Wondering how to keep those little ones busy right now? Life has been rather unpredictable for all of us. This year I have found extra comfort in making purposeful decisions to invest in the ones I love. Quality time is a great way to do that when it comes to toddlers!
I love those little moments when my toddler is entertained and learning. It’s a real bonus when those times don’t take a ton of preparation, don’t include a DIY craft, and isn’t something that requires major Pinterest mom skills! Plus, I’m happy when activities don’t make a huge mess! I strive to keep things as simple as possible in everything we do. (We have enough on our plates as it is, am I right?)
WHY I ENCOURAGE SENSORY ACTIVITIES FOR TODDLERS + PRESCHOOLERS:
- Sensory play gives you a way to spend engaged one-on-one time. The bonding aspect is my favorite. There is just something about sitting and focusing on your child that really excites and ignites them to want to learn, play, and try new things together! Especially when there are other siblings around, taking time to do these “tivities”, as Leyton calls them, is something I want to always prioritize. Those little hearts need lots of nurturing!
- Sensory play builds nerve connections within the brain’s developing neural pathways. Continuously developing these pathways can be a huge help with the ability to solve complex tasks.
- Sensory activities support cognitive growth, language development, motor skills, and problem-solving skills as well as developing social interaction. All great things that help out with transitions and adjustments in preschool and social settings!
- Doing sensory activities can also aid in developing and enhancing memory! (You can also try to do a few memory games here and there to help with this as well!)
- Finally, sensory play can have a calming effect on anxious or frustrated toddlers! It is truly amazing the attitude change that can take place after having some time doing sensory activities. It helps them channel that amazing energy into learning something new!
Don’t be afraid to keep it simple and use whatever you have on hand at home! Remember, these are toddlers we’re talking about — they don’t need it to be elaborate to enjoy an activity! Tip: if I’m having a mom brain moment, I’ll even google or search on Pinterest for sensory activities for toddlers + name some items we have at home to find ideas. It’s a great idea to save this list for a rainy day so you’ll have it on hand instead of turning to the TV or devices all day. You might be surprised how excited kids get if you give them the opportunity to play and spend time with you… instead of getting on their screens.
Again, these things do NOT have to be elaborate! A few items that I like to keep on hand are beans, rice, measuring cups, little trucks or figurines, and cotton balls! How many of those do you already have in your pantry?
Also, you can make it as long and involved as you want, but if you don’t have a lot of time, keep it short and sweet.
My favorite way to do these “‘tivities” with my little guys is to turn on our favorite playlist, which allows us to relax and removes the need to “fill the silence”. We can just enjoy being together and wiggling to the music while we enjoy exploring new things!
SENSORY ACTIVITIES FOR TODDLERS:
- Sensory Bin Fun
- Supplies: Medium-sized plastic tub, Kinetic sand (can substitute rice or dried beans), sandbox toys, measuring cups, funnels, letters, trucks or animal figurines, or anything else around the house
- Directions: Fill your tub with either kinetic sand or rice. Set out the toys and demonstrate how you can touch the sand (or rice) and fill the cups and toys with it. Yes, it’s that simple! Watch your little one discover and play and use their imagination!
- Cleaning Station
- Supplies: Water table or plastic bin, waterproof toys, dish soap, and scrubbing tools
- Directions: I love letting the boys play with a water table made for these activities, but you can easily improvise with a large shallow plastic bin either outside or with towels underneath to protect your indoor surfaces. Adding a little soap and a dish brush gives your toddler the chance to scrub their toy vehicles, animal figurines, and any other waterproof toys. Bonus points: your child and his or her toys will be squeaky clean by the end of playtime!
- Pom Pom Soup
- Supplies: Water, a large bag of pom poms
- Directions: For this fun activity, I get a big bag of pom poms and dump them into a bowl or other large container of water. Yes, that’s all there is to it! They get mushy and the texture is a little funny feeling – perfect for sensory play!
- Ice Bath
Supplies: Ice cubes
- Directions: This one is as simple as it sounds and perfect for hot weather! Dump the ice from your ice machine into your water table, a container, or straight onto your patio and let your toddler play! This is a cold sensory activity but also teaches what ice is, how it melts, and you can watch your toddler’s face as it all magically disappears! Let them explore and have fun!
- Rainbow Spaghetti
- Supplies: Cooked and cooled spaghetti pasta, food dye, plastic bin and kitchen tools
- Directions: This one takes a little extra prep time, but it’s worth it! Cook spaghetti, add to a ziplock bag once cooled with a few drops of food dye. Mix until you get your desired color. Rinse spaghetti off to remove any extra dye (using natural food dye will allow you to omit this step.) Add to a bin and let your little one explore and even pretend to cook with kitchen utensils and plastic dishes!
- Edible Sandbox
- Supplies: Graham crackers, oats, large plastic containers, plastic shapes and sandbox toys, or measuring spoons from your kitchen! Be creative!
- Directions: Blend graham crackers and oatmeal in your food processor until they are finely ground into a sand-like consistency. Add the “sand” to a large container or kiddy pool. Give your little one plastic shapes or sandbox toys to dig and play. Plus they can eat it too!
- Painting Picasso
- Supplies: Paper, colorful paint, large ziplock plastic bag, masking or painter’s tape
- Directions: Don’t worry, this is a no-mess activity! On a sheet of paper, randomly squirt small amounts of colored paint. Carefully slide the sheet of paper into a clear ziplock plastic bag. Seal the bag! Using masking tape or painters tape, tape the bag to a floor! Let your little one stomp, slide, and poke all over the bag and see what design they create! (Perfect for babies who have just learned to crawl, too!)
- Cotton Ball Creativity
- Supplies: Cotton balls, large bowl, measuring cups, small toys, and/or painter’s tape
- Directions: For younger kids, simply filling a large bowl with cotton balls and small, (non-choking-hazard) items is enough! They love digging through the softballs to discover the hidden treasure and experiment with different textures.
- For older toddlers, it’s so easy to stretch a line of double-sided painter’s tape on the floor or a table and let them line up cotton balls on the sticky surface. (What toddler doesn’t love lining things up?) When you’re done, cleanup is so painless – just pull up the strip of tape and throw it away!
- Bean Blanket Time
- Supplies: Large blanket, dried beans, small toy cars, sand toys such as small shovels and buckets (optional)
- Directions: Dump beans onto a blanket and have fun spreading them around and pushing through them to make roads for the cars! You can also push them into a pile and bury your child’s hand or foot (they think this is hilarious!) or hide the toy cars for them to find. If you use a large enough blanket, you can easily clean up by gathering the blanket and dumping the beans back into a container!
- Professional Painters
- Supplies: A bowl of water, foam paintbrush (varying sizes are great!)
- Directions: Show your little one how the water changes the color of different surfaces and go to town painting your porch, patio, and any other outdoor surface with the wet foam paintbrushes. No mess, and so much fun!
One-on-one time with your kiddos is so important. These easy activities give us a chance to fill their love tanks with smiles, giggles, and our undivided attention – they’re only little for such a short time!