I’m so happy to share our journey with you! At 18 months of age, our pediatrician told us that Gabriela was displaying symptoms of a Sensory Processing Disorder. Since birth, our sweet baby was a sensory seeker, not understanding personal space, had a high threshold for pain, constant need to touch people, enjoyed deep pressure (like really tight hugs), and a persistent screamer, coupled with severe anxiety, particularly at nighttime. It all made sense, but our challenge was finding strategies and methods for easing her need to touch and cravings for intense movement. I had the privilege to be a stay-at-home mom and learn ways that I can nurture her development and ease her anxiety. I began incorporating sensory play into her daily routine to help her satisfy her cravings for touch. I found a unique way of aligning sensory play with literacy development by assembling sensory bins that matched the theme of our favorite books. This presented opportunities for language development, role-playing, and critical thinking. I saw my child’s eyes widen and brighten, able to explore open-ended play. For the first time, she was playing independently for long intervals and creating a space to explore a new world beyond her cravings. Moreover, playing with dough had a calming effect on Marli when she was feeling scared or anxious. And her imagination ran wild!
As an early childhood specialist, I realized that this type of play is so critical for all children, but especially those with limited access to the right resources. Not all parents have access to occupational therapists and treatment is often not administered until children are school-aged, which is often too late to intervene, as sensory disorders can often be misdiagnosed as ADHD and behavioral issues. So in 2018 I came up with the concept of MarliBox, but it wasn’t until the summer of 2020 that I saw a huge need for these resources in our underserved communities. Our young children are suffering with lack of social emotional connections and opportunities for sensory exploration due to the limitations set by a global pandemic. Children are isolated at home and lack critical interaction with peers to role-play and practice language development. Our boxes are meant to combat these challenges and promote the social-emotional development of all young children. Our work at MarliBox is not complete until EVERY child has the opportunity to explore, imagine, and glow!