Flashcards with pictures, letters, and numbers are an easy way of teaching toddlers more about the world. However, these do not beat the importance of sensory play for toddlers and kids of all ages.
Sensory activities seek to activate and stimulate a child’s senses. They focus on stimulating all the five senses, including the sense of touch, smell, taste, sight, and auditory. Your child will develop more in movement and balance, and they will also learn new things about the world.
Children grow and develop more during the first three years. Engaging them in sensory activities can help create sensory connections in their brain, allowing them to tackle complex tasks. The play will also help them develop their motor, cognitive, fine, and gross motor skills. If the toddler plays together with other toddlers, they will develop their social skills and peer engagement.
Whichever play idea you choose should be safe for the toddler. Do not give them small toys and items that they can swallow.
Your child is able to observe the world, engage in abstract thinking, and then experiment. There are so many sensory activities for toddlers as outlined below:
Common Sensory Activities For Babies
There are so many sensory activities for infants and toddlers that you can explore. The sensory activities you choose should match the age of your child. Below are some of the plays you can explore:
Clear Containers with Content
If you have a clear container, you can fill it with items of different colors and then place the lid. You should tape the lid in place and then allow the child to explore the container and its contents. The child can then spin the container and explore what is inside. As they do so, they grow their exploration skills as it develops their sight and motor skills.
Water Bottle Shaker
Fill up a water bottle with different pebbles, including stones, rice, and any other pebbles and grains you can find. If these grains and contents are of different colors, they will stimulate the toddler more. Such a bottle will stimulate their physical skills and provides developmental games for 1 year old.
Handprints and footprints
You can make the toddler draw their handprints or footprints on canvas with their hands or feet. Get water-based paint and help them create this new sensation. You can also get them animal prints and help grow their motor skills.
Add a few drops of food color to a bottle full of water, add beads, and some glitter to the water and watch the baby toss the bottle around. The colors stimulate their sight and as they toss the bottle up and down, it stimulates their physical skills.
Drawing on Sand
Take a box and pour some sand in it to cover the bottom of the box. Encourage the child to draw lines, straight or curves, or draw shapes with their finger on the sand. This is a great activity to help the kids develop fine motor skills.
Make some holes on cereals and grains and provide a yarn for the toddler to thread through the holes and make a necklace. This is another activity to develop the fine motor skills of your toddler.
Wrap some rubber bands or a few wires around and empty box. Show the toddler how to pull the rubber bands or the wires as if playing a harp. They will listen to the sounds that come from the makeshift harp, pluck the wires and observe the vibrations of the bands.
You can provide your toddler with ping-pong or golf balls in a box and an empty box. Let the toddler transfer the balls from one box into the other. You can provide them with a slotted spoon for this activity. These 12 month old sensory activities help develop the hand-eye coordination and also the fine motor skills of the toddler.
You can use a sticky note on top of family members’ portraits and then encourage the toddler to identify the members. You will hide a part of the portrait and the child has to work their brains to identify the person behind the sticky note. This helps develop their photographic memory.
Puppets with a Sock
Take a sock and slide it in your hand. Draw a face on the sock with a fabric marker and enjoy a puppet show. You can allow the toddler to slide their hand into the sock too and pretend to be a puppet. When they do that, they learn to coordinate their eyes, voice, and hands.
You can engage the toddler in a game of self-discovery. You can print a self-portrait of them and ask them to identify their eyes, nose, mouth, ears, and other visible parts. They can then show you the same parts on their body. This is one of the activities for toddlers 1 year old that you are sure they will love.
Paper Window Mosaic
This is one of the developmental activities for 1 year old that will excite and stimulate their sight. Cut pieces of paper to create a mosaic and then hang that on the window. The toddler will love watching it. If you need activities for 3-year-olds, or sensory activities for preschoolers at home, you can let the child help you creating the mosaics. When they do so, they develop their fine motor skills and their sight is also engaged.
A tunnel is one of the things to keep a one year old busy while allowing them to explore what is around them. Tunnels made of cardboard develop the motor skills of the baby and helps them explore. If you have many tunnels, the baby can find their way out of one of these.
Wipe Dispenser Box
This idea fits as play ideas for 1 year old or play ideas for 2 years old. If you have empty wipe dispenser boxes, fill them with small pieces of fabrics. Your toddler can then remove them and stuff them back into the box. They will develop their motor skills and their hand-eye coordination.
