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Developing the five senses will help your toddler learn all kinds of different things. It’s a classic toddler learning tool, and there are many ways in which you can help these senses grow. These 5 senses activities for toddlers will get you started and may spark some creativity.
There aren’t too many activities that exclude the use of hands and feet, so any activity you decide to do will include some sense of touch. However, engaging hands helps to develop fine motor skills so that they learn to do things for themselves.
When doing any of these activities, it’s important that you have your child explain to you what they’re feeling as they’re doing it to help them develop a sense of language as well.
#1 Fill Balloons With Different Materials
You can help your child learn how things feel different from each other without getting too messy. Balloons are a great way to contain things like water, sand, sugar, baking soda, and anything else you can think of that might be fun.
Let your child experience the difference in how they wiggle, squish, or move under their hands. While water may be harder to control, they will likely be able to squeeze baking soda really hard before the balloon pops.
#2 Make Sensory Bins for Full Immersion
Filling plastic bins with various objects allows for little hands to be fully immersed. Water beads are a really popular item for preschoolers because they are safe and interesting, but you can use whatever you want.
Fill them up with cotton balls, sand, water, soap, or anything else you may have on hand at home. Make sure you’re careful to use things that won’t hurt your toddler as they shove their hand into it.
#3 Make a Book of Touch
Find relatively flat items that all have different textures like sandpaper, cotton balls or something else fluffy and soft, burlap ribbon, a tissue, glitter, or beads. Glue them to separate pages and write how each feels.
Make these pages into a book. Your child can continue to read the book and use it to develop their sense of touch further.
If you don’t want to make a book, you can make a poster to hang on the wall in the kitchen so they can play while you make dinner.
#4 Paint With Shaving Cream and Get Messy
Perhaps one of the most fun things you can do when exploring touch is get messy. You can find cheap cans of shaving cream at the dollar store. Stock up and repeat this activity as much as you want.
You can add some washable paint to the shaving cream and allow your child to paint pictures, mix them up however they want, and get their hands dirty.
Shaving cream is soft and airy, so it feels good in between your fingers, and it’s so much fun.
#5 Make a Guessing Game With Mystery Boxes
Empty some tissue boxes. The upright boxes with holes in the top of the box are the best for this. Fill each empty box with a different object and number the boxes. Keep your own private record of what’s in each one.
Have your child reach in without looking and guess what’s in the box by how it feels. It’s a great way to help them learn to recognize how things feel without having to use their sense of sight.
Smell is a powerful tool for engaging other faculties like memory. It can help your child learn more about the environment. They’ll also begin to distinguish good and bad smells and make decisions on their own about which smells they like and which they don’t. It can also evoke strong feelings.
#6 Use Essential Oils to Promote Healing
Many scents have healing powers, and essential oils are a popular homeopathic solution to modern medicine. If you already have some at home, you can share them with your toddler, but be sure you’re sharing them safely.
It’s a great way to raise a health conscious child and engage their sense of smell as you learn about the natural world around you. Your child will also quickly learn which scents they like and which they don’t, because some of them can be very powerful.
#7 Play a Matching Game to Develop the Brain
Create your own matching game using scents and the images that go with them. Have your child smell the paper with the scent on it and then match it to the picture that smells like it.
If you’re smelling different scents over and over again, it may be beneficial to keep some coffee beans handy to reduce olfactory fatigue. It helps clear out the previous smell and rejuvenate the nose in preparation for smelling something different.
#8 Add Scents to Food and Drinks
You can enjoy fun sensory activities by adding scents to all kinds of things. If you love hot cocoa on a cold winter afternoon, add a candy cane for a minty, refreshing smell. You can add a cinnamon stick to tea or lemon to water.
#9 Explore with Lotions and Moisturize
Little skin is sensitive, so taking care of your child’s hands can be a helpful way to explore their sense of touch at the same time. Gather up different types of lotion. Having a good mix of scented and unscented as well as a variety of brands is recommended.
