Bouncy, Noisy, Squishy, and Yummy: 11 Fun and Affordable Sensory Play Ideas for Teachers and Parents
Learning should never be boring, and the best teachers know how to make their lessons fun. This is one of the very reasons why teachers are embracing sensory play in their classrooms. Sensory play is full of fun and totally hands-on.
But that’s not the only reason more and more teachers are incorporating it into their curriculum. Sensory play is also highly important to a child’s development. An article by Michigan State University Extension explains, “In play experiences, combining the sense of touch with the senses of vision, hearing, taste, and smell helps build cognitive skills.” The authors also write that sensory play “is the foundation of all the skills children will use in school learning to read, write and solve math and science problems.”
Children learn about the world around them through sensory play and exploration. By finding activities that encourage children to use their five senses, they can develop the skills they need to survive.
It is important to note that while early childhood educators are moving to include even more sensory play in the classroom, parents are also embracing sensory play at home. In addition to the calming effect that many sensory activities have on children, sensory play is especially important in homes with children who have sensory integration issues.
Keeping this in mind, the following activities can easily be done in the classroom or the home. Get ready to put your senses to the test!
Things to Hear
Noises can be loud and scary for some kids, but when we introduce them to how sounds are made, they are not quite as frightening. Plus, making your own instruments is fun and educational! Children will get a chance to be creative and learn how to manipulate sounds on their own with these DIY projects.
Easter Egg Maracas
Stock up on plastic Easter eggs when they go on sale, and you’ll be halfway prepared to make Easter egg maracas. After filling the eggs with items of different types (such as dried rice or beans), kids will hear each maraca make a unique sound. Just be sure to super glue your eggs together once they’re filled, so the items you placed inside do not fall out and make a mess. Then, watch kids shake, shake, shake!
Balloon Bongo Drums
Using only a tin soup can, a balloon, and a rubber band, your kids can make their own balloon bongo drums. If you want a three-in-one noise maker, follow Minie Co’s instructions, which include the option of adding rice inside to turn the drum into a shaker. Kids can shake or tap the drum, or run a drumstick across the tin ridges.
Bubble Wrap Obstacle Course
For an experience that combines sound with touch, make a bubble wrap obstacle course. Tape bubble wrap to your floor using painters’ tape, then encourage your kids to pop the bubbles in the most creative ways they can imagine: dancing, rolling, running, crawling, or bouncing—or even racing toy cars over the bumpy ‘road.’ With every pop, kids get accustomed to hearing the small explosions and start to understand how they are made.
Things to Touch and See
When children perceive how different textures look and feel, they are learning! Let your kids explore by touch and sight with these easy and fun DIY projects.
Pasta Sensory Exploration
Pasta is cheap and almost always can be found in your pantry. Although you might typically think of pasta for cooking, it also can make great sensory fun. Allow your kids to play with dry pasta and cooked, wet pasta to note the differences in touch and appearance. Kids can practice putting dry spaghetti noodles through a spaghetti strainer, and they can have fun squishing their little hands in bowls of cold cooked noodles.
Ice Cube Frozen Fun
Teach the kids about hot and cold by letting them play with ice. Ice cubes are an amazing phenomenon for little ones, and they are cheap and easy for creative projects. For example, you can freeze plastic toy animals in an ice tray, and kids can play with the ice cubes as they melt to reveal their toys.
Finger painting is not only a great way to make colorful art, but it is also a fun sensory activity! Kids will learn the feel of finger paint and see the ways the paints transfer from their fingers to the paper. Even better, you can find recipes for edible finger paints—making this a bigger sensory experience! Check out these instructions from Must Have Mom.
Nature Scavenger Hunt
One of the cheapest and easiest sensory explorations is right outside your door: Take your kids on a nature scavenger hunt! Instead of collecting items, though, let them collect sights and sensations. Touching tree bark, grass, rocks, flowers, and plants, or even mulch or gravel can help them identify natural elements. For best results, make a list of nature items before the hunt begins. As little ones look for specific items, they will be using all their senses to explore the natural world.
Dig for Dinosaurs
While your kids may not be able to dig for fossils in your backyard, they can still take part in their own dinosaur excavations! Fill up a plastic shoebox with sand and bury small plastic dinosaurs (which can typically be found at a dollar store). Your kids will have a blast searching through the sand to find these buried treasures.
Create thematic holiday sensory bins for kids to explore. For instance, fill up a plastic shoebox with Christmas tinsel, candy canes, and other Christmas décor items. Send kids on a seek and find through the sensory box and ask them to describe what they can see, hear, smell, touch, and taste.
Things to Taste and Smell
Two senses that cannot be overlooked are our senses of taste and smell. Fortunately, most sensory activities that involve taste also involve smell.
Keep in mind that before encouraging your children to eat or taste anything unusual, especially if they have allergies, you should be familiar with basic first aid and CPR techniques.
Here are two taste and smell sensory activities that everyone will love:
Playdough is a fantastic sensory activity, but depending on the age of your child, you might want to use edible playdough. That way, you know that what goes in their mouths is safe. Thankfully, there are plenty of edible playdough recipes to choose from, such as these 16 edible playdough recipes from Family Maven.
Blind Tasting and Smelling
Finally, you can’t forget the fun to be had when you do a blind taste test with almost any kind of food! Kids will love using their senses to guess which foods are on their plates.