Sensory activities engage children’s senses through play. Such activities encourage exploration, creativity, and investigation. They introduce math and scientific theories and strengthen language. Sensory play is also great for soothing anxious, agitated, overtired, or hyperactive children. Here are some ideas for activities using household items.
Baby oil: Fill a strong Ziplock bag about halfway with baby oil plus a few drops of food coloring and a bit of water. Get us much air out of the bag as possible before sealing it. Use clear shipping tape over the whole bag for extra security. The food coloring will create colorful blobs and bubbles as kids squish, shake, and touch the bag.
Pudding: This is a great sensory activity for babies and toddlers. First, make colored ice cubes by adding food coloring to the water in an ice cube tray before freezing. Make several colors of ice cubes.
Once the cubes are frozen, spread tapioca pudding on a rimmed cookie sheet. Put the cubes on top of the pudding and allow little ones to dig in. The ice cubes will melt and release their colors, dying the pudding.
Cornstarch: Mix two cups of cornstarch and one cup of water in a large bowl. Add a few drops of food coloring if desired. Let kids dig in. This stuff, known as “ooblick,” feels solid when inside the bowl, but turns to liquid when you bring a handful out of the bowl. It feels solid when you give it a quick smack, but liquid when you move your hands through it slowly. There is a lot of science at work here, but most of all, it is just really cool!
Ivory soap: Take the wrapper off a bar of Ivory soap (must be this particular brand). Put the soap on a microwave safe plate. Gather the kids around the microwave – bring in some stools so they can see the action. Microwave the soap for two minutes. It will expand up to ten times its original size.
After the soap cools, give the kids bowls, water, and plastic butter knives. They can chip off pieces of the soap and float it in the water.
Shaving cream: Shaving cream is soft, cool, wet and fluffy. Spray it on your kitchen table and let kids spread it all over the surface with their hands. Give them wet rags to wipe it up at the end of the play session. As a bonus, your table will be sparkling clean.
For color, add Kool-aid. Besides engaging the sense of smell, it will also temporarily dye your children’s hands rainbow colors.
Sensory bins: Create sensory bins for children to touch with everyday household items. Provide measuring cups, sifters, and other tools to encourage exploration. Good choices include:
- Dry beans
- Cotton balls
- Dry pasta
- Shredded pieces of paper
What are your favorite sensory activities to do with children?