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Activities to encourage sensory development

8th July 2017

Sensory development is the journey a child takes from the basic wriggling of their limbs to honing their coordination skills, involving all sensory elements such as sight, touch, smell, taste and hearing. Each child differs and it can take some longer than others to master the understanding of movement and balance. Although the time scale depends on the individual, it is still very important for us parents to encourage our children to master their sensory progression.

You may be wondering how to encourage this, which is why our experts here at Tiny World Day Nursery have put together a guide to help you to incorporate sensory play into the everyday.

The role of sensory play


All children can benefit from sensory play, not just those that take a little longer to learn. From those starting to walk and talk early on, to children with autism that may be finding it difficult to organise the stimuli to explore the senses – It’s important to pay attention to all children’s development and be there to inspire them along the way.

From birth children use touch to learn and interact with the world around them, which is why they constantly find things to hold and even place toys and objects in their mouths. As they grow they start to babble which is their way of experimenting with sounds and they also have the tendency to twirl around and around until they lose their balance – which later they will learn that it’s due to the fluid in their ears. It’s their way of learning; we don’t tell them to do these things, it’s a natural process but if parents aid them through the process, their sensory development will come on in leaps and bounds.

It isn’t all about touch

Yes – playdough, clay and sand are the go to materials when considering sensory play but for further development a variety of senses needs to be explored.

Smell: what’s in the box?

This game is an ideal way to get your children to use their sense of smell.

  • Fill as many boxes as you like with smelly things so for example, let’s say you have five boxes. Fill the first box with bananas, the second lemons, the third vanilla pods, the fourth chocolate and the fifth flowers.
  • Cover these boxes with a lid but make sure it has a hole in it for them to smell.
  • Cut out five pieces of paper and write the words: ‘bananas’, ’lemons’, ’vanilla’, ’chocolate’ and ‘flowers’ – mix them up on the table.
  • Have your child guess what’s in the boxes using their sense of smell and help them to figure out what’s inside the box.

Sight: colourful pasta

This game encourages children to look at the colours and recognise what they are.

  • Prepare four or five food colouring colours.
  • Separate four or five handfuls of pasta into a food storage bag and add the food colouring.
  • Shake until the colour has covered all of the pasta in each bag.
  • Cover a baking tray in baking paper and place your pasta on here, allow it to dry.
  • Once it’s dry you’re ready to play the sight game.

Language: rice and ice

Rice and ice is an ideal game for a combination of senses including; touch, sight and language. Before playing this game you may want to ask your child what they think might happen when they mix the ice with the rice.

  • Make blue and yellow ice.
  • Once solid, place them on a tray, blue on one side and yellow on the other.
  • Add rice to the centre of the tray.
  • Let the children mix the ice with the rice.
  • Once the ice begins to melt the white rice will either turn blue or yellow and when mixed altogether, green.

This game introduces the idea of rhyming words, mixing colours and the process of ice melting.

Taste: 5 a day

This is a great opportunity to get your children to try their 5 a day – but you can, of course, incorporate a little chocolate too if you wish. Prepare fresh fruit and vegetables including: oranges, bananas, raspberries, carrots and broccoli. Let them try the fruit and have them explain what it tastes like. Is it sweet or sour, soft or crunchy?

Hearing: instruments

Hearing can involve a number of methods – animal sounds from an interactive learning book, instruments and sounds in a water glass.

  • Instruments – hitting a drum, tapping a xylophone and shaking a maraca.
  • Sounds in a water glass – experimenting with water levels in a glass to hear the changes in the sound when it’s tapped with a spoon.

Types of motor skills:

  • Fine motor skills – the movement of smaller muscles in the body, used for writing and buttoning.
  • Gross motor skills the movement of the larger muscles in the body, used for walking and running.

Tiny World Day Nursery love to make learning fun. We have over 30 years of experience caring for babies and children and provide free places for children 2-4 years . Every day is a learning day here at Tiny World which is why we always organise fun activities to help your child to develop, including painting, crafting, drawing, story telling, playing, learning, exercising and socialising. If you would like to know more about us or take a tour of our nurseries, please get in touch today – we’d love to hear from you.

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