Let your child explore the scents, compare them, and have some hands-on play. What your child may notice is that even the unscented varieties have their own unique attributes that add to the way it smells and feels.
#10 Make Spice Paint for Smell and Taste
If your child loves to create art, this exercise is a fun experiment for several senses. Mix spices you have in your cabinet with water and let them sit to thicken in consistency. It doesn’t take much spice or water to make enough.
If you feel up to exploring taste with this activity, it may require some caution, depending on what spices you used.
Otherwise, what you’ll find is that the painting activity smells delicious and it dries like regular paint. The spices will even dry into the paint, leaving you with textured artwork that helps you explore touch.
Sight is one of the most important tools at your child’s disposal to learn about the world around them. They can observe and learn by just watching what’s going on around them.
#11 Make a Color Wheel
For younger children, it can help explore the big world of color. For older children, you can transition this activity into understanding blended colors, how colors mix to make other colors, build a lesson on primary colors, or talk about complementary colors.
#12 Hang a Stained Glass Window
My kids always loved to make their own stained glass. We always made them with wax paper, but there are plenty of ways to make stained glass, so you may have most of the supplies at home already.
This project helps your kids learn about how light affects color and can make it travel.
#13 Make Toilet Paper Roll Lenses
There are plenty of ways to do this one and make it fun. Save old toilet paper rolls and use rubber bands or tape to wrap different colored lens paper on the end of each.
Attach two rolls together to make binoculars, or cut the toilet paper rolls in half, wrap the paper around each end, and make glasses out of them.
This allows your child to explore the world around them through the lens of color. You could even put two different colors of paper on each lens and see how they feel about looking through multi colored glasses.
#14 Shade Objects in Nature
This is a classic preschool activity we probably all remember. Have your child explore the world around them and collect items like leaves, pebbles, flower petals, blades of grass, and more.
Place these items underneath a piece of paper and use a pencil or crayon to gently shade the paper on top of the object. The end result is really cool, and it brings forward a visual representation of the texture of the object.
Learning about sound is an important way to engage listening skills and develop a sense of sitting still and listening.
#15 Read Mr. Brown Can Moo! Can You?
This book helps children explore different types of sounds. You can make the sounds yourself as you read and ask your child to mimic you. You can also explore the world around you to find the sounds yourself.
#16 Paint With Noise
Attach items like bells or paperclips to the end of your paintbrushes and listen to the noise they make as you paint. This is a cool activity for both sight and sound. Each item will make a different noise, and they noises they make may change as you move the brush.
#17 Make Your Own Instrument
Exploring the world of sound and music as a toddler wouldn’t be complete without an activity for making your own instruments. There are all kinds of DIY instruments you can make at home. Try them all!
A lot of important events involve food, and most kids love to eat. If you’ve ever experienced your child incessantly asking for food, you’re not alone. Use that desire to help them learn how taste is connected to all of the other senses, especially smell.
#18 Use Popcorn to Explore Taste
Popcorn is a fantastic food for all of the senses. Popping perks up the ears. The smell is always full of buttery goodness. Once it’s popped, pour it into a muffin tin and sprinkle different toppings in each compartment.
Popcorn is a finger food, and each topping will have a different texture. After tasting each compartment of popcorn, ask your child to describe what they taste with the adjectives they know, like sweet, salty, or spicy.
#19 Take a Salt and Sugar Test
Salt and sugar look very similar, and the eyes of a child may not yet be keen enough to tell the difference. Sprinkle ¼ teaspoon of each onto black paper so it’s easy to see. Don’t tell them what they’re looking at.
You can begin by having them describe what they see and ask if they see any difference in the two. Then have them taste each, one at a time, and describe what they taste.
This activity is quick, but fun.
Hopefully these ideas spark your creativity and allow you to help your child learn about their senses. If you liked this post, share it with your friends and don’t forget to comment below with your own ideas!