‘Sensory play’ incorporates one or more of the five senses (sight, sound, smell, taste and touch) into a child’s daily play. Sensory experiences are important from birth, and are especially important for children with special needs such as SPD (sensory processing disorder) or Autism.
Appropriate sensory input is beneficial for the special needs child to learn and develop necessary skills. Sensory play can help children engage in the environment around them and create body awareness. Sensory play can both calm an agitated child and motivate a lethargic child.
Sensory experiences are all around us, but actively creating sensory activities for children will only enhance their skills as they explore the world around them.
Every child is different when it comes to their acceptance and tolerance of sensory activities. Watch out for signs of distress and over-stimulation when engaging in sensory activities with your child .
Here are 5 different sensory activities you can easily do with your special needs toddler:
Whether banging on a drum or shaking a maraca, music is a great sensory experience for children of all ages. There are plenty of musical instruments specifically made for toddlers, but even a wooden spoon and a pot will suffice. Turn on different types of music for your little one and dance, stomp and twirl away.
Check out this set of musical instruments by B. Toys.
Water can be relaxing to many children. And it is also a fun sensory experience. Placing water in a bucket with different toys and buckets will provide much fun for toddlers. This can be a fun way to learn how to scoop, pour and splash around. They also make water tables specific for this sort of activity, but any sort of plastic bin will work.
By finger painting, children can express themselves through the art of creativity. Finger painting can help promote strengthened hand muscles (helping fine motor development), teach children about colors and involves many of the senses. So get messy-squishing paints between little fingers and see what kind of masterpieces they create!
Wee Can Too sells a natural and safe set of finger paints made from organic ingredients. This a great product for children to use for finger painting as it is completely natural and safe. To find their finger paint set (and other neat products) , click here.
Dry Rice Bin
Fill up a bin with dry rice, pasta or beans (or a combination of these ingredients) and add some buckets, shovels and small toys. Let children squish the rice between their fingers, fill up buckets, dump them out and explore through sight, sound and touch. You can even make different colored rice/pasta with the recipe found here.
The ever-fun, squishy modeling clay that all children seem to enjoy is another easy activity that can be a beneficial sensory experience. Let children feel textures, pull pieces apart and use their imaginations to create. If using dough cutters, you can use that activity to help with hand-eye coordination and motor skill development. For an easy homemade playdough recipe, click here.