida, you can head to here.

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