Our guest posts today focuses on ways to help toddlers develop their sensory skills. Children learn by taste, smell, sight, feel and hearing.
Toddlers are discovering new ideas and learning in everything they do. The simple things that intrigue them and keep them interested often come with messes. If you prepare ahead of time by covering tables and floors with newspapers or old sheets then clean up will be easier. They need to get their hands on things to not only see but to feel things for their learning to be complete. I have been searching for fun ways for toddlers to play and I will share what I have found.
- Sensory Bins – These bins are great ways for your toddler to develop fine motor skills and keep them entertained. It also teaches them about textures and shapes. All you need is a plastic storage bin and then fill it with whatever you can think of. I was reading about ocean sensory bins which have aquarium rocks, aquarium plants, glass rocks, sea shells, and rubber ocean toys. Fill it with water and make it look like an aquarium. Your toddler will love exploring the ocean.
Another idea would be to fill it with sand and add construction type vehicles. My son loves dump trucks, filling it and making a mountain with his sand. A bulldozer is another truck my son loves. Any type construction equipment, a tub of sand, and you have one happy little one. If you don’t want sand everywhere you could use rice instead.
Here are some other ideas for things you can use in your sensory bins:
· Dried beans
· Play dough
· Uncooked pasta
· Pine cones
· Rocks (my daughter loved playing with and examining different rocks)
· Cotton balls
· Shaving Cream
- Sidewalk Painting – There are so many ways to have fun with sidewalk paint. Your children can use their hands, feet, paintbrushes, or just about anything to paint the driveway because it washes clean. You can even lay out paper for them and let them draw or make foot and hand prints. You could use paint rollers, house size paintbrushes or small paintbrushes. You could use sponges, toilet paper tubes with textured with beans or whatever glued to them. You can purchase sidewalk paint, I know Crayola makes it and they sell it at Wal-Mart. It is about two dollars each, but you can also make your own sidewalk paint also. To make it you will need:
- ¼ cup of corn starch
- ½ cup of water
- Food coloring
I found this recipe but have not made it myself yet. I’m told it easily washes off with water just like the store bought kind.
- Collages – There are all kinds of collages you and your little ones can create. Collect all sizes and shapes of leaves, twigs, and even flowers and press them between wax paper. Just put a dish towel over it and press your finds between two pieces of waxed paper and iron together. It may require stapling along the edges or you could melt small pieces of crayons along the edge to add color and help it stay together. Another collage idea that I read about which sounded really interesting was a collage on contact paper. Take a piece of cardboard or wood and tack the contact paper on sticky side up. Let the kids collect their finds and stick them right to the paper. If you wanted to keep this work of art you could laminate or use some adhesive spray.
- Helping Mommy Clean – If you are spending the day outside doing yard work, cleaning garage doors, or the patio then you can give your toddler a spray bottle full of water and a sponge or rag and let them help. Or let them help you wash the car with their own bucket and sponge. They love to help at this age. I was reading another blog but I cannot remember where that they gave their toddler a paint brush and let him paint with water on the wood patio. It would be fun for them to clean the sliding glass door or a window with their spray bottle and sponge as well.
- Shaving Cream with Washable Finger Paints – Fill a few bowls with shaving cream and add a little finger paint to make different colors. Prepare an area for them to work and let them make a masterpiece. Regular finger paints are fun too but shaving cream has a different texture that your toddler will love.
- Canned Goods Fortresses – My son loves playing with the canned goods. He stacks them up and we make fortresses for his little people figurines. He brings in his toy trucks and cars and we make roadways for them to roll through. We stack them and make a cave type opening and try to roll balls through them. For some reason he has great fun with the canned goods and they keep him happy for quite a while.
- Marble Chute – I know marbles are not necessarily toddler friendly but with close supervision they are a delight to play with and come in so many colors. We use wrapping paper tubes or toilet paper tubes to make a chute and roll the marbles through. They love it when the marbles shoot out and scurry to get them and do it all over. You can make them as intricate as you would like with curves or offshoots. You can cut the tubes in half lengthwise and make tracks where you can see the marbles rolling as well. I have seen pool noodles used for this as well if you have them. Cut them in half as well, and put two side by side and have marble races.
- Bean or Bead Sorting – Mix different beans or beads of the same kind together and give you toddler a tray with different compartments. Put a different bead or bean in each compartment and have them find the ones that match and place them in the right place. This is a good exercise for fine motor skills and recognition of shapes and colors. When they are done you can give them a piece of paper that you have spread glue on and let them make a picture with the beans or beads.
- Button Matching or Threading with Yarn – My mother gave me huge jars of old buttons she had been keeping and told me that we used to love to play with them. She had large ones and small ones. I separated the large from the small buttons and brought out some yarn. The kids loved to string the larger buttons on a string of yarn. Yarn is easier for them to hold onto than thread or you could use a thicker string. After they found the buttons they liked and strung them on the yarn I would tie a knot for them and they could wear their necklaces. Sometimes they would just sit and sort the buttons into the same colors or sizes. If you do not have buttons at home I understand they have bags of buttons at craft stores and fabric stores and they don’t cost much.
- Window Markers – I just became familiar with window markers. How much fun is that? The bathroom mirror, a sliding glass door, or a low window and some window markers and you have fun. Even older children would get a kick out of this activity.
These are just a few ideas to keep your toddler entertained and at the same time learning new skills and discovering the world. I know sometimes we worry about the messes but if you prepare beforehand and contain your projects in one area it will not be so hard to clean up afterwards. Your children will be thrilled and there is nothing better than hands on learning at this age.
Paul and his wife Julie both spend quite a bit of time coming up with ideas, blogging, and researching all things related to childcare through “babysittingjobs.com/”.
How do you help your toddler development their sensory skills? Leave us a comment on any items you use in their development and how you use the item.