Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Sensory Activities for Toddlers

I was reading recently about the many benefits of sensory play for toddlers. There are many ways to create a sensory activity or table where your toddler can engage all five senses, develop fine motor skills, build language skills, and benefit from the calming effect that comes with sensory activities.

Here are a few ideas that incorporate those skills and benefits:

1. Cornmeal Designs
For this activity, I poured the cornmeal into a small pan until the bottom was covered. Then I tried to get her creative brain working by asking her to draw different shapes or pictures that were simple enough for her to do herself. We discussed how the cornmeal felt in her fingers and I introduced a few new words such as "sandy" and "powdery." She could smell the cornmeal, taste it (although I warned her it's yucky), see it, listen to it as it ran through her fingers, and of course feel it with her hands. She fine-tuned her motor skills by using just one finger to draw a line or several fingers to create a design and her entire hand to smooth out the cornmeal when she wanted to start over. I was surprised by how long this activity kept her attention.


2. Cornstarch Goo
PhotobucketPlace a couple tablespoons of cornstarch into a bowl and add water until the cornstarch flows slowly. Have your toddler mix the ingredients with his/her fingers until it's at the right consistency. Now have some fun! Again, discuss how it feels, smells, tastes, sounds, and looks like as you experiment with this mixture. We squeezed it between our fingers and used words such as "smooth" and "slippery." We also tried to hit it really hard and watched as it hardened immediately. Be prepared for a mess, but let your toddler get both hands into this activity. I've even heard of trying this in a larger plastic bucket that your child can stand in and feel this with his feet!


3. Edible Art Activity
This edible art craft was my favorite of these three sensory activities! I wanted my two year old to create a tree with fall-colored leaves by using edible materials that engaged her five senses. We used chocolate instant pudding for the trunk and frosting tinted with food coloring for the leaves.
 I traced her hand and forearm for the shape of the trunk.
Photobucket  Then she went to work with the pudding. We discussed the texture and how it felt between her fingers. We DEFINITELY discussed how it tasted, smelled and looked like as she smeared it onto the page.
Photobucket Then we added the leaves by dipping into our colored frosting... 

Here's a picture of her testing out her "tasting" skills!

I helped her add some grass and a flower at the base of her tree for a finishing touch.


A great book to accompany this activity is Lois Ehlert's Red Leaf, Yellow Leaf. It talks about the process of a tree's birth from a tiny seed to how it grows and becomes part of your own back yard.


Enjoy these sensory activities! For more info on the benefits of sensory tables, here's a source.
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