Sensory activities are great for a child’s development and if you watch your child you will notice that they go through cycles when their senses seem to be more sensitive than at other times. Toddlers are notorious for going through a picky eating stage, it’s not their fault! At that age their taste buds go through a development spurt, at one point my son hated any type of messy play where he had to touch something gooey, it was just a stage. Don’t assume because you tried it once that your child will never enjoy messy or sensory play, it might have been just a stage in their development.
There are lots of ways that you can help your child with their senses, they are easy to set up and many can be done on the spur of the moment. I think the reason why many parents are reluctant to get stuck in with sensory play is the fear of the mess! OK, some of these will make a mess but if it does worry you, you can limit it, why not do messy play in the bath or the yard? Or put out a baking sheet for them to play on to catch most of the mess? There are also lots of things to do that don’t make a mess too…
+ Play with slime, store bought or home made
+ Playdough, make your own and add scents with spices and herbs
+ Water play
+ Finger painting – use food puree for added fun
+ Fabric matching – pair scraps of fabric and get the child to match
+ Flower arranging
+ Iro mizu
+ Sensory tub, a bowl or box filled with rice or dried beans
+ Making mud pies
+ Ripping paper or tissues
+ Lying still and listening hard, what can you hear?
+ Playing with ice
+ Baking – especially if it involves getting your hands in the mix
+ Painting – try different types of paint, styles, techniques
+ Blowing bubbles
+ Mystery bag (feeling items in a bag and guessing what they are)
+ Playing musical instruments
+ Colour mixing – paints, slime, playdoh…
+ Matching colours
+ Bubble bath
+ Sticks and stones
+ Put items in a basket with different textures for baby to play with
+ Treasure hunt – find something… hard, soft, fluffy, spiky…
+ Nature treasure hunt, looks for items of different texture
+ Grating vegetables and fruit
+ Listening to music
+ Using a mirror to play with
+ Use glow sticks in the dark or in the bath!
+ Shaving foam – messy but so much fun!
+ Water beads
+ Magic potions – supply jars and ingredients from the kitchen…
+ Balloons – bounce them, blow them, use static electricity…
+ Bubble wrap – pop it! print with it!
+ Play in the dark with a torch
+ Cooked noodles or spaghetti (great if you have accidentally cooked too much)
+ Buttons – great for sorting into colours, shapes, sizes
+ Anything that you can post through a hole
+ Different types of paper, waxed, tissue, newspaper, printer paper…
+ Smelling bottle (herbs, spices or pure essential oils in small bottles)
+ Playing with food – peels and scraps whilst you are preparing dinner
+ Balls – kids love a ball pool, why not make a mini one for a doll or fill a paddling pool or the bath!
+ Cereal – Something like Cheerios can be used for lots of play ideas
+ Play with a collection of the same item made out of different materials
+ Leaves, acorns, pines cones etc.
+ A visit to a petting zoo or pet shop (it they allow animals to be touched)
+ Listen to audio books
+ Cloud dough
+ Jelly/jello edible fun!
+ Cuddles – the ultimate in sensory education!
With any of these ideas, use common sense, if your child is still at the stage of putting things in their mouth (yes, that is part of the sensory process too, their mouth is a way of learning about their world around them, they don’t do it to annoy the pants off you) then choose items that they are not going to hurt or choke themselves with.
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