Sensory play is a bit of a buzzword right now, but what does that really mean? We’ll show you two easy sensory play ideas and help you understand what your toddler is learning with each activity.
If you’re a parent, or even a grandparent, aunt, or uncle, then you’ve probably heard the term “sensory bin” or “sensory activity” tossed around before. However, if you’re not familiar with the term, it simply refers to an activity that stimulates any of the 5 senses (touch, taste, smell, vision, hearing) and they are usually highly engaging and fun. At least that was our goal; to create fun, but easy, sensory activities that you can do at home with your toddler or young child.
Below are two different DIY sensory activities you can easily put together at home with items you already have. We’ve also included what senses and skills are being activated during each activity. Both activities are family approved by our awesome testers, Gavin, baby brother Owen, and their mom, Melanie.
PRO TIP: Sensory activities can get a little messy, and I won’t lie, the first activity involves dry rice so keep the vacuum cleaner on standby or take the fun to the great outdoors!
**The activities below require adult supervision. **
1) Archaeology Dig Sensory Bin
This activity is guaranteed to please. Your little one will love pulling toys out of the rice and then playing with them in the rice afterward!
Challenge your child’s motor skills by having them pull different sized toys out of the rice and then sort them into bowls or cups. You can have them sort by color, size, or shape. Totally up to you!
- TOUCH: Fine motor skills (using fingers to maneuver the tongs through the rice)
- TOUCH: Gross motor skills (maintaining grip on toy with tongs while lifting toy out of the rice and putting it into the bowl/cup)
- SIGHT: Shape or color recognition (sorting by shape or color into the designated bowl/cup)
- Plastic tub
- Rice (we kept ours white, but you can dye your rice for a fun twist!)
- Toys of varying colors, shapes, & sizes
- Kitchen tongs
- Cups or bowls to hold each toy type
Pour your rice into the plastic tub so that it’s filled at least halfway. This gives your kiddo enough room to dig through the rice.
Place different types of toys inside the rice so that it’s buried beneath. You can bury the toys at varying depths to increase or decrease the difficulty.
Place cups or bowls (enough for each toy type) next to the bin to help your toddler sort their discoveries. Have them place each of the same toy type or color into a designated bin.
Challenge your kiddo to find and sort all the toys by digging through the rice with kitchen tongs!
Let Their Imagination Run Wild
The best thing about this sensory activity is that your kids can complete the activity as it’s written above, or they can free play with their toys in the rice! Either way, kids will reap all of the development benefits of this fun and easy DIY activity.
2) Matching Sensory Activity
This one is so easy, and not to mention affordable, that it can be put together in less than 5 minutes. Put those leftover Easter eggs to good use by challenging your toddlers fine motor skills and color matching.
- TOUCH: Fine motor skills (pulling apart and reattaching eggs)
- SIGHT: Color recognition (matching colors)
- HEARING: The snapping sound made by the eggs clicking together helps your toddler’s hearing senses develop.
- Leftover plastic Easter eggs (any colors!)
- Toys, candy, stickers, etc. for inside the eggs (optional)
Pull apart the Easter eggs and reattach them so that the colors are mismatched.
Now help your toddler pull apart the mismatched eggs and reattach them to the corresponding color.
Gavin (pictured below) had TONS of fun combining the two activities by playing with the eggs in the rice bin. They scooped rice with the eggs and the bowls and let their AquaBots “swim” through the rice.
Make it Harder
If the above activities are a little too easy for your little one, here are a few ways that you can up the ante!
1) Archaeology Dig Sensory Bin (Increased Difficulty)
- Try using very small toys throughout the rice bin. Grabbing smaller toys is much more difficult than grabbing larger ones.
2) Matching Sensory Activity (Increased Difficulty)
- Try using a marker to draw shapes on the matching parts of the Easter eggs to increase the difficulty. That way, they are matching colors as well as shapes.
And there you have it; two easy and fun DIY activities to develop the senses that you can do with your toddler year round! We’d love to hear your ideas for other sensory play activities. Share them with us in the comments or tag us in your pics in Facebook, Twitter or Instagram @hexbug.
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