Get some inexpensive plastic balls of different colors and put them in a box. You can then watch and see what the toddler does with them. If it stimulates their sight, they may start sorting them in different colors. It is one of the best learning games for 1 year olds if you need to teach color. If you need activities to do with a one year old, you can help them sort the balls.
Buy inexpensive stickers and allow the baby to place the stickers on a blank page. The toddler will figure out how the stickers work. This can be among the best 12-month-old sensory activities as it only needs the toddler to look, pick, and stick.
Sensory Rice Play
Fill a tub with uncooked rice. Hide some treasures inside the rice and allow the toddler to dig around with their hands or spoons and find the treasures. Ensure they do not litter the house with the rice. These kids creative activities at home develop their motor skills and their hand-eye coordination.
Poster Board Sensory Play
You can place several items that a baby can touch and feel on a poster board. Some of the things to include are sandpaper, aluminum foil, fake fur, fabric, and bubble wrap among others. This develops your toddler’s sense of touch and recognition.
Stacking Plastic Eggs
If you have some leftover Easter eggs, you can take them apart and teach the baby how to stack them. Watch them struggle stacking the eggs until they manage. This is one of the activities to keep a one year old busy that helps develop their brain and psychomotor skills.
Stacked Plastic Cups
Making cup towers is one of the most common sensory activities. You need several plastic coffee cups. Your toddler can create towers and then knock them down and then start again. It is one of the fun sensory activities for one year olds that also help them develop their motor skills and hand-eye coordination.
Texture Walk Fun Activities for Toddlers
You can take your toddler on a nature walk in a park with dry leaves. As they walk on the dry leaves, bring their attention to the sound of their steps on the dry leaves. You can also allow them to walk barefoot on grass. This will stimulate their sensors of touch and sound.
Boil some noodles and allow them to cool. Allow the child to play with the noodles, and you can join them too for fun sensory activities with noodles. It is a good one year old sensory play when you need to stimulate their sense of smell.
If your toddler loves the kitchen, you can allow them to explore it. Provide them with plastic and wooden cooking equipment and let them explore. Equipment such as spatula, measuring spoons, and plastic bowls are a good place to start. They will learn to sort the utensils, identify them, and play with them. It is one of the sensory activities that you can join in on.
Animal Sounds Sensory Activities
If there are some animals that the toddler knows from a farm or from the TV, you can show them their pictures and then act out their sounds. The toddler can then imitate you making the sounds, creating activities to do with a one year old at home. As you do so, you develop the toddler’s sense of sight and hearing.
If you have some holiday bells at home, you can allow your toddler to ring them. You can then show them how to create a rhythm with the bell rings and watch how they learn to interact with the bell. This is one of the best indoor activities for one year old who is only starting to recognize sounds.
Peels play can be messy as you allow the child to play with the potato, vegetable, carrot, and zucchini peels. As they engage in these sensory activities, they will stimulate their sense of smell, and they will also experience different textures. These sensory activities for toddlers are also good for developing the motor skills of a baby.
One of the sensory ideas for one year olds at home is turning a tub or a bucket and allowing the child to play it as drums. You can show them how to play some simple rhythms and watch them imitate you. Drum sensory activities for babies are great for developing their hand-eye coordination and their motor skills.
This may not be one of the educational activities for 1 year olds, but it develops their motor and fine motor skills. You can buy a few loofas from the shop and hand them on a table or from the handles of a refrigerator. The toddler can then bat at them, and you can watch their motor skills grow rapidly.
Sensory bags are clear bags with items that a baby can touch and feel. These bags can be good activities for 3 year olds and also sensory activities for infants. Some of the items you can stuff in the bag include cotton balls, crayons, marbles, and some other textured items. This is one of the sensory play activities for toddlers when you have small items that choke them if put in the mouth. The play engages their sense of touch and sight.
You can provide the toddler with different shapes of pasta and a yarn and watch them thread the pasta through the yarn to make a necklace. It is one of the kids creative activities at home that can also be among the learning activities for toddlers. You can join in the play as the child develops their fine motor skills.
Toys in Sand
Fill a box with sand and hide toys under the sand. Allow the child to find the toys and then play in the sand with them. This is one of the sensory activities for toddlers that will help develop their exploration skills and their motor skills.
