The Importance of Sensory Play and the Games to Go With It

My Baby Compass talks about the importance of Sensory Play.  So often we limit the toys and activities that seem so simple not realizing the benefits.  Here are some great sensory ideas. These ideas came from

The Importance of Sensory Play and the Games to Go With It

Preschoolers learn through their five senses. The senses of touch, sight, smell, taste, and hearing are how young children explore the world around them. As parents and educators, it is our job to help them explore their senses by providing appropriate activities for sensory play and learning.

In this article we will talk about sense of touch and consider different sensory tactile games, sensory tactile activities and toys.

The newborns learn through the touch of their mother’s skin. As children grow, different textures become highly interesting. Introduce babies and toddlers to various fabric textures (fur, silk, leather, velvet, chamois, foam rubber, netting, sandpaper, burlap and more). Use the side of a crayon to produce “rubbings” of items like coins, tree leaves. Allow children to really explore their sense of touch through a sensory table.

Items for sensory table:

1. Shaving cream

Squirt a generous amount of foam shaving cream onto a plastic tray or other flat surface. Encourage the kids to run their fingers through the foam, spread it around or trace patterns or words into it.

shave cream sensory painting –

foam fun –

2. Colored rice, macaroni, beans, potato flakes, egg shell

3. Sand play

Let the children grab handfuls of sand, let it slip through their fingers, trace designs into it or find buried items.

Recipe of moon sand –

Sand art –

25 Fun sand play activities –

4. Water play fun

Lay a baby pool on the ground outside and fill it halfway with water. The kids can then dip their hands in the water, scoop it into their palms or make light splashes. If the pool is large enough, the children can play inside it to further explore the sensation of water.

Ice boats, water balloon pinata, tricycle wash, water xylophone, water bottle bowling -

Water  -

PVC water park, PVC sprinkler –

Water party, water balloons –

Sponge ball, sponge bombs –

Colored ice cube painting –

Frozen fun –

5. Dirt, mud

Outdoor mud kitchen –

Mud play –

6. Play dough, modeling clay

Modeling clay and dough can be a tactile activity because the children must use their hands
and their sense of touch in order to create new objects with the clay.

Play dough recipes and play dough fun –

7. Slime sculpting

Make slime for children to scoop, squeeze and generally explore its goopy texture. For each child, mix one cup of cornstarch and 1/4 cup of water with a few drops of food coloring. Let the children sprinkle glitter into the slime to add some sparkle.

8. Play with cornstarch goop

This magic substance becomes solid and warm when you squeeze it, yet turns into a liquid substance and runs between your fingers when you loosen your grip. Mix a box of cornstarch and water (enough to make it feel like gravy) in a large bowl. Add food coloring if you wish. Both children and adults will enjoy playing with this soothing substance.

9. Jell-O

For lots of giggles, fill the sensory table with Jell-O. Mold shapes following Jell-O’s Jiggler recipes or cut the Jell-O into cubes and add them to the sensory table. Young children will have a blast as the gooey Jell-O wiggles and rolls. Watch toddlers carefully to prevent them from eating the Jell-O.

10. Tactile letters in preschool. Sensory Alphabet

A tactile experience is integrated to reinforce the sound of the letter as well as the shape of the letter. For this activity, children feel alphabet letters that have been cut out of felt or some other material, such as craft foam. They hold the letters and touch them with their hands while saying the name of the letters out loud. Then they scatter the letters on the floor, close their eyes and try to find a specific letter (as directed by the teacher) through touch alone. This lets them explore their tactile sense and skills in a fun and challenging way.

11. Salt Box for Letter and Number Writing.

Trying to find a “new way” to teach spelling words, letter or number formation? Have you used shaving cream but found it too messy? Well, a salt box may be a simple solution.  All you need is some salt and a container.  For this application, less salt is best.

12. Tactile matching game. Sensory balloons

Here is a simple game you can throw together for your little kids:

12. Exploring aluminum foil in preschool

For young children, exploring aluminum foil can be a very new and interesting sensory experience.

14. Natural materials

Nuts, acorn, chestnuts, leaves, sticks, flowers, seeds, rocks, stones, seashells.

15. Toys for sensory table play

 measuring cups, measuring spoons, toy tea set, pitcher and cups, small construction trucks, plastic animal figures, funnels, pots lids, toy cars, toy boats

Preschool tactile game ideas:

1. Sensory mystery box

A sensory mystery box is a box with a lid and a circular hole in one side. The teacher places items inside the box and asks each preschooler to put her hands into the hole to feel the object and guess what it is. The child must rely on her tactile sense in order to identify the object, without the assistance of her other senses. The mystery of the box and the surprise of opening it add enjoyment to the game.

2. Swimming on land

Encourage children to use their entire bodies to explore the sensation of touch. Have each child lie on a carpeted floor face down or face up and demonstrate the motions of breaststroke swimming. Their arms and legs will brush the carpet and allow them to feel the texture while in motion. Tell them to move slowly to get the full effect of the texture and also to prevent rug burn. Use different types of carpet to add variety, but be sure each one is clean and no one is allergic to it.

3. Food activity

Have the child wash her hands. Encourage her to knead some bread dough and then have her make pretzel shapes. After you have her make at least half a dozen, bake them. Once they cool off, have her touch the baked pretzel and rip it apart so she can compare not only the difference in textures in the unbaked dough and the baked pretzel but also the outside of the baked pretzel and the inside.

4. Foot painting

Gather mural paper or craft paper on a roll, newspaper, tape, tempera paint in two compatible colors, liquid detergent, four flat pans, sponge cloths and a bowl of soapy water and towels to clean up afterward. Make sure the kids are wearing old clothes first, because it is a messy activity. Tape a long sheet of the mural or craft paper to the floor and surround the paper with taped-down newspaper. Put a tub of soapy water at one end of the paper and place the flat pans on the other end. Mix the paint with the detergent and put it on sponge cloths, and put the cloths in the pans. Ask the kids to paint the mural paper with their feet. Have the kids think of different ways they can use their feet to paint. Put some music on if you like and encourage them to dance to it.


Child Development

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