50 Easy Sensory Activities To Do At Home
Sensory activities are really important for kids as they learn and develop their senses. One of the problems children face today is that their parents don’t want them getting mucky or making a mess, which is a real shame and like my mom always say “Kids come washable”
Now we have all heard the warnings about kids (and adults) having too much screen time, and how that effects children’s development. For kids aged between birth and three, their brains are developing extremely quickly and particularly sensitive to their environment. Medically this is often referred to as the “critical period” because it is at this time that the foundation of everything else we learn is laid.
For a child to develop normally they need specifically environmental stimuli and obviously these can’t be found on a screen. What the screen does do, especially tablets, pads and smart phones is give the child instant rewards for their actions, which doesn’t happen in the real world. Each time the child swipes and gets a response, they get a hit of “feel good dopamine”, repeated hits of this is what cause kids to become addicted to the device.
In the real world, we don’t get such instant gratification and this is one of the things that kids are missing out on. I’m not totally anti screen time but it does need to be limited (preferably to when mama needs to get stuff done) and kids do need plenty of sensory play along side it.
Sensory play isn’t just about touch. We often think of things like water play, sand pits and playdoh as sensory play but sensory play needs to involve the other senses too. Watching colours change in a colour mixing experiment or the smell of coffee as you grind it, the sound different beans make when poured into different bowls, or the taste of cooked onions compared to raw, they all expand the child’s knowledge of the world.
Sensory play also helps build the child’s language, finding new words to describe the sensations they are experiencing, it helps with fine motor skills and is often very calming.
Below you will find a mix of activities, all that can be done at home, some are messier than others, some not messy at all. All of them will give your child some sensory fun and help them develop and hone in on their senses….
Here are 50 great ways for your child to have more sensory play…
It goes without saying really, if your child is still mouthing things then chose your activity carefully and anything involving water, don’t leave the child unattended.
Ball matching (one of the activities from my Montessori Inspired book) These are different weighted balls and the child has to match them, they are also fun to make together.
Make sound cylinders Another matching activity, shake the cylinders and match the sounds, again you can make these with your child, two activities in one!
Make cloud dough – a variation on playdoh, different type of texture and can be made together, you don’t need to prep ahead of time.
Play with packing peanuts – Those little polystyrene packing pieces can make for hours of fun. Try dabbing an end in water, then you can stick them together. With older kids challenge them to make something.
Play with bubbles in the sink (add a hand whisk for extra points!), this is an oldie but a goodie and a great way to kill time if you have got to the point where you just need to get them busy. You can also do this in the bath or garden. Rather than fill the bath, sit your child in the bath with a plastic bowl and some kitchen utensils, bubbly water and let them go at it. If you need to work, grab your laptop and make yourself comfy in the bathroom – not ideal but at least you can get some work done.
Finger painting – I see many a mama cringing here. You don’t have to, for a mess free version put dollops of paint in a ziplock bag and seal with tape. or take the finger painting into the garden or the bath.
Playdoh (my go to recipe here) Playdoh is one of those classics, great to have on hand, you can add colours and scents (try a few drops of lavender if you have a child that needs some calming vibes!) and if you are into themes, you can easily incorporate toys and the such like for themed playdoh play.
Herb and spice smelling bottles – These are easy to make and fun to do, it’s surprising how many adults struggle with this activity too! Try it on the rest of the family. Another one you can put together with your child or collect the things in advance together then you actually make the bottle when they are asleep.
Making bread – This is one of my all time favourite activities with kids. When I was teaching at the Montessori farm, we made bread dough and wrapped it around sticks and then cooked it on an open fire. So much fun. Bread had this reputation for being really hard to make but it doesn’t need to be and it is both a practical life and sensory activity.
Ice treasure – My son is now 11 years old and still asks for these! This does take some prep time but is a fab activity for the summer.
Ripping paper – toddlers often go through a stage when they want to rip things, pages out of books, peeling the wallpaper, pulling the tissues of out the box and shredding them everywhere, sound familiar? Trust me, your child is not being naughty, he or she is being curious that’s all. If you find this happening, give them what they need, a nice pile of paper to rip to their hearts content. Try mixing up the types of paper, depending on your child’s age you can introduce sticking too.
Ice cooking – another good one for the summer but doesn’t need much prep time, as long as you have ice, you can cook!
Bubble snakes – This is so much fun, quick and easy to whip up and if you make them for the neighbourhood kids you will soon be crowned the ‘fun mom’
Baking! – Any kind of cooking or baking is a sensory experience as well as a practical life one. So, dust off the old cook book and get your aprons on, the best bit about this – you get to eat your had work at the end!
Pouring water – This is one of those simple activities that gets over looked couple that with busy parents who find it quicker and easier to do the pouring (saves on cleaning up spills) we end up with kids at the age of 10 who don’t know how to pour themselves a drink. Sad but true. If you are worried about the spills, do this outside or in the bath. The best idea is to start off with a small amount of liquid.