Snow Globes Fun Activities for Toddlers
If you have a clear jar or a clear bottle, you can create some sensory activities for a toddler. Glue a toy trinket upside down to the lid of the jar or bottle and then add water and glitter to the jar. Tighten the lid completely and watch as the baby enjoys the snow globe. It is one of the top sensory activities for babies for developing their sense of sight.
Pipe Cleaners in Cartons
You can put loop pipe cleaners through holes on cartons. The toddler then pushes in and pulls out the pipes continuously. They will enjoy the fun toddlers activities, and they also develop their motor skills.
Play With Magnets
You can place different magnetic items in a box and then allow the child to use a magnetic stick to pull these items out of the box. This can be one of the greatest learning activities for toddlers if you have magnetic letters, numbers, symbols, and pictures.
You can search online for edible slime recipes that are safe for toddlers. Make sensory activities with slime where the baby squishes the slime in their hands. You can join them and have more fun with the sensory activities.
A Busy Board
A busy board can provide activities for 3 year olds. It is a board with zippers, latches, and other items that your child can explore. The board should not have items that can harm the child. This board provides sensory activities for preschoolers at home where they can explore sounds, their sight, movements, and engage their motor skills.
Frame of Items
Stick some items at the back of the glass in a picture frame and then frame the glass back. You can stick items such as sandpaper, clothes, sponges, and bubble wraps. Watch the child engage in sensory activities with the items behind the glass.
Paint in the Tub
Put the toddler in a bathtub and give them some washable paint. Watch them engage in some creative sensory activities. After all that creativity, wash them and clean then tub. This is one of the activities for toddlers 1 year old that will be messy and that develops their brain.
A busy basket has everything needed for sensory activities for toddlers. You can stuff the basket with toys, building blocks, some plastic kitchen utensils, plastic baby tools, sensory activities bottles, and music makers among others. This should be a basket that stimulates all the senses and allows the toddler to choose the sensory activities that will work best for them.
This is one of the things to keep a one year old busy and help them explore taste and smell. Put melted chocolate in a container and watch what the toddler does with it. These sensory activities require a mess mat for easy clean up.
Play dough allows developmental games for 1 year old. Teach them to manipulate the dough and cut it in different sizes. They may not make good shapes. If you use it for play ideas for 2 years old toddlers, these toddlers will learn how to make shapes fast. It is one of the sensory activities that you can jump in on.
Provide small fruits of different colors, especially berries, to the toddler. Show them to sort the berries and other fruits according to their colors. Watch them perform the sensory activities for babies and learn how to differentiate colors.
Fabric Scraps Busy Box
If you need sensory activities to keep a toddler busy, a busy box with scrap fabric pieces can help. Put fabrics of different colors and sizes in the box and see what the toddler does with them. This is one of the least messy sensory activities for toddlers.
This is one of the best play ideas for 2 years old. You can place plastic instruments in a box, including a harmonica, baby guitar, and a drum set among others. These instruments present activities to do with a one year old or older child. The sensory activities develop their fine motor skills.
Want to engage your toddler in taste sensory activities? You can have a buffet with small pieces of different fruits and let the toddler explore. Include papayas, water melons, mangoes, and other fruits. Let the toddler explore the tastes, and you can observe what they like among all those. This will help you recognize tastes.
A Basket of Books
If you have some toddler books, you can place them in a basket and allow the baby to explore. Browsing through books is one of the best sensory activities for infants as they love looking at pictures, people, and things. You can join in on these 12 month old sensory activities and help the baby grow their sense of sight and learn to identify things.
Provide beads well threaded through a string. These beads can be of different colors or be the same color, but different sizes. Let the kid play with them. These beads provide developmental activities for 1 year old toddler to learn to hold and manipulate the beads.
A water table can provide several outdoor sensory activities. You can have a small basin with a little water or create an actual water table that the child can stand against and use. Add some toys or balls in the water and let them explore.
Swinging is a favorite play idea for all kids; toddlers and even bigger kids. It is one of the sensory activities that help them socialize. Once in a while, you can take them to the amusement park to play with other kids. Although this is one of the activities to keep a one year old busy, you have to be there and supervise them.
Molding in the Sand
If you live near a sandy beach, one of the sensory activities for infants can be playing with sand. It is one of the fun sensory activities for one year olds and also one of the top learning activities for toddlers as they get to create items on sand. It also fine tunes their fine motor skills.
