Sensory Activities for Children

shutterstock_95252419Did you know that messy play can help a child learn? You should make a mess together! Sensory Activities help children develop new skills and retain more information. Children learn more when they use multiple senses together. Your baby’s first learning activities in life are all related to their senses.

When your baby uses their senses, their brain makes connections to process and store the information. It is important to start helping your child make those connections from a young age. As people get older it becomes harder to learn new things and retain the information. Although, there are ways to help adults improve their memory and learning experience, it is best to start early.

What senses do you remember when thinking about one of your favorite memories? For example think about a day you had at the beach; remember how warm the sand felt, and how the air smelled like the ocean. You may even remember the sound of seagulls flying overhead. You can picture that day so clearly and remember more about the experience because you were using more than one of your senses. In order to create good sensory experiences for your child you need to know what the senses are and how sensory activities can help a child grow.

  • Touch – One of the first things your baby will touch is you. It is important to have physical touch with a newborn to help the baby bond with the parents. You will be holding the baby a lot to sooth, feed, and change them. Baby massage is one of the earliest forms of touch your baby experiences. As children continue to develop, many of your everyday activities become learning experiences for them.
  • Taste – One of the best sensory activities for a baby is meal time. When you start incorporating baby food into your child’s diet they are able to taste many different flavors. Touch will also be a sense that will be triggered when tasting new things. They will make connection for food that is squishy, crunchy, and slimy. They will start to develop their own likes and dislikes.
  • Smell – Let your baby smell the fresh cut strawberries, and the mashed sweet potatoes. There are so many unique smells for your baby to get acquainted with during meal time. They can then start to relate the smells of each food with the taste and texture of it.
  • Sight – Your baby can’t see very far when they are first born. Their eye sight develops over time. You can help your baby by showing them the food they going to eat. They will start to make connections about the color and shape of fruits and vegetables. Place a few different items next to each other so your baby can see how they are different. Don’t forget to involve the other senses by letting them feel, smell, and taste it.
  • Hearing – Your baby has been listening to you and the world around you for months. Newborns may be startled by loud noises because sounds were muffled by fluid before birth. While an apple doesn’t make a sound when it’s just sitting on a table, it does make a crunchy sound when you cut into it. Allow your baby to squish fruits and listen to the noises they make. Talk to your baby out the food and what they are hearing as well.

Letting children experience sensory activities allows them to develop a wide range of skills. Using the five senses above you can plan activities that give children an opportunity to experience different types of learning. Sensory activities are important learning activities that every child should participate in. Here are some of the skills that children develop when they are able to have hands on learning experiences.

  • Cognitive – While playing with different materials children learn how to problem solve and make decisions. They are building math skills when they have to compare the size of two object and figure out how to get something in or out of it.
  • Language – Children are able to see a real example of what a word means. Cold, for example, doesn’t mean anything until they can actually touch something cold and link the word with the feeling. They learn to use descriptive words, to explain what they are doing, to other children and adults. They learn and memorize language by exploring different sensory activities.
  • Social and Emotional – Children learn to play together and cooperate with others during sensory activities. It builds confidence and pride in sharing their predictions and seeing the results. A sensory table is perfect for children to work together and build confidence in themselves.
  • Physical – Playing with small objects like beans and rice help develop a child’s fine motor skills. Those are skills that people use in everyday activities like tying their shoe. The more sensory activities a child can participate in the better their hand-eye coordination will become.
  • Creative – Because there are no rules set up and children are allowed to explore and develop their own questions. They are free to let their ideas be more creative. They may pose questions that you would not have thought to ask. They can also be creative with the way they come up with an answer. A child will see a sensory activity from a different viewpoint than an adult.

With an understanding of the senses, and what children learn when using them, you can create your own sensory activities. If you are having trouble trying to figure out where to start here are some sensory activity ideas to start with.

Kool Aid Playdough Fun

Homemade playdough is a great sensory activity to try first. Sensory activities don’t all have to be done with a sensory table. Making your own playdough and having your children explain how it feels, looks, and smells, is a great learning tool. This recipe will create different colors and smells for your child to experience while exploring the playdough.

Supplies:

  • 1 cup flour.
  • 1 cup boiling water.
  • 3 tbsp corn oil
  • ½ cup salt
  • 1 package of Koolaid (your choice of color)
  • Kitchen utensils

Mix the ½ cup of salt and the 1 package of Koolaid in with the flour. Then add the 3 tbsp of corn oil and mix it together. Finally add the 1 cup of boiling water and mix thoroughly. Begin to knead the mixture until it becomes a soft dough material. Add more flour to make the dough softer if you need to. Store it in a plastic bag or plastic container.

After you have all your playdough colors made you can begin your sensory activity. Collect some extra kitchen tools like a rolling pin, potato masher, and toothpicks, for you kids to use with the playdough. Once they have all the supplies laid out stand back and watch the creativity flow.

Rainbow Rice Bags

Sensory activities can get really messy sometimes. Water and sand are popular materials for sensory activities. If you want a fun mess free activity, try these rainbow rice bags! Let your children squish and play with zip lock bags full of colored rice.

Supplies:

  • 6 zip lock sandwich bags
  • 12 cups of Jasmin rice (2 cups per bag)
  • Food coloring
  • Container with tight lid
  • Clear packing tape (For extra bag sealing security)

Pour 2 cups of rice into the container with a lid. Pour in a generous amount of food coloring and close the container. Then shake it up to mix the rice and food coloring together. Once it is all mixed together pour the rice into a zip lock bag and close it. Rinse out the container and repeat the steps creating a different color each time. Depending on the age of your child, and the type of zip lock bags you have, you may want to add a piece of clear packing tape across the opening for extra mess free security.

Sticky Sheep

This project allows children to be creative and make an art piece. This is also a relatively mess free activity. Using contact paper with a sheep drawn on it toddlers can explore sticking various material to it. Gather some items from around the house and see what things your toddler thinks should go on the sheep.

Supplies:

  • Contact paper
  • Scotch tape or masking tape
  • Sharpie
  • Cotton balls
  • Pompoms

Using your sharpie you will need to draw a sheep or any animal of your choosing onto the contact paper. This is a fun art lesson for both parents and children. Once you have created the sheep outline tape it to a low window or table. Place out all the pompoms in front the children and let the creativity begin. This is a fun lesson because children do not have to place the cotton balls or pompoms inside the shape of the sheep. They can put them anywhere on the paper and choose any color. Who says sheep have to be white?

Use these three sensory activities as a spring board for more ideas.  Allow children a chance to explore the world around them and use their problem solving skills. When children use all their senses in creative, open ended, play they learn and develop important life skills. Starting when children are young allows you to have a happy, healthy, and confident child. Give them the tools for success now. You will have plenty of time to help them with their study skills  when they are older. Even as a busy parent you can find ways to help lead your child to success. Never stop learning and exploring your world. Children follow your example, so have some fun and join in the sensory activities with them!