3 sensory play ideas for toddlers | Day Out With The Kids

Sixth Sense: Sensory play ideas for toddlers

Ali Chapman

20 June 2017

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3 minutes
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One thing my toddler absolutely adores is sensory play, aka; getting mucky or making a mess! Joking aside, I’m a huge advocate of messy play sessions and sparking those senses and that amazing imagination that little ones have, plus doesn’t always have to be messy. (Although our sessions usually are!) The real beauty of it though is seeing what they come up with. Being open ended, with no right or wrong way to do it, the best stance for the adult to do during messy play sessions is to take a step back and be guided by the child. Even if they just spend 10 minutes pouring lentils from one container into another, there’s a whole heap of learning going on in that developing brain.

Sensory play using rice and lentils is a cheap and effective way to help kids explore

Our number one favourite is a simple bag of dry rice and lentils poured into a large tray. I picked up the perfect sized one from a local garden centre for less than a fiver, builder trays are great too but not as easy to store. Failing that just use a standard tray which is low enough for a crawling or toddling baby to get in. Add in scoops and spoons and stand back and see what happens. A quick tidy up trick is to place it on a table cloth or cot sheet on the floor so you can pick all up and pour into a container ready for the next session. Quality Street sized tubs are great for this and for containers, I use anything hand sized; aerosol lids, plastic eggs cups, cardboard egg cartons. You get the idea.

Bring the beach to your back garden, by using sand for sensory play with toddlers

If it’s sunny and you’ve not invested in a sand pit, then why not make your own mini beach? Pour play sand into one tray and fill another low-sided tray with water. As you’re only using a small amount of sand there won't be too much wastage if it all gets poured into the water, and the feel of the wet sand in the water is an extra sensation to add to the mix. Wooden spoons and small plastic cups are a great addition. My son just loved the feel of the different textures on his feet and hands, stepping from one to the other.

A tray of water and a tray of sand makes for a sensory play experience like being on the beach

Simple bubble play is another idea for both indoor and outdoor boredom busters. Fill a washing up bowl full of warm water and a child-friendly (i.e., no more tears type) bubble bath, turning the tap on full blast to get the most bubbles, ideally, you want more bubbles than water. Also throw in some small plastic toys and then encourage your child to dive in and find the hidden treasure. Younger children will get just as much from touching, popping and playing with the bubbles so you might want to leave the toys out.

Mixing sensory play bubbles with toys encourages kids to dive in and find the hidden treasure

It’s a good idea to strip your child down to their nappy or pants so they’re not too preoccupied to the feel of wet clothes and all senses are on the look and feel of the activity. Just remember to supervise at all times.

And if you need even more persuading to get messy, just remember that a lot of what we take for granted in everyday situations are brand new ones for them, and the more positive they are the better!

Here at Day Out With The Kids, we love sensory play! Water beads are some of our favourites, but we'd love to know your ideas. Leave us a comment below, or come and join the conversation on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram!

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Ali Chapman

20 June 2017

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Ali solo parents with three boys, living on the east Devon coast and enjoys exploring everything Devon has to offer and beyond.

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