Chasing Each Other and Birds
The sight of children chasing pigeons is always picture-worthy. However, this is among the sensory activities that can help your toddler develop their motor skills. If pigeons are not available, they can chase each other.
Paper Festival Plays
Street festivals are full of paper. Toddler’s sensory activities can include small pieces of papers of different colors. The toddler can then throw the paper around. This is one of the play ideas for 1 year old that should be outdoors to make cleaning easy. It helps them recognize and appreciate color.
As one of the best learning games for 1 year olds, shadowplay helps your toddler to understand size and develop their sight. They will also develop their physical skills as they run towards the shadow or jump shadows.
Mud play is one of the messy sensory activities. It presents learning activities for one year olds as they can create shapes with mud. You can create a small mud pool at home or collect mud and place it on a small plastic box.
Collecting Treasures Outdoors
Treasures can offer great one year old sensory play where the toddler walks in nature and collects items such as colorful feathers, leaves of different colors, and any marbles they may come across. You can then help them build a treasure chest of the things they have collected.
Raining leaves sensory play activities help develop big motor skills for children. Your toddler can play in the middle of piles of autumn leaves. They can throw them up and down and have fun while at it. These leaves also make sounds that help them learn to discern sounds.
Blowing Dandelions or Water Bubbles
If you live near a field with dandelions, they can provide fun toddlers activities for 2 or 3 year olds. If there are no dandelions, you can still allow them to blow water bubbles. Bubbles offer fun sensory activities for toddlers and also help them develop their speech.
Your toddler can sit on a small ball and bounce with ease, but if the ball is large, you need to help them get on it and start bouncing. This is one of the learning activities for one year olds, but you have to be there to ensure they do not fall. The ball can teach your child to concentrate.
This is one of the activities to do with a one year old at home. It is an old school game for parents and toddlers where you lift the toddler high and they pretend to be flying. These sensory activities stimulate the proprioceptive and vestibular sensors. If your kid is afraid of heights, these sensory activities may not be for them.
Bouncing Toddles on your Knee
This is one of the indoor activities for one year old. It is a great option if your toddler is afraid of heights. The sensory activities involve you bouncing the toddler on your knees like a rocking horse when you are lying on your back. Start small and increase the speed and height of the rocking as you continue.
There are different rocking sensory activities. The baby can rock on a chair, a horse, gliders, or you can rock them. Rocking stimulates the motor skills of the baby and helps them stay alert at all times.
Balance stones may not be the best sensory ideas for one year olds as they may not have a good balance on them. However, these stones can teach older toddlers how to balance. They help develop motor and fine motor skills.
Jumping on Pillows
Even adults love jumping on soft places. You need to remove the couch pillows and place them on carpeted floor for toddlers to jump on them. These sensory activities for toddlers will mostly stimulate their motor skills, but it will also get them entertained.
Smelling Spices in the Kitchen
If your toddler loves being in the kitchen, one of the best sensory activities for them should be to smell ingredients. Invite them in the kitchen just when you bring fresh ingredients. Allow them to smell the ingredients and let them tell you whether the smell is “big” or “small.” This can also be among the educational activities for 1 year olds as you allow them to help you manipulate some ingredients.
Kicking Balls Back and Forth
Some toddlers will naturally seek out to kick a ball, but others can pass a ball without touching it. These sensory activities can give great feedback for the small body of the toddler. As they kick a ball back and forth, they use their feet, sight, hand-eye coordination, and they also learn how to balance as they kick the ball. Ensure the ball is large enough for them to kick.
Climbing Up Slides
Climbing up a slide is mostly not recommended among sensory activities for babies. However, if you have a bigger toddler, this is one of the sensory activities that can grow their motor skills greatly. Focus on smaller slides and then be there to supervise as they engage in these sensory activities. It will help with motor planning and the kid will develop their motor strength.
Walking on a Bubble Wrap
Bubble wraps are fun and even adults love bursting them. If you have some in your house, tape them on the floor and allow the toddler to walk on them. As one of the sensory activities for babies, walking on bubble wraps stimulates the baby’s auditory and touch senses. As they jump up and down, they grow their motor skill.
Feel and Find
This is one of the kids’ creative activities at home. You need to hide items with different textures on a box. Let the child put their hand in the box and feel the texture of the items. You can also place different items such as cups, balls, and their toys. Ask them to pull out of the things from the box without looking. You will improve your baby’s tactile processing through these sensory activities for infants.
