Her sensory play recipes include different kinds of slime and playdough.

The school holidays are nearly upon us and Durban mom and Sticky Fingers author Ayesha Parak-Makada offered GoodLife a few ideas on what to do with little ones.

Sensory play at home is at the heart of Ayesha Parak-Makada’s play philosophy.

The Durban mother of two, who studied Social Science at the University of KwaZulu-Natal, made a name for herself with her toddler playgroup called Mums & Cubs. She most recently published a collation of those “recipes” in her book for parents, called Sticky Fingers.

If you’ve ever left your preschoolers to their own devices with dinner, you know why it works; once they’re done eating, they’re very happy to explore their food with their fingers.

“Mums & Cubs specialises in messy play,” says Parak-Makada.

“We provide children with an environment to experience messy play and explore their senses. Toddlers are also given an opportunity to meet and socialise with each other.

“All of the classes are geared towards helping children hone their fine and gross motor skills in a fun and educational way.

“Each class has an exciting and engaging theme, with many different activities that all tie in. This affords mothers a fantastic opportunity to bond with their children, as well as to meet and make “mummy friends”.

Her sensory play recipes include different kinds of slime and playdough.

“Unless otherwise stated, all of the recipes are taste safe! This makes them perfect for toddlers as well as older kids.”

READ: Why touch play is vital for early development

She says: “From birth, children learn about the world around them using their five senses. Sensory play encourages learning in a practical way that stimulates a child’s senses.

“By stimulating a child’s senses we are sending signals to the child’s brain; in doing so we are helping to strengthen important neural pathways that are integral for learning and development. This also helps prime the brain for learning other skills.

“Sensory play has been described by many teachers as being the foundation of all skills children will use at school, including learning to read, write and solve maths and science problems.

“It is also by playing that children learn and develop as individuals, and as members of the community.”

Parak-Makada is also firmly in favour of baking with your kids this holiday.

“While the kitchen can very easily be described as a very dangerous place, with hazards in every nook and cranny - from knives, to glassware, and even open flames - I think there is no better classroom for a toddler.

“Baking with a child is the perfect fun way to introduce them to so many new concepts and experiences. Whether you are exploring early numeracy by counting and weighing ingredients, or expanding their vocabulary by talking about all the interesting things that can be found in a kitchen.

“For me, no session of cooking with kids is complete unless everyone has smelt every spice that has gone into our dish. Try it this holiday, you might find you have loads of fun without even leaving the house.”

* The book is available from www.mumsandcubs.co.za