'Purposeful Play': Paxton Mom Creates Themed Sensory Kits Your Kids Will Love

Danielle Ray
Founder of Purposeful Play and mom of five Jaclyn Morse with her three-year-old daughter, Adelyn.

Like so many other parents, Jaclyn Morse was trying to find ways to keep her kids entertained when the pandemic hit and they found themselves at home. Her idea to create themed sensory bins not only occupied her kids, but became the beginning of a now booming side hustle.

“As a mom of five, I came to understand how important and essential play is in the development of children,” she said of the idea behind her business, Purposeful Play. “I have always looked for ways to provide my children with open-ended play that will engage their imaginations, creativity, and senses.”

Morse, who works full time in display development and procurement for an eyewear company, was born and raised in New England and is one of five children herself. She has spent most of her life living between Rhode Island and Massachusetts and graduated from St. Mary Academy – Bay View in East Providence, Rhode Island, before attending Rhode Island College in Providence. She has lived in Paxton with her wife Cate Kadis for five years, where they are raising their kids – 13-year-old son Anderson, 11-year-old triplet girls Madyson, McKenna, and Morgan, and recently turned 3-year-old daughter Adelyn.

Morse said it is her children’s “love of sensory activities” that inspired her to “want to bring this developmentally enriching play to other families.”

“At the start of the pandemic when many of us were home, I was looking for new ways to bring sensory activities into my home to help meet the developmental needs of my children, especially my youngest, who was 13 months old at the time,” she recalled. “I began building themed sensory bins that not only my toddler became enthralled in playing with, but also my older children, spending hours throughout the day playing and creating with the sensory bins.”

Adelyn plays with a sea-themed sensory kit.

In February of last year, she created two themed playdough sensory kits - St. Patrick’s Day and Easter - and posted them on the Mountaineer Mamas Facebook page that is geared towards Wachusett district families.

“The response was astounding,” Morse said. “I received over 50 orders over the course of a couple of weeks. From there, Purposeful Play was quickly born.”

It was then she knew she had struck a chord with families and officially formed her business. The reaction from the local and greater community has been nothing short of amazing, and since then she has sold more than 750 items with prices ranging from $10 to $50 including sensory bins, kits, mini kits, and bottles.

“I am truly humbled by the support and love we have received,” Morse said. “Our customer feedback is positive and has resulted in repeated sales and customer growth, with many new customers coming from referrals, some even as far as California.”

That valued feedback is what Morse said has kept her creative juices flowing, creating sensory products geared towards a myriad of different personality types and interested.

While the bins and sensory bottles are focused for ages three to 10, she said she finds that “people of all ages enjoy” them.

“Sensory play is a great activity to help with mindfulness and stress relief and can be enjoyed by all ages,” Morse said, adding that she had a customer who recently purchased her popular snowman kit for her grandmother.

The themes are inspired by weather, holidays, places, “or just ideas that children in general are drawn to.”

“For example, we released our ocean kit in June as we were heading into beach season and at a time when children might be extra inspired by this theme,” Morse said.

Each item includes elements that align with the theme. A garden mini bin, for instance, includes dry black beans as “dirt," along with mini tools, green colored wagon wheel dry pasta, and more. A construction site kit features scented playdough, two toy construction vehicles, rocks, wood sticks. She also offers a galaxy sensory bottle with mesmerizing stars slowly “falling."

Purposeful Play's Construction Site Kit.

“Our seasonal kits and sensory bottles seem to be our most popular items,” Morse said.

In addition to her regular lineup she creates limited kits for holidays and other occasions including Halloween, Christmas and the holidays, Thanksgiving, Earth Day, Valentine’s Day, the four seasons, and more. She said the newly released “Do You Want to Build a Snowman” sensory kit has been “by far” her most popular item, with over 100 units selling within hours of release and hundreds more since.

“It is the stories I hear from customers that inspire me to continue to bring sensory play to families,” she said. “I love the purpose we have in the lives of our customers, their children, and being able to help make a positive and meaningful impact on their families. We continue to hone in on what parents want and embrace for their children, and their continued feedback has allowed us to create sensory items that appeal to a variety of children.”

When asked what she feels makes Purposeful Play unique, for parents and caregivers as well as children, Morse said it is a combination of things.

“The feedback I receive the most from parents is that they appreciate that our products keep their kids entertained and engaged, allowing them the flexibility to focus on completing other tasks, which is a balance that is often challenging for many parents,” she said. “They feel good giving them our products, keeping them away from electronics and instead engaged in imaginative play.

“Also, most, if not all parents, appreciate the developmental benefits of sensory play,” Morse continued. “Some of those benefits include supporting and enhancing cognitive development, memory, motor skills, problem solving, and language development. Sensory play is all inclusive - there is no right or wrong way to play.”

The “Do You Want to Build a Snowman” sensory kit has been Morse's most popular item, with over 100 units selling within hours of release and hundreds more since.

She said it is not just parents who have embraced Purposeful Play but teachers as well.

“I realize that teachers have a different struggle,” Morse said. “They know and understand the benefits of sensory play, but financial factors and time can hinder bringing this into their classrooms, especially during the pandemic when shared materials between children are generally not allowed.”

As such, Morse said she has worked with several teachers to create affordable, lap-sized sensory bins for preschool classrooms.

“They often tell me, ‘The kids ask and wait to play with the bins every day!’,” she said. “Our sensory bottles are also awesome classroom tools, allowing children to have hands-on and visual exploration without disrupting their learning. They are also great calming and mindfulness tools.”

Morse said the benefits of sensory play are multiple, and that she enjoys providing those benefits to her customers as well as her own children.

“Sensory play is not only fun but engages children’s senses,” she said. “It helps to develop brain nerve connections and these connections help with your child’s ability to complete more complex learning tasks.”

She said knowledge and memory are also developed through sensory play, and that children enjoy exploring all of the different elements included in each kit. And for those who have children who “decide to taste test” the homemade playdough, Morse said there’s no need to worry – it’s non-toxic.

“Discovery is encouraged through hands on, self-directed, creative play,” she said, “and sensory play also supports the development of motor skills, problem solving and language development. Whether squishing playdough, pouring beans, scooping, or stamping, your child is working on developing these important skills. Sensory play enhances all the senses - sight, sound, touch, taste, and smell. Stimulating these senses helps with language development and learning.”

When it comes to her hopes and goals for the future of Purposeful Play, she is focused on continuing “to innovate and bring sensory play to families near and far.”

“We want children of all ages to benefit from the developmental and creative benefits that come with sensory play,” Morse said. “We realize that play is an integral part of childhood and each of our products are carefully planned and created, to not only meet the developing needs of your child, but also keep them engaged in imaginative play.”

For more information visit www.purposefulplayus.com.

There are a myriad of benefits of sensory play including cognitive development, memory, and motor skills.