Young children learn through all their senses and will gravitate toward activities that provide sensory experiences. Stimulating the senses helps in brain development by strengthening neural pathways important in learning. They develop an understanding of things in the environment by exploring them with their senses – as soon as babies are born they begin to learn through seeing, hearing, touching, tasting and smelling.
Sensory stimulation at a young age is crucial to the development of healthy sensory processing which is the way the nervous system translates input from the senses into motor and behavioral responses.
You can help your child develop their senses by providing opportunities for sensory play. Try some of these crafts with your child:
Early on in a child’s life, exploring texture is an important aspect of sensory development. For most kids, this fascination with ooey-gooey things does not end in infancy – toddlers and school-aged children alike delight in sticking their hands into messy things!
This Kool-Aid slime is gooey and edible! (Although it is not recommended that children actually eat it)
- 1 tbsp Metamucil with Psyllim or any generic fiber supplement that contains psyllium
- 1 cup water
- Kool-Aid packets for scent and color (or food dye for richer colors)
In a large microwaveable bowl, combine the Metamucil and water and stir well. Add in the Kool-Aid or food coloring and stir well until everything is dissolved.
Microwave on high heat for about 2 minutes or until you see bubbles. Continue microwaving for 1 minute. Stir the mixture and microwave again for 2 more minutes.
Carefully remove the bowl from the microwave and allow it to cool. The liquid will thicken as it cools and turn into a colorful, goopy slime!
With only 3 ingredients, you can make puffy paint and take your child’s art to a whole new level! Go beyond simple drawing and create pictures with texture. All you need is:
- 3 cups foam shaving cream
- 1 cup flour
- 1 cup school/white glue
- food coloring
- ziplock bags (one for each color)
- heavy paper (such as poster board, paper plates or heavy construction paper)
Mix first 3 ingredients in a large mixing bowl with a rubber spatula or spoon until you see bubbles in the mixture (do not over mix). Divide mixture into smaller bowls and add food coloring to each. Mix thoroughly. Spoon the puffy paint into the ziplock bags.
Cut a small hole in the corner of the ziplock bag and squeeze the paint through. This paint is so easy to work with!
Marshmallow Play Dough
This is a safe and edible play dough – great for little ones! While exploring their world, most small children put foreign objects in their mouths, which could lead to choking or illness. This play dough is completely edible and while we do not recommend eating it, there’s no worries if your little ones puts any in their mouth!
- 6 marshmallows
- 3 tbsp cornstarch
- 2 tsp coconut oil
- Food coloring
Combine all the ingredients into a microwave safe bowl and heat for approximately 30 seconds or until the marshmallows expand. Stir with a spoon until the dough becomes difficult to mix. Once cool, knead the dough with your hands. Repeat the entire procedure for different colors.
Play dough is a great developmental tool, as it helps to build strength in your little one’s hand muscles. It also helps to develop fine motor skills and coordination as well as teach your child imaginative play!
DIY Sensory Bags
Kids love to get messy but parents tend not to appreciate the clean up! Create these fun sensory bags and allow your child to explore different textures while keep your home neat and tidy.
- 1 cup cornstarch
- 1/3 cup sugar
- 4 cups cold water
- food coloring
- large sealable bags
Combine all the ingredients in a pot and whisk over medium heat. Continue to whisk as it cooks. The mixture will thicken and solidify.
Once it has reached the consistency of Vaseline, remove from heat and add the food coloring. When cooled, add the mixture to the bags and seal tight (place tape over the opening or double bag)
You can make different variations of sensory bags by adding marbles, googly eyes, confetti, glitter – let your imagination go wild!
These bags are a great way to encourage sensory play with those children that may not like getting dirty!