6 sensory activities to try at home | NPNparents.org
As human beings, we’re hard-wired from birth to explore the world through our senses. The way we receive and respond to sensory stimuli has a powerful impact on our experiences. Creating opportunities for children to explore sets them up for long-term success with essential skills including problem solving, decision making, curiosity and perseverance.
Long before they become proficient with language, young children discover through their senses. It’s no coincidence that babies first put everything in their mouths, since the sucking reflex provides a powerful channel for taking in information. As they gain motor control, older infants and toddlers are notorious for touching everything in sight. Given this propensity toward physical engagement, young children learn best when given freedom to explore with all of their senses.
Sensory play includes activities that stimulate sight, sound, smell, taste and touch, among others. These multimodal experiences enhance development, promote cognitive growth, gross and fine motor capacities, language, social skills and more. Through hands-on experimentation and adult supervision, children understand how objects work and make real-life connections between words and their meanings. For example, imagine explaining what “bumpy” feels like, without allowing the child to touch a textured object. The direct connection between an abstract symbol and a related tangible experience brings concepts to life.
Try these sensory activities at home with your child:
Mud and Math: Toddlers and preschoolers enjoy exploring mud and dough. While using sight, smell and touch, they’re experiencing smooth, squishy, smelly and sloppy. When we add measuring cups and funnels to a mud kitchen or cloud dough experience, they begin to use early math and science as well.
It’s a Wrap: Tape bubble wrap to the floor. Allow your child to crawl, walk, run or jump on it. Create a street and allow him to drive cars and trucks over it.
Mystery Box: Put squishy balls, pipe cleaners, feathers and other household items into a shoe box. Cut a hole in the top and encourage your child to touch, feel and explore the items inside and guess what they are.
Ooey Gooey: Fill zip lock bags with shaving cream or hair gel and tape the end closed. Your child can squish it around in his hands, or practice “drawing” in it with his fingers. You can also put little toys in the bags, such as googly eyes and little animals.
Sensory Bins: Fill containers with cotton balls, pom-poms, sand, rice, beans or noodles and give your child tools like rakes, scoopers, bowls and cups to experiment with moving the contents around. Allow your child to explore the various textures with her hands and encourage her to listen for the different sounds.
Taste Tester: Cover your child’s eyes with a blindfold and see if she can identify different types of fruits, vegetables, dips, treats, etc. You can have her name the foods and use descriptive language such as “sweet,” “salty” and “crunchy.”
It's all about getting creative, a little messy and having fun exploring together!
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