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Simple Summer Sensory Games for Toddlers

Sight, sound, touch, smell, taste: infants and young children rely on their senses to build an understanding of the world around them. The benefits of sensory play for children are endless, not only are these sensory activities fundamental to their cognitive development, but they also enhance a child’s physical and emotional development. In sensory play, children can explore different textures, hypothesise, experiment and learn. The activities build positive pathways to the brain which can be wonderful for calming an anxious or upset child.

Of course, sensory play also hones fine and gross motor skills which are particularly important as children transition to school. The hand and eye coordination that is consistently engaged in sensory play is vital to their physical development and the language and problem-solving skills that are encouraged during these activities are also essential to growth. It is widely acknowledged that children, just like adults, learn best when their senses are engaged, meaning that sensory play provides a pivotal role in early development.

31 May 2024

With so many benefits to sensory play, here are five activities that you can make at home and enjoy with your baby:

1. Painting by hand with edible paint

Senses engaged: taste, touch, sight, smell


This is an activity best suited to being carried out in the garden given the potential for mess. It's guaranteed to be fun and best of all, you won’t need to worry if they start eating the paint!

You will need:

- A pot of plain yoghurt

- Food colouring (colours optional)

- A different bowl for every colour 

- A large sheet of card 


How to make your painting:
- Put some natural yoghurt in each of your bowls.
- Using different food colouring, colour the yoghurt in each bowl so your child has a few colours to choose from.
- Place a large sheet of paper or card on the ground and let your little one dip their hands in the bowls of yoghurt to create their handprint painting.

2. The name game

Senses engaged: sight, sound, touch

You will need:
- A pen
- Some paper 
- Magnetic letters or water spray and chalk

How to make your game:
There are a couple of ways in which you can play this game.

- With the first, you simply write your child’s name in big clear letters on a sheet of paper.
Give your child a collection of magnetic letters and let them select the 3D letters that match the letters in their name.
- They can carefully place the magnetic letters on top of the written ones to spell out their name. This is great for building upon name recognition - a skill they will practice at preschool. 

- Alternatively, head outside and draw your child’s name in chalk on the ground. You can decorate these together so your little one is more involved in the set-up and therefore more encouraged to participate.
- Fill a spray bottle with water and hand it to your child.
- Let your little one spray the letter that he/she hears called out. You can try this with other words and jumble the letters up if using the outdoor chalk and water method so that it is more challenging to find the right letter.

3. Construction site

Senses engaged: touch, sight, sound

You will need:
A tuff tray works well (if you don’t have one at home, any shallow, sturdy tub or box will do) 
- Stones, pebbles or rocks
Toy diggers and cars 
- Toy road signs (these could also be made using card and coloured pencils)
- A scoop

How to make your construction site:
- Add the stones, pebbles, rocks to your tray and place the construction toy vehicles on top.
- Add a couple of scoops if you have them and place the road signs dotted around the construction site you have set up.
- Watch your child create their own game whilst playing with the activity – they will be in the wonderful world of their imagination with role play and experimentation happening throughout.

4. Car wash

Senses engaged: touch, sight, sound

You will need:
- A tub big enough for your child to sit in with room around them,
- Water
- Toy cars
- A sponge
- A cloth
- A paint brush
- A scoop
- A towel

How to make your car wash:
- Pour water into the tub to create a shallow bath.
- Pop your child in and add some of their toy cars, a sponge, cloth, paint brush and scoop. Children love water play and this activity will keep them engaged for a good stretch of time as they clean each of the toy vehicles meticulously. You can also give them a towel to use to dry the cars once they have reached the end of their water play.

5. Bug hunt

Senses engaged: touch, sight, sound

You will need:
- A large, shallow, sturdy tub
- Some dried beans, rice or cereal (dried black beans work really well here to depict soil)
- Some coloured plastic bugs
- A pair of tongs or tweezers
- A spoon

How to make your bug hunt: 
Half-fill your tub with dried beans, rice or cereal and hide coloured plastic bugs inside.
- Hand your child a set of tongs or tweezers, a spoon and a small bowl or tub.
Allow your child to hunt for the bugs hidden within the tub and pick them out with their tongs or tweezers. They could even use a paint brush to dust the bugs off if you are using cereal. You can extend this activity by asking your child to sort the bugs into colour groups once they have found them all.

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