The hours are long, the days are long, lunch is long, the weeks are long, but the years are short? Is that the saying? I’m not sure, but it’s only 8am and it currently feels like it’s 8pm. By the time both kids have eaten breakfast, and after spending an hour convincing them to get dressed, the lido deck is open and it’s time to come up with stimulating toddler activities.
If you are out of ideas, and over sitting in front of a TV; did you know that there are lots of fun activities for toddlers or preschoolers that you can incorporate into sensory boxes?
Sensory play for toddlers is a fun way for children to get messy (but not too messy), have fun, and learn by adding a few simple things into a sensory box.
Whether your toddler is working on shapes, colors, letter recognition, or fine motor skills; sensory boxes are a great play-through-learning toddler activity. It’s so much fun to get their little wheels turning and watch their imaginations go wild.
Parents can sit on the sidelines, and coach through play, while the child gets to be the leader and decide where the activity will take them.
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Making A Sensory Box
The boxes should be large enough to explore without having to take everything out of the box to discover what is underneath. I really like these boxes and a huge bonus, they have a lid. Check out your local home store’s clearance section, often times you can find really great deals on these.
Favorite Sensory Box Fillers
You probably already have tons of stuff around your house that would make a good base for any sensory box. Some of my favorites sensory box fillers include:
- Water Beads
- Expired Cereal
- Shredded Paper
- Uncooked Oatmeal
- Cotton Balls
- Dry Kidney Beans
- Corn Kernels
Trick To Less Mess
In the summer time taking your sensory boxes outside is your best bet. If things get messy, well you are already outside. However, you are probably here because the title says “indoor activities” for toddler. Don’t worry, one small hack will allow your child all the fun but no mess for you.
One of the best mom hacks I’ve ever come up with is using a fitted sheet underneath a sensory box. Turn the sheet inside out with the corners facing up, and place it underneath your sensory box for fast and EASY cleanup. When you are done you just grab the corners and it will easily collect whatever is left behind from the sensory box, so you have zero cleanup.
Sensory Activities For Toddlers
Sensory boxes should be about your little one exploring, using their imagination, and getting “messy”. My daughter loves nothing more than to let her little hands sift through the rice, oats or water beads.
Aside from just playing in the bin, you can also encourage learning by implementing a few “games” or learning experinces into your sensory box. Configure the games based on your child’s current skill set. Below are some activities you