Exploring Herbs Outdoors
If you live in an area where you can access safe herbs, walk your toddler around and let them smell different herbs. This provides sensory activities for babies that allow them to explore their senses of touch, sight, and smell. Be there to guide them on the herbs to collect.
Cotton balls provide the perfect sensory activities as toddlers love to squish them, squeeze, pull, and even stick them on a sticky paper. It stimulates their sense of touch. After the cotton balls sensory activities, the child will have better motor skills.
Rainbow Glitter Jars
These are jars filled with glittering colors. Glue and seal the caps of the jars and allow the children to shake and observe the jars. The glitter in the bottles and the movement of the colors inside will stimulate the senses of sight and allow the toddler to discern color.
You can play with ice during the hot weather. Have colored ice and put it in a pool outdoors or in a sink indoors. As the ice melts and the colors mix, the toddler learns the concept of color. By touching the ice, they will learn the concept of cold. It is one of the sensory activities for infants that you need to supervise.
Sticky Paper Art
This is one of the most diverse sensory activities for babies. Your child can use several items to create art. They can use buttons, beads, tissue paper, gems, pompoms, sequins, and pipe cleaners among others. The sticky paper is a good material to provide touch and sound sensory activities for your toddler.
Cleaning Sensory Activities for Babies
Your baby may not know how to clean their toys. However, cleaning sensory activities for babies are ideal in growing their motor skills and making the kids more responsible. This is a great summer activity. When you are washing the car, the toddler can wash their toys in a small washing station or a basin.
Hide and Seek
You can hide the baby’s toys somewhere in the house and then ask them to seek them out. As one of the sensory activities for babies, hide and seek is an explorative game that kids can engage in as groups. This helps boost their social skills. Further, seeking engages their sense of sight, and this is how they end up becoming better at spotting things.
Older toddlers may already know the concept of color, size, and shapes. You can engage them in sorting sensory activities for babies. You can provide them with balls, plastic spoons and bowls, or anything else that requires sorting based on different observable features. This will develop the baby’s sense of sight, and hand-eye coordination.
Dollar Store Shakers
Shakers have always been toddlers’ favorites. They stimulate their auditory senses and also help develop their hand-eye coordination. Older toddlers can learn to play rhythms on the shakers further enhancing their development.
A Velcro Board
Velcro is like a bubble wrap, just playing with it relieves stress. You can make a Velcro board for your toddler and allow them to open and close the Velcro as they please. When doing so, they engage their motor skills, their auditory senses, and their eyes.
Balloon Blowing and Kicking Games
Balloons offer sensory activities for babies. Inflating the balloon and kicking the balloon so that it flies high is a great pastime for babies. As they kick the balloon, they have to coordinate their hands and eyes. They also work out their muscles and their motor skills improve. Some balloons have pictures and illustrations on them that a toddler’s eyes can feast on.
While this sounds like a school assignment, it is one of the best sensory activities for babies, especially pre-school babies. The alphabets come in different colors to stimulate the senses of sight. Further, some might have magnets so that the baby can stick them on different surfaces. Bigger babies can even identify the letters and numbers and arrange them as they should.
You can buy a toddler cooking set from the dollar store. These toy cooking sets are small and allow a child to play with some cooking ingredients and stimulate their sense of smell. They also get to coordinate their hands and their eyes and develop their motor skills.
Conclusion: The Why and How of Sensory Activities
If you look at most of the sensory activities above, you will see that most of them are easy to execute at home. If you are on a budget, you do not have to buy anything as you can use what you have at home to engage your toddler’s senses. For instance, before you throw away any box or any wrapping at home, consider how you can use it to engage your baby in play activities.
Some of the items of sensory play can also be bought at the dollar store at a low cost. Items such as marbles and food color for the sensory bottles are cheap, and you can re-use them.
You will need to change the play as the baby grows. Older babies are able to manipulate play items more than 1 year old babies. At three years, the baby can create so many items using play dough, and at this stage, you can get them to engage in creative sensory activities. You can guide them a little, but they should do all the work.
One sensory activity is never enough. You need to get several sensory activities to stimulate all the sensors. If painting stimulates touch and sight, you need to get one that stimulates the auditory senses, smell, and taste.