Use two small jugs and show the child how to pour from on to another. When they have mastered that use a clear glass and get them to practice pouring until the line. Add a few drops of food colour to make it easier.
Colour mixing – Go as big or small as you like with this, small helps with the fine motor skills too so you are working on more than one skills at once.
Texture matching game (matching scraps of different fabrics) iF you are a sewer, go and attack your stash, if not, before you throw out old clothes look at what you’ve got. Cut scraps of fabric, the same size 10x10cm is a good size. You need two squares of each fabric. Then close your eyes, pick up a square and feel all the others to find the matching one.
Water beads – I have to admit, I haven’t used these, they came on the scene too late for us to try them really. DO supervisor your kids when you are using them, I have heard about children ending up in hospital because they swallowed them
Test if the tongue map is real – more suited to older kids rather than toddlers, do you remember doing the tongue map at school, we busted the theory…
Spice painting – Mix a bit of spice and some water and paint away, this would go well coupled with an activity about the silk route or somewhere rich in spices, if you wanted to add something else to it as a lesson.
Treasure basket – collect 5 or 6 different household items for your baby to explore, you can start putting these together from about 6 months, just be sure that the items you put in the basket are safe to put in the mouth.
Shaving cream – there are lots of ways you can use shaving cream, from just playing to writing letters in it, printing and doing the raining rainbows experiment.
Raining rainbows – one of our favourite experiments and one of the prettiest, you can combine this with a weather lesson too.
Mystery bag – all you need is a bag and a few things from around the home.
Exploding Volcano – I have yet to find a child or adult that doesn’t love doing this!
Light table – you can make these yourself at home or buy a cheap one. There are so many different ways to explore using a light table, get onto pinterest and take a look, you might be there a while though!
Shadow play – Shadows fascinate kids, just simple hand puppets can lead to hours of entertainment, here is a quick video to learn some basics:
Painting with different objects – home made brushes, cars, stamping, grab a few (old) toys or things from the recycling bin, crack open the paints and have some fun.
Sensory bin – This is another thing that became all the rage after Ebi-kun was old enough to play with it really. Do a quick google and you will have a million and one ideas on what to do. Basically get a big box and fill it with dried beans, rice or pasta with some scoops and bowls etc. There all kinds of themes to try too. I think the biggest complain it the mess it makes, this is where teaching your child how to use a brush and pan comes in handy!
Sand box – who doesn’t love a good sand box, proper old school fun!
Mud pies – Random fact, children in Japan make rice balls rather than mud pies! Just shows that kids everywhere love playing in mud.
Make a zen garden – or a fairy garden, get a big plant pot and plan away, you can go to town with accessories or get some things of of the recycle box. Succulents make great mini garden additions.
Colour walk – two ways to do this, both are fun. Most places are OK with you picking up fallen leaves and petals.
Make shakers – Get out the recycling bin and make some maracas, put some rice or dried beans inside a tube or a couple of containers and tape them shut, now time to get your groove on (OK I know this isn’t the quietest of activities but it is a great way to burn off some energy if you can’t leave the house for some reason)
Texture boards – cut card to the same size, stick various things to them, all different textures, sandpaper, felt, corrugated paper… close your eyes, pick one up the try and match the other one.
Eye Spy Bottle – Another one to make with your child, my boy enjoyed colouring and pouring the rice
Cotton wool – or any other new texture, toddlers will find new textures fascinating so when you catch them pulling the bum wipes apart or playing with cotton wool, embrace it and give them more of what they need.
Coffee grinding – Why grind it yourself if you can get a small person to do it for you, joking aside, takes some great skills to grind coffee and you get a nice cuppa at the end of it.
Kinetic sand – I have seen homemade versions of this, I haven’t tried it myself. The good thing about this stuff is the minimal clean up.
Make gloop (and talk about it being an oobleck)
Scooping seeds out of a pumpkin – perfect for autumn, and lots of texture fun going on, you can do this with other fruit and veg too, and at least you don’t have to worry about them if they try to sample it!
Washing up! – Yes, make it into a sensory, fun activity.
Make snow at home – this is perfect if you don’t get the real white stuff!
Planting seeds – or any kind of gardening is a greta sensory activity, the sounds of the insects, the feel of the soil and plants, the smell of the flowers and herbs.
Fuzzy felt – Oh I loved this as a kid and I was happy that my boy did too. You can use this in so many ways, from telling stories to creating amazing masterpieces or using it as a puzzle!
Any game which needs a blindfold – blind mans buff, pin the tail on the donkey, anything that removes one sense helps strengthen other senses
Play instruments – doesn’t matter what, it’s all sensory.
Any matching or memory game – I used my sons artwork to make this set and they are still going strong.
As you can see, sensory activities don’t have to be messy, we use our senses in so many different ways, it’s just important that we give our kids the opportunities to try things themselves, to get in there are touch and feel things.
Pay attention to what your child is up to, were they really being naughty when they smeared bum cream all over the TV or was it a sensory curiosity?
Remember to pin this post to refer back to it and feel free to hit the share buttons so your mama friends have plenty of ideas to refer to too.
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