I have a friend who has a son that is almost two months older than Kieran. We are both stay at home mamas, and we both enjoy doing fun, "educational" things with our toddlers. Neither one of us is drilling our kids with flash cards or making them memorize things by rote, but we do like to plan fun activities that happen to have a bonus, like painting with colors or talking about seasons. The best part is that they live less than ten minutes from us by car, so we have started meeting on Monday mornings to do a "Toddler Activity Time." (Please help us think of a catchy name, I love catchy names and have not come up with anything acceptable yet.)
We take turns hosting each week, and last week was my turn. I planned two activities. The first activity was simply making pictures with stickers. My mom got Kieran some fall-themed foam stickers, so while the boys stuck their stickers everywhere we talked about the red and yellow leaves, the orange pumpkins, the brown and red turkeys, and the green trees.
For our second activity, I filled a bowl with rice and buried seven or eight small toys (magnets, small wooden playfood, marbles, and matchbox cars). This one was definitely the bigger hit. Our friend loved digging his hands deep into the rice and groping around for the toys. Kieran was a little more tentative - he delicately moved the rice around the top, then he started digging deeper when he felt comfortable with the material. They both got so excited when they found something buried. Kieran has actually requested that the rice bowl be left on the table - he's gone back to play with it several times in the past week.
Depositing a wooden broccoli tree in the basket.
Sensory activities like finding toys in rice, digging around in sand or beans, or getting messy with finger painting or shaving cream drawings are not only fun, but they also help improve something called "tactile perception." Tactile perception is the term that describes how your brain sends information to and from your fingertips. Improving your toddler's tactile perception helps him feel more confident performing tasks with his hands and fingers.
Here are a few more sensory activities you can do with your toddler:
- Shaving cream painting: find a clean surface (the dining room table? We prefer the outdoor picnic table), spray on some shaving cream, and let your toddler go crazy. We sprinkle in a few drops of food coloring to make things interesting. (You can also use whipped cream or pudding)
- Put dried beans in a large tupperware bowl. Let your toddler sit on the floor with the bowl of beans and a few utensils (a spoon, a measuring cup, etc.). Kieran has loved this activity ever since he was about a year old. Just be careful that your toddler does not try to eat any of the beans!
- Nature table: go on a walk and pick up different things you find (leaves, acorns, pine cones, grass, rocks). Bring them home and put them on the table for your toddler to examine. This is a great activity to do throughout the year to use when talking about seasons.