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DIY Sensory Activities for Every Age Group


From the moment they arrive on this earth and all the way through early childhood, kids use their senses to help navigate the world around them. If you’ve read parenting blogs before, you’ve probably also considered buying shallow plastic bins from Target and filling them with rice or sand or some other messy substance so your children can experience the wonder of sensory play while silently asking yourself… what is sensory play, exactly, and why does it matter? 

According to Goodstart, sensory play is “any activity that stimulates a young child’s senses of touch, smell, taste, sight and hearing, as well as anything which engages movement and balance.” So, chances are if you’re not leaning too much on screens, you’re probably already on the right track! Petting a fluffy toy? Check. Crumbling a paper bag? Check. Making “music” (or noise) by smashing a wooden spoon smashing on the floor? Also, check.

So why is it important? It helps children achieve other important developmental milestones including building motor skills, supporting language development, enhancing memory development, increasing social skills and interaction, and developing overall problem solving skills. Sensory play can also help anxious children feel calm. As important as these skills are, they are very doable right here, right now, with stuff you already have at home. Here are a few different ideas to help kiddos of any age begin their sensory learning journey. 

Sensory Play for Babies

Image Courtesy of Entertain Your Toddler

Sensory bags can be made out of many different materials (basically anything that you can put in a bag).Take a freezer bag, fill it with water and some other items that can float inside it like peas, corn, water beads, glitter, confetti, food coloring, pom poms, paint, oil, playdough, shaving cream… the possibilities are endless! Now take that bag, double seal it with some tape and put it inside another ziplock bag. You can’t be too careful! In case you haven’t noticed yet, sensory play can be quite messy. Keep a towel or a tablecloth down JUST in case you spring a leak, and watch your babies explore. 

Sensory Play for Toddlers

Courtesy of KiwiCo

If you happen to have some pipe cleaners around, pick up a box of Cheerios and let your toddler go nuts. Threading the cereal onto the pipe cleaner is a fun activity that promotes fine motor skills. Or if you don’t have Cheerios around, just break out a colander and let your kiddo explore threading the pipe cleaner through the holes in the colander. Just try and keep in mind that making a mess is a sensory experience in and of itself. 

Sensory Play for Young Children

Courtesy of Teach Beside Me

Like we’ve said, a lot of sensory play can be accomplished with items that are already at home. Have you ever let a 3-year-old near the spice cabinet? It’s a treasure trove of fun and curiosity. Open up all the little jars and give them a sniff. Focus on whether a smell is “big” or “small” rather than “good” or “bad.” After the spice cabinet, check the mail. If you’ve recently had a package delivered, let your toddler walk on some of that bubble wrap for easy sensory play. Finally, play “airplane” with your child. Lay with your back on the floor and place your child’s torso on your feet while you hold hands so they are flying. This can help a child who may be struggling with movement and balance. Do this after 3 cups of coffee (that’s your airplane fuel). 

There are endless ways to create sensory experiences for your children to help them mature into strong, capable, curious little humans. So let them get to poking and prodding, crushing and smashing, and getting messy and creative. Are you planning on trying any new sensory activities? Tag SmartSitting in Facebook and Instagram posts so we can see and share your ideas with sensory play on our channels. Want to know more about our tips and tricks? Make sure you sign up for our newsletter for all the latest info coming from our team!

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