Following last month’s sensory activities for babies and toddlers article, we now take a look at a selection of sensory activities for preschoolers. Sensory activities are incredibly important in early years learning and development. In short, they help children develop their senses so their brains and bodies can make sense of all the stimuli around them. As well as helping them to understand their physical place within the world and everything in it, good sensory perception keeps them safe and allows them to interact optimally with everything around them. Through the building of new neural pathways in the brain, sensory activities aid communication, learning, sustenance, coordination, balance, motor function, movement and much more. Such skills are indeed critical to their very survival and success. With that in mind, we look at some examples of sensory play activities that are perfect for preschoolers, below. These are suitable at home as well as at pre-school (always under adult supervision, of course) …
Sensory Play Activities for Preschoolers
Colour Shakers & Sound Shakers
Recycled, clear plastic bottles can be made into colour or sound shakers really easily. For colour shakers, they can be filled with water and then food colouring can be added. Adding glitter or coloured beads makes it even more interesting! Children can experiment with mixing different colours, shaking or swirling them around in the bottles to see all the wonderful, visual results.
Similarly, for sound shakers, children can instead fill bottles with dried pasta shapes, uncooked rice grains or breakfast cereals that then make different sounds when shaken around.
Children can experiment, creatively, with colour and and/or sound in this way, stimulating vision, hearing, touch and coordination. They could even compose their own rhythms, adding ‘drums’ and suchlike by using, for example, wooden spoons as drumsticks and empty cartons or boxes as ‘drums’. In addition to the sensory benefits, these types of activity are a great way to teach children about recycling and repurposing something that would otherwise be discarded.
Paint & Pigment Play
Messy play with paint and pigments is wonderful for children’s senses, particularly those of touch and sight, but also potentially sound too. Allowing children to get really ‘hands-on’ with paint will stimulate their creative juices too. They can really let go of inhibitions if you allow them. They’ll love to get really messy with squelching paint, mixing colours with hands and even feet, mark-making with fingers or through handprints and footprints. They’ll get to grips with the way that colours mix and form new colours and tones. They’ll learn about the different feel of paints that are diluted or have a thicker consistency. They’ll even learn about the different textures that their fingertips can feel as the paint goes from wet and fluid to solid and dry. While adults take these things in their stride, we all had to learn about such things when we were little and messy play activities are a great opportunity to do so.
While it’s not usually a good idea to encourage children to play with food, doing so as part of a sensory activity can offer a useful learning opportunity and is great fun for them if supervised appropriately. The key is to ensure they understand that this is a learning activity, not a meal time, in this particular scenario. Activities can include making faces and other images out of their food (broccoli for trees and so on) as well as combining different food textures, colours and tastes together in creative ways. They’ll enjoy the hands-on nature of this activity as well as honing sensory skills like touch, taste, smell and visual senses. Fine motor skills will also benefit. At the end of the activity, and assuming hygiene has been suitably good, they can even eat the results! As well as being good from a creative and sensory standpoint, food creativity may even encourage them to try different foods, tastes and food textures — great for fussy eaters!
Playing with sand is always a massive hit with children, particularly in their early years. A sandpit, sand table or visit to a sandy beach will give preschoolers wonderful play opportunities with this fascinating, natural material. Through hands-on play, they’ll get to enjoy and learn from the different textures, consistencies and states that are possible when sand is dry, moist or even runny through mixing it with water. Building of sandcastles is, of course, a natural progression, but it’s just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to what’s possible when playing with sand. Sandcastles using pre-shaped buckets are all very well. However, the magical and organic-looking sand ‘mountains’ that can be made through running extremely wet sand through the hands is on another level. Sand is so adaptable and the list of multi-sensory play activities using it is only limited by a child’s imagination. With sand, they play and learn in an almost effortless way.
Playing with Dough
Playing with dough offers similar opportunities for sensory and creative discovery. With dough, though, you can add rich colour stimulation into the mix. Whether shop-bought, or home-made with salt dough and food colouring, playing with dough is always a huge hit with children. It stimulates the mind and the senses in so many ways. Touch, sight, and even smell are the more obvious senses that are stimulated, but vestibular (movement) and proprioception (body position) are also potentially stimulated and enhanced through dough play. It’s highly creative too, of course, with opportunities to form sculptures, animals, characters and anything a child can imagine. Some types can even be baked (under adult supervision), so they harden. Then, children have created their very own toys!
If you have a garden, allotment, balcony or windowsill, making a sensory garden is a wonderful sensory activity for 3, 4 and 5-year-olds. Preschoolers will have real fun planting seeds, herbs, scented flowers and suchlike, then watching them grow. This can be quite a creative process too. Once they’ve grown, the children then get to enjoy all the wonderful smells, textures and colours too. If you are growing herbs with your child, even their taste senses will be in for a treat. Sensory gardens are a real feast for the senses, stimulating touch, coordination, balance and body awareness during the building phase then smell, sight, touch and potentially taste once complete. (Close supervision is essential, of course, particularly in regard to avoiding any poisonous or toxic plants).
Taking this a step further, time spent in the countryside, immersed in nature, is the ultimate sensory experience for children. Spending time in the natural world with your child teaches them so much and stimulates potentially all the senses — sight, touch, smell, hearing, vestibular (the movement sense) and proprioception (the sense of body position). Even taste may be stimulated if some safe, edible vegetables or fruits are discovered. (Learn more about the benefits of nature to children here and learn more about our Birmingham Forest School here).
Sensory Play at Leaps & Bounds Nursery, Edgbaston
We understand the profound importance of sensory play at Leaps & Bounds Nursery in Edgbaston, Birmingham. As such, we provide a huge variety of sensory play equipment and multi-sensory activities at the setting, for babies, toddlers and preschoolers. Discovery and learning through the senses helps little ones develop in so many ways. For example, aiding physical development, mobility, cognitive skills, motor skills, coordination and, not least, their understanding of the world and their safe place within it. We hope that the examples of sensory activities above help parents or guardians with a few ideas for continuation of this learning journey at home.
Childcare & Nursery Places in Edgbaston, Birmingham
Are you looking for good nurseries and pre-schools in Birmingham or Edgbaston? Or perhaps you need a childcare nursery near Harborne, Ladywood, Bearwood, Smethwick or the B16 area? If so, please consider Leaps & Bounds Day Nursery. We’re a high quality childcare nursery and pre-school based in Gillott Road, Edgbaston, Birmingham (B16 0ET). Please click a button below to make contact and we’ll be happy to tell you more or to show you and your little one around …