What are the things that come to your mind when you think about your child’s growth development? You’d probably think of storytelling, alphabet memorisation, flashcards with numbers and letters and a wide range of visual learning aids.
Interactive learning materials are a valuable way of introducing your kids to the world. These help them learn new things beyond their imagination and boost their critical thinking skills. But have you considered helping kids develop their senses?
Senses are crucial to your child’s overall growth and development. These allow the little ones to discover and understand the world around them by touching, hearing, smelling, tasting, seeing and moving.
On top of that, the use of the senses significantly improves your child’s memory retention. They can easily retain most of their day-to-day experiences when they engage and interact using their five essential senses.
But the question is, how will you encourage sensory development in your preschoolers? The answer is simple: sensory play. It’s a type of activity that stimulates your child’s senses.
Sensory Development Activities For Preschoolers
Here are some easy activities that’ll help encourage your child’s sensory development and are fun for kids.
1. Making Fake Snow
Making fake snow is a great way to enjoy the winter season without facing the cold winds outside your cosy and warm home. It helps develop your child’s sense by making them more familiar with what snow should feel like, especially for locations without snow.
Check out these recipes when making fake snow in case you plan to make one. These recipes are quick and easy; all you need is baking soda and a choice of wet ingredients like shaving cream, hair conditioner or body lotion.
Here are some ideas on how to play with artificial snow:
- Make a snowman and snowwoman.
- Create a snow castle.
- Cut out different shapes using cookie cutters.
2. Playing With Food
Playing with food may be messy, but it’s a great way to allow children to use and make the most out of their five senses. This opens a lot of opportunities for them to learn and try food options they’ve never heard of.
According to a 2017 research, preschoolers who not only taste but also squish food items are more eager to try new kinds of food. This is a great way to encourage children to eat a wide range of healthy food, particularly whole food like fruit and vegetables.
To encourage your child to play with food, start by separating mealtimes and playtimes. This will help them understand table manners as they grow. Then, give them noodles to twist, tofu to smash, and cheese to crumble.
Furthermore, make sure their hands remain as clean as possible before play in case they explore the taste of the food you give them.
3. Playing With Kinetic Sand
Kinetic sand is similar to natural sand but more manageable and moldable because of its higher moisture content than typical sand. Also, it’s like playdough but grainy, soft and squishable. That’s why it’s called the magic sand.
But why should you enforce sand play with your child? Aside from improved senses, a 2021 study implies that playing with sand also boosts cognitive, fitness and motor skills, allowing your preschooler to be physically and mentally active.
Check out this simple guide on how to make kinetic sand. Keep in mind that this isn’t edible, so watch your kids closely when they play with it.
4. Playing With Slime
Playing with slime is a fun sensory activity your kids will surely love. It’s soft and can be played in any way they want. It also comes in different textures, colours and scents, making it perfect for your child’s sensory development.
Aside from its sensory benefit, did you know that playing with slime can also impact your and your child’s mental health? According to experts, squashing and stretching slime is a great coping mechanism against stress, disturbing thoughts and anxieties for all ages.
In addition, playing with slime allows your kids to explore and showcase their creativity. This makes this activity a good part of sensory development, especially for children who want to dirty their hands.
If you don’t have one yet, you can grab a box from your local stores or make your own slime at home.
5. Playing With Oobleck
Oobleck is a great non-Newtonian fluid due to its combined properties of liquid and solid, making it ideal for your child’s sensory play. When pressure is applied (e.g., making balls), it acts like a solid, but it quickly spreads out like a liquid when released.
Playing with oobleck is also a great way to explore the world of science with your kids. Its properties are probably something your kids have never seen or touched before. Therefore, this gooey substance will surely surprise them and let them have some fun.
If you don’t know how to make one, check out the recipe found in this blog. This recipe is simple; all you need is cornstarch and water. Just adjust this recipe according to the consistency you want. If it’s too wet add more cornstarch—add more water if it’s too dry. Then, your oddly-satisfying non-Newtonian substance will be ready to play with.
