Sensory activities are activities that stimulates one of the senses - see, smell, hear, taste, touch. Any activities that promotes body awareness are also considered sensory activities.
Sensory play is very beneficial for your child’s physical and cognitive development. It also fosters creativity, emotional regulation and learning. This style of learning can be especially helpful for kinesthetic learners that might struggle to learn through visual or auditory methods.
For more on early development, check out this post!
Every child has a different threshold for sensory input. Some children seek out extra sensory input, while others are avoidant, due to a hypersensitivity.
Children that seek out extra sensory input, might love spinning, being hung upside down, chewing on everything, and wanting to touch everything around them. Children with increased sensitivity to sensory input might demonstrate dislike for loud noises, dirty hands, clothing tags, and certain textures of food.
Toe walking can be a symptom of both hyposensitivity and hypersensitivity to sensory input. To learn more about toe walking, causes, and treatment ideas, check out this post!
Wherever your child falls on the spectrum, sensory activities will benefit his overall development.
Just keep in mind that every child is different. What is fun for one child might be too much for another child. Be intuitive and sensitive to your child’s needs (and his limits) when it comes to sensory play.
If you have concerns about your child, talk to your child’s pediatrician. Some children are diagnosed with sensory processing disorder, and benefit from working with a physical therapist and/or occupational therapist.
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50 Sensory Activities for Development
These sensory activities are designed to be affordable and simple to set up. Most of them can be easily prepared with items from around the house.
Please be sure to supervise your child during the following activities, as some of the below ideas involve water, choking hazards, etc.
1. Sensory Bags
DIY sensory bags are easy and fun to make! Fill a zip lock bag with: rice, buttons, water, pompoms, dried popcorn, or anything else around the house.
2. Sensory Bins
The sky is really the limit with this one! Fill a bin with anything around the home that has an interesting texture to it. Some of my favorites include: rice, pompoms, cotton balls, or water beads. You can also give your child little items or toys to find in the bin of sensory material, along with scoops, cups and tongs to explore with.
3. Sensory Bottles
Fill old medicine bottles or other plastic containers with items around the home. Food colored water with oil or glitter in water can be visually fun for your child. Popcorn, rice or dried noodles can be a fun hearing sensory activity.
4. Foam Play
Blend approximately 3 cups of water with 1 tablespoon of dish soap for about 1 minute. Pour the contents into a shallow pan or bin. You can put toys in the foam for your child to find, and/or scoops and cups to use.
5. Pouring Station
Provide your child with different sizes and types of containers partially filled with water. Demonstrate for your child how to pour and transfer the water between containers. You can also add different colors of food coloring to each container of water to add the element of color theory for your child!
Put out 1 to several large pieces of bubble wrap on the floor, and allow your child to walk barefoot on the bubble wrap.
10. Bubble Wrap Painting
Wrap pieces of bubble wrap around each of your child’s feet. Given him a large piece of paper or cardboard on the floor with spaced out globs of paint. Your child can walk through the paint with his bubble wrapped feet for a unique sensation and to create interesting designs.
11. Fabric/Ribbon Bag
Fill a bag or container with different textured and colored pieces of fabric and ribbon for your child to explore. Left over scraps from different sewing projects are perfect for this activity!
12. Muffin Tin Exploration
Take a muffin tin and place different items from around the house in each muffin space. Examples of items I have used are, keys, a cotton ball, a scrunchy, a set of measuring spoons, a sponge, etc.
13. Nature Basket
Collect interesting and textured items from outside and place them in a bin for your child’s exploration. Items could include: dried leaves, moss, flowers, sprigs of pine, rocks and anything else you can think of!
14. Shaving Cream Art
Cover a baking sheet with a layer of shaving cream, to explore and/or draw pictures.
15. Colorful Spaghetti
Cook a box of spaghetti then drain and rinse with cold water. Divide the spaghetti evenly into 3-6 different ziplock bags. Add food coloring and a drop of vegetable oil to each bag of noodles, seal the bags shut and shake until the color is dispersed. Open the bags to let the noodles air out for about 30 minutes prior to playing with them.
16. Jello Rescue
Make a batch of jello and add small waterproof toys or figurines to the jello before it cools. Let the jello cool in the fridge for a few hours, then have your child, remove the toys from the jello.
17. Ice Cube Play
Give your child a tub of ice cubes or of water with ice cubes in it. You can also provide scoops and other containers, so your child can scoop, dump and transfer the ice cubes.
18. Listen to Music
19. Sing, Stomp, Clap
20. Blindfold Game
Place a blindfold over your child’s eyes and guide him to a specific location or to a toy using verbal and tactile instructions.
21. Sensory Plate
Create a sensory plate of food for your child with all different tastes and textures. Some ideas are: sweet, sour, spicy, salty, chewy, crunchy, juicy, etc.