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25 July 2014

Sensory Activities For Babies, Toddlers, and Small Children

Babies are more acutely aware of the world than most people realize. They learn to distinguish their Mother's voice from other voices while they are still in the womb. Toddlers have keenly developed senses and are eager to use them to explore the world. Likewise, it isn't hard to motivate a curious preschooler to touch, smell, taste, see, and hear.

Providing sensory activities for your child will accelerate their learning processes. Sensory activities also provide a good therapeutic outlet to vent any emotional stress they may have. Motor skills are markedly improved by participating in sensory activities.

Additionally, if you use clear descriptive words as you encourage your child to explore with their senses, this can help him or her with language acquisition.

Here are some excellent sensory activities:

1. Sensory Nature Walk Or Stroll
Find a beautiful outdoor park or other open space in which to take your child for a sensory nature walk. If your child isn't walking yet, take them in the stroller. Stop along the way to explore different textures, sounds, sights, and smells. Have them take a deep nurturing smell of each flower you encounter. Ask them, "Does that smell good?" Brush the soft delicate petals against their cheek and vocalize the word "soft." Let them feel the soft velvety petal of a rose with their fingers. Find a daffodil that has seeded out for them to blow and watch the seeds float away in the wind. Tell them, "See the seeds float."
Remember, with each descriptive word you use, you are helping them acquire a richer vocabulary which also enhances the sensory experience. Find a pinecone and let them explore the roughness of the texture. Tell them, "It feels rough doesn't it?" Let them taste the sweet nectar of a honeysuckle flower. Ask them, "Does it taste sweet like fruit juice?"

Find some maple seeds and let them helicopter to the ground. Tell them, "Look at them spinning. It's like a helicopter." Toss a rock into a pond and tell them to watch the ripples. Use different sized rocks to show them "small ripples" and "big ripples." Show them the difference between hot, cold, and warm. Find rocks that have been warmed in the sun. Let them feel the warmth in their hands and tell them "warm" or "hot." Ask them to touch the ground on a cold day and tell them "cold." Have them put their ear to the ground to hear the "vibrations." Stomp on the ground to show them how the sound travels through the dirt. Find leaves with different textures and say aloud how they feel: smooth, bumpy, textured, rough, veiny, scaly, etc. If you are sure to use clear words as you encourage your child to explore nature, it will help to solidify the new vocabulary they are learning and it will enrich the sensory experience. It will also make them smile and laugh and that's just as important to their well being!

2. Playing With Food
Food in non-toxic so it works well for kids that are still putting stuff in their mouths. Food is also full of interesting textures. Some foods will make fun sounds with your child pours them or sifts them through their fingers.

Here are some ideas on what types of foods to use but you can also add your own ideas:
- Rice
- Popcorn (hard kernels or popped)
- Wet Noodles- Instant Potato Flakes
- Oatmeal
- Flour
- Walnuts In the Shell
- Dried Beans Of Different Shapes and Sizes

You'll also want to put out items like:
- Wooden Spoons
- Scoops
- Funnels
- Sifter

You can use boxes, bowls, pots, and recycled containers to separate out the different sensory items. Try to include different materials you have at your home: metal, glass, ceramic, plastic, and cardboard because each of these materials will produce a different sound when the various foods are poured, scooped, and sifted. Of course, wet noodles have a special characteristic all to their own when the hand is inserted!

Keep in mind that many of these items can be a choking hazard so you should monitor your child very closely or wait until they are a little bit older if it becomes a problem. Alternately, you can fill clear glass jars half full of various dried food items and glue the lids shut for really small kids and babies. You can then let then hold the jar and look at the textures. They will also hear how they sound different when they roll or shake the jars.

3. Glass Bottle/Jar Xylophone
This sensory activity can be a total blast for kids and the adults. Start saving old bottles and jars of every description: juice jars, ketchup bottles, coconut oil jars, salad dressing bottles, old-fashioned root beer bottles, etc.

Select one bottle to demonstrate how you can change the sound when you add different amounts of water. Using just one bottle to begin with, strike it first with no water in it. Next, fill it about halfway with water and strike it again. Ask your child, "Do you hear the difference?" Next, fill the same bottle full with water and strike it again. Ask your child, "Does it sound different? Is the sound higher or lower?"

For slightly older children, once they learn how to make different sounds using different amounts of water, bring in 7 more bottles and see if you fill the bottles in such a way that you can produce the "do re mi fa so la ti do" scale as they strike each one sequentially. To help them, sing the "Sound Of Music" song or show them on a keyboard. There are also cell phone apps you can get that provide a keyboard to play if you turn your phone sideways.

Experiment with different kinds of utensils as the striker to produce different kinds of sounds: metal spoon, wooden spoon, plastic spoon, egg beater, and any other utensil that isn't dangerous. If you are using clear bottles/jars, you can add non-toxic food dye for a cool visual effect. Now let them rock out!

4. Making Homemade Goop
The little ones will love this stuff! Cornstarch combined with different amounts of water produces something that has fun physical properties that are somewhere between a solid and a liquid. This homemade "goop" is totally non-toxic so you can let the kids have at it. Let them roll it in their hands, droop it between their fingers, and swirl in different non-toxic colors.

Here's what you need:
- A big plastic container that you already have somewhere, for containing the mess (mostly)
- Recycled newspaper to put down around the plastic container for easy clean-up
- 16 ounce box of cornstarch
- About a cup of water
- Safe non-toxic food colors for turning it pretty colors
- Wooden spoons, finger bowls, little plastic containers

Have the child pour the cornstarch into the big plastic container. Next, let them slowly add water testing the goopiness of the goop as they go. The goop can be stirred with the wooden spoon but it can be more fun to let them stir with their fingers!

To make the goop in different colors, just add non-toxic food dyes. If your child has already broken the habit if placing items in their mouth, you can let them add glitter to create a sparkly goop!

All of these sensory activities will stimulate your little one's mind, build their vocabulary, relax them, and give them happy memories of spending quality time with you! Have fun!

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