Parenting5 Sensory Play Activities That Your Toddler and Preschooler Will Love

April 17, 2020

Children are inquisitive by nature and they learn by “testing” various things out with their senses to discover how they work. This is done by using their senses to touch, taste, smell, see, move and hear, what’s commonly known as sensory play activities.

Sensory play activities provide opportunities to children to explore and use scientific processes while they play, create and explore. Through this, your young ones refine their thresholds for different types of sensory information, helping their brains create stronger connections to process them and respond accordingly.

When your child engages in sensory play, not only will his/her mind be stimulated, but it also sets him/her on a path of life-long learning. By tapping on his/her imagination and with the freedom to explore, your child will learn to come to conclusions in unique and creative ways.

You can help your child discover the joys and the value of learning by creating a stimulating environment that encourages curiosity, right in your own home!

Here, we share some simple sensory play activities that you can prepare to engage with your young one and share magic moments as he/she learns.

Sensory Play Activities for Toddlers and Preschoolers

1. Sensory Tub: Sink or Float

Here’s a great activity that you can do to bond with your child as he/she develops communication skills and learn the concepts of sink or float and trial and error.

You will need:
  • A large container filled halfway through with water
  • A variety of toys that float and ones that don’t
  • Plastic cups and bowls
What you need to do:

1. Pour your child’s toys into the container filled with water.

2. Let your child explore the toys as you point out the ones that sink and float. Explain to him/her why certain toys sink to the bottom while the rest stay at the surface.

3. Replace the toys in the container with a variety of plastic cups and bowls. This time, show your child how to scoop water from one bowl/cup to another to demonstrate how they sink when they are filled with water. You can also compare the sizes of different bowls/cups and show how water can overflow if you pour from a bigger cup into a smaller one.

Helpful tips:
  • As your child explores with the sensory tub, keep talking to him/her and share fun facts on how things work.
  • Feel free to correct or refine the conclusions your child comes up with based on his/her observations. This will help your young one learn to be open to receiving feedback from others.

2. Object Line Tracing

Toddlers and preschoolers typically learn to draw lines and write their ABCs by tracing with pencils, crayons and paint. While this is a great way to introduce them to basic writing skills, in our preschools, we love to explore doing things differently to make the learning process fun!

Try out this sensory play activity together to explore other ways to let your child practise his/her line tracing skills.

You will need:
  • A few sheets of paper (You can use drawing blocks or baking paper)
  • A variety of objects and/or toys
  • Crayons, chalks or colour pencils to trace and draw
What you need to do:

1. Place an object/toy on the paper and get your child to trace its basic shape.

2. Continue doing this with the rest of the objects/toys and talk to your child about the various shapes drawn.

3. Once your child is done tracing the basic shapes, you can make this activity more interesting! Arrange the objects/toys upright and get your child to trace the shadows on the paper.

Helpful tips:
  • As your child is tracing shadows, point out to him/her where the light source is and how that affects the creation of the object’s shadow.
  • You can also arrange the objects in a line to create a story with your child. Use one piece of paper for each part of the story.

3. Painting with bubbles

The fact that bubbles are involved in this activity is sure make your child smile! Besides being a joy to play with and explore, bubbles can also help to develop your child’s oral skills and articulation during the early years.

You will need:

  • Paper
  • Bubbly solution
  • Bubble blowers
  • Straws
  • Watercolour or food colouring
What you need to do:

1. Divide the bubbly solution into a few small bowls and add one colour in each of the bowls.

2. Stir and add more colour if what you have is not strong enough.

3. Use the bubble blower and start blowing bubbles of different colours onto the paper.

4. You can also tape a few straws together and dip them into the coloured solution.

5. Let your child blow through the other end to create amazing and colourful patterns. Do remind your child that he/she must not suck on the straw.

Helpful tips:
  • If you don’t have any bubble solution on hand, you can create it with a bit of dishwashing liquid and water.
  • You can also let your child blow through a straw (or several straws taped together) while the solution is still in the bowl. This will create bubbles in the bowl. Put the paper on top to get a good print.

4. Feelings Balls

Here’s a great way for your child to practise self-reflection, that is to evaluate how his/her words and actions affect the people around him/her. This is among the most important values that we instill in our preschoolers.

Allow your child to be creative in coming up with the various expressions to convey their feelings and transfer this to the balloons later.

You will need:
  • A mirror
  • Balloons in various colours
  • Half a cup of salt
  • ½ cup flour
  • ½ cup of water
  • Black markers
  • Plastic funnel (to pour the ingredients from the cups into the balloons)
What you need to do:

1. Put your child in front of a mirror and let him/her make various expressions with his/her face.

2. Get your child to choose a balloon for each emotion and let him/her fill it with equal parts of salt, flour and water with a plastic funnel while you secure the opening of the balloons.

3. Help your child to tie up the balloon and let him/her knead the whole thing until a dough forms inside.

4. Your child can then draw a face on the balloon. Let his/her imagination run wild and combine the different colours and expressions to create a variety of interesting characters.

Helpful tips:
  • As you are doing this activity with your child, talk to him/her about different emotions. For each, tell your child the name of the emotion and the possible scenarios that would trigger him/her to feel this way.
  • You can use these feelings balloons as a stress ball. This doubles up as a tool to let your child practise his/her fine motor skills and hand-eye coordination.
  • The balloons are also great tools to teach your child about shapes as he/she works on moulding the dough in various forms.

5. Print My Name

One of the first words that your child will learn to spell is his/her name. This sensory play activity puts the fun in spelling practice and is perfect for young learners who lean towards kinaesthetic learning (i.e. form of learning that involves hands-on activities).

You will need:
  • Paper
  • Diluted paint in different colours
  • Sponges
  • Laminated cut-outs of letters
  • Masking tape
What you need to do:

1. Get your child to find the letters to spell his/her name from the collection of laminated cut-out letters that you’ve prepared.

2. Help your child to paste the letters on a piece of paper.

3. Guide your child to fill the sponges with colour and leave print marks on the paper. The more colours you have, the better, as this provides more options for your child to showcase his/her creativity.

4. Once your child is done with the colour printing, remove the letters and leave the paint to dry completely.

5. Hang up your child’s masterpiece in his/her bedroom or at the display area in your living room.

Helpful tips:
  • To prepare the laminated letter cut-outs, you can type and print these on several pieces of paper. In addition, laminate each piece and cut out the letters accordingly. We recommend using the font type ‘Century Gothic’ in font size 80.
  • While carrying out the colour printing, you can teach your child how different colours interact with each other (e.g. a combination of red and blue give purple). Encourage him/her to explore the different combinations for himself/herself to see the resulting colours!
  • You can let your child have a go at forming shapes with the colour prints or combining colours to create a unique pattern.
  • This activity is a perfect way to learn the spelling of words. It’s a great alternative for children who do not respond too well towards repetitive tracing and writing on paper.

The best thing about sensory play activities is that you can let your child do most of the experimenting independently using items that are readily available at home. Just provide your child access to these items and let his/her imagination lead the way!


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