Sensory integration is the neurological process of organizing sensory inputs for function in daily life. Our brains take in information from the body and interpret that information so that we can survive and make sense of our world. Whether a baby or an adult, we all use our senses to learn and develop.
Learn how you can help toddlers develop sensory skills with DIY sensory activities. Many times, all you need are a few common objects you can find around the house or grocery store, such as clay, cornstarch and bits of fabric.
The benefit of indoor activities for toddlers is that they are weather proof! Rain or shine, you can keep children entertained. However, these activities can easily be taken outside on a nice day, where you can integrate the natural environment into the sensory experience.
The activities are so simple that they are easy to translate to sensory activities for preschoolers. For children with sensory integration and sensory processing disorder, these activities can be modified to fit the child’s needs – monitor his or her interactions with each activity and adjust appropriately.
Warm and Cold Tubs
- 2 rubber/plastic dish tubs
- Lots of ice cubes
- Warm water
- Make 4-5 trays of ice cubes
- Put the two dish tubs on a clean table or floor space. Put a little cold water in one tub. Have the child put on their smocks or aprons and help you carry several ice cube trays to the tubs. Crack the ice trays. Give the child ice cubes and let him put the ice cubes in the tub with a little water. As he is doing this, talk about how the cubes feel. After all the cubes are in one tub, fill the second tub about a quarter full with warm water. Let the child feel the water in both tubs by playing with it. As he plays, talk about warm and cold.
- Extension: give your child a clean washcloth and let him dip the cloth in each tub and touch it to his face. Ask how it feels.
Small Bottle Shake
- 16 oz. plastic soda bottles
- Different dry ingredients to make a variety of sounds, such as:
- Hot glue gun
- Make Shake Bottles:
- Clean and dry all bottles.
- Put the ingredients you want in each bottle. Screw on top and shake to test. Adjust ingredients to your liking.
- Hot glue the top to the bottle.
- Have the child shake the bottles slowly, fast, and then very fast. Which sound does he like best?
- Lots of small bars or soap or chunks of soap
- Dark butcher paper
- Have the child help you unwrap the bars of soap. Smell them as you do. Put them in a tub.
- Tape a large sheet of butcher paper to a table. Put the bars of soap on the paper. Let the child color the paper with the soap. As he is coloring, have him smell the bars of soap and the marks they make on the paper.
For more easy activities, check out 2's Sensory Play Experience by Liz & Dick Wilmes. For more expert tips and advice about teaching children Sensory Integration/Sensory Processing Disorder, read Sensory Integration: A Guide for Preschool Teachers by Christy Isbell and Rebecca Isbell, or Sensory Integration and Self Regulation in Infants and Toddlers: Helping Very Young Children Interact with Their Environment, by G. Gordon Williamson and Marie E. Anzalone.