6. Playing With Playdough
Playdough has been around for decades, providing a sense of fun and a boost of imagination not only to kids but also to everyone, regardless of age. Its squishy and soft texture makes it a great part of your child’s sensory development.
According to Michigan State University, playing with playdough offers great benefits, such as:
Improved Math And Science Skills
Making playdough involves measurements and concepts. These two will help establish a strong foundation of math and science skills while your child grows and develops.
Related: Club these sensory activities with Fun Math Activities for Preschoolers at Home to boost learning.
Improved Creativity And Imagination
Play-dough allows your child to express their thoughts by reshaping the dough into different shapes, such as pizzas, worms and balls.
Improved Motor Skills
Playing with dough helps improve your child’s little muscles in their tiny hands, which they can use later on. It also allows children to have balanced hand-eye coordination every time they push, pull, squish, chop and more.
You can purchase a box of playdough at your local shops or, better yet, create your own using one of these simple recipes. Creating your own playdough is also a way to bond with your kids.
7. Gardening With Kids
Gardening is a smart way to help your kids explore and learn outdoors. It’s also a great way to develop their sensory skills as the activity is focused on hands-on tasks. These include soil digging, watering seeds, smelling plants and flowers and planting seeds.
You don’t need to build a greenhouse. All you need is a set of cups or egg trays, seeds of a plant that grows easily and a bottle of water (using a spray bottle is better).
Here are some plants your kids can easily grow:
- Snap peas
- Cherry tomatoes
Quick Tip: Wondering how to get your kid started with gardening? Here is our quick guide for Gardening With Kids that is easy, practical and doable with kids.
8. Baking Bread
Baking bread is a fun and exciting way of developing your child’s senses. This allows them to explore the texture of the dough, smell its aroma while baking in the oven and taste it after.
Related: Try Baking With Kids with our easy guide and in the process learn the science behind baking!
It’s also one of the best ways to have fun with your little ones in the kitchen besides cooking dishes. Because you’re baking with a young apprentice, consider baking simple treats like pizza rolls, cheese bread, flowerpot bread, cinnamon rolls and banana bread.
9. Jumping A Lot
Jumping focuses on stimulating and improving your child’s sense of movement. It’s also an effective way to boost and release your child’s energy.
Jumping can be done in many ways with the use of different instruments, such as:
- Jumping ropes
For a more effective jumping activity, create an obstacle course with different jumping routines in every stage at varying difficulties.
Here’s an example of an obstacle course featuring jumping activities:
- Stage 1: This is the easiest stage. Use the trampoline in this stage and let your kids play with it for around two minutes.
- Stage 2: This is the stage with medium difficulty. Your kids can perform jumping jacks, at least 10 repetitions.
- Stage 3: This is the most difficult stage. Jumping ropes would be perfect for this stage. Encourage your kids to do around 5-10 jumps to finish the entire obstacle course.
Furthermore, don’t forget to congratulate and praise your kids for a job well done. This will encourage them to do it again next time.
10. Playing With Different Temperatures
Playing with hot and cold objects is a great way to introduce different temperatures to your kids and allow them to explore their sensations further.
Here are some playful ideas to try:
- Freeze a miniature toy in water and let your kids play with it until the ice has melted in their hands.
- Buy a hot pack and let your kids play with it until it cools down.
- Give your kids kid-friendly ice chipping tools, a better way to play with ice.
Because this can be a little messy, it’s best to do this outside during summer when the temperatures are high.
The use of senses is crucial to your child’s growth and development. It helps improve their overall physical, mental and emotional health.
Above are some activities that’ll help encourage sensory development in your children. Make sure that they’re having fun while learning through the process.
Olivia Rambeau is a childcare specialist with 13 years of experience creating developmental learning programs. She shares her expertise by writing blog content and conducting webinars. During her free time, Olivia spends time with her loved ones and does the things she loves, such as cooking and painting.