7 ideas for sensory play with children

7 ideas for sensory play with children

Sensory activities, or – in other words – learning through play, are one of the most effective ways in which children learn. They're aimed at providing the youngster with many different stimuli that encourage the development of the senses and enrich the overall sensory and cognitive experience.

Parents often associate sensory activities with painstakingly controlling what their child is doing. Or on the contrary – with letting their youngster out of their sight and ending up with a huge mess. Luckily, you don't need complicated, expensive toys or special preparation for sensory play – you just use everyday items and food you have at home.

In our article, we'll show you how to enjoy sensory play without stressing about cleaning the entire apartment after five minutes of fun :) Believe us – after using the ideas in this article, you'll never be bored again, even on winter evenings!

Sensory play – what is it?

Sensory play for children sounds very serious. But it's really the simplest actions, such as opening bottles, closing the top, or jumping sideways in reaction to a falling object. This is what sensory integration is all about, and this is exactly what the child is learning via different types of play.

This is an essential stage of development – it'll allow your little one to function correctly in life. With time, you can broaden these activities and complicate them a little. We recommend that you start with the simplest actions. We're convinced that if you have a toddler in your home, you've already seen some of these activities. You play with your youngster naturally and intuitively, often not knowing the huge impact a given activity is having on their development.

Below are several ideas that can help you diversify your winter evenings while benefiting your little one's development. Most importantly, they'll bring lots of joy!

A child's hands learning a new texture – colourful lollies and sprinkles, next to this there's a DIY cardboard maze

Art fun

Not all children like colouring in or drawing, but before you abandon art fun, it's good to check if your youngster is actually one of them. Perhaps they don't like using coloured pencils? Or maybe they prefer paint or coloured felt-tip markers?

Normally, kids get comfortable with making artwork fairly quickly. They particularly love painting with their fingers or drawing with coloured felt-tip markers on textures other than paper. Why not use a cardboard box, old newspapers or salt dough figurines (for painting)?

Make sure you provide diversity – you can test different painting methods together. Try using your own fingers, but also paint brushes, dry pasta or cotton wool. Paint, chalk and pastels are great stimuli for discovering the world and different textures, as well as learning the relationship between wet paint and hard chalk. In addition, painting together with your little one will help you establish a bond.

A boy sitting on the Kinderkraft LIVY high chair, painting with his fingers on a canvas. He's focused and relaxed

We know that parents don't like mess, and that's why both during painting and cutting out or fun that requires several elements (e.g. rice or pasta), we recommend you place your child in a high chair with a tray with high edges. This will help prevent pasta or balls from falling to the floor. An ideal high chair for all types of creative activities is the extremely stylish LIVY high chair, which you can easily clean in just a few moments after your youngster is done.

Tissue paper, glue, cutting out

This is another activity that'll bring much joy to your child while developing their manual skills. If your youngster is several years old, you can cut all sorts of shapes out together with them using scissors. But cutting out and tissue paper will also provide lots of fun to younger children – you just need to show them that the paper can be torn just like tissue paper. Teach your little one to make balls out of tissue paper, give them some glue and watch them learn to stick their creations to a cardboard box.

Don't worry that they'll get dirty – that's what it's all about! Your child needs to learn different textures using their own body, and learn that ripping something apart will "ruin" the piece of paper. During these types of activities, your youngster will learn how to crumple paper, make balls or shred them into small pieces. Fun with paper provides excellent stimulation for the sense of touch. Sensory art allows your little one to make creative artwork, but also brings children and parents closer, if only the latter can learn to accept the mess created as a by-product of such fun :)

Mystery boxes

This is one of the most-interesting activities for children. Do you remember how much you loved to mess around with cardboard boxes left over after moving house? Or when you got into your parents' wardrobe? Children are little natural explorers. Don't discourage this curiosity – on the contrary, feed it!

A mystery box can be made in just a few moments. All you need is, of course, a box, as well as various treasures that your youngster will collect outside. These can be rocks, pine cones or even handfuls of sand brought in from playing outdoors. You can also put in dry pasta, or some rice, peas or shells. Really, you can place anything you have on hand in one of these boxes – both at home and when out on a walk.

Your child can have different tasks – they can simply take items out of the box, or if they're a little older, you can ask

A child's hand touching grains, on which there are colourful children's toys. The child is learning new textures through touch

Kinetic sand

Kinetic sand is fun for the entire family! Children love the various colours and the fact that it's nice to the touch, while parents enjoy the additions, which make cleaning easier. Little ones, particularly younger children, will be fascinated by kinetic sand and allow their parents to relax for a little while.

How do you start playing with kinetic sand? First, buy something in which your child can comfortably sit and play. A good idea is a simple blow-up pool. Next, buy different colours of the sand, as well as some moulds. Yes – you can use this sand to make beautiful cakes in different shapes. This is one of the many reasons kids love it :)

Pasta fun

For this type of activity, we strongly recommend you first organise the right place for your child to play in – this is mainly because we're well aware that broken pasta pieces are not fun to walk on! That's why we suggest you play with your child at the dining table, or – for little children – in a high chair with a tray.

A little boy with black hair building a wooden structure; he's very focused and sitting in a Kinderkraft LIVY high chair

One of the many roles of a parent is to support their youngster at all stages of their life. Each of us would like to be close to their child while they're discovering what they're passionate about, and the LIVY high chair will help you in this. You can have your little one close by right from birth, because the LIVY high chair can also be used as a high bouncer. Your youngster will be at table height, meaning you don't have to sit on the floor when playing. And when they get older, you can remove the bouncer and transform LIVY into a high chair that you can easily adjust in terms of height.

Now you have the place. What's next? You can buy ready coloured pasta, but you can also use food dye. Children will be more likely to play with colourful food than classic pasta. Give them a string, or – to increase the level of difficulty – a thread. And get to work!

Coloured zipper storage bags

Coloured zipper storage bags will make your child feel like they're in a fairy tale. They'll learn how colours are made. All you need to do is pour a little bit of paint in primary colours (yellow, blue and red) into a few zipper bags. Pour two colours (you only need a small amount) into each bag and give them to your child. Let them press it and mix the colours together to create new ones!

This activity teaches cause and effect, while supporting the development of grip and hand-eye coordination.

Obstacle courses

An obstacle course means lots of fun for the entire family. And it'll provide your child with many new thrills – after all, how often do you let them run around barefoot outside? This activity is recommended especially for children who live in apartment buildings and don't have many opportunities for their bare feet to be in contact with the ground.

Prepare a special "course" on the floor – place elements with different textures. Remember to make it gentle and soft to not hurt your youngster's delicate feet. You can use pieces of fabric (e.g. wool, fur, or silk) or paper (tissue paper or cardboard). You can also fill small bags with rice or peas. If you have kinetic sand, you can use it as well.

Walking around on such a fitness trail can also be pleasant for the parent. After all, how often do you walk around barefoot on the ground? :)

Sensory activities at home

Sensory activities have a positive impact on a child's development. But – most importantly – they allow you to strengthen your bond. Youngsters love all types of play based on touch and interaction with their parents. This means you can not only develop your little one's skills together, but also spend time with your child.

Sensory activities will provide lots of joy and entertainment, particularly on long, rainy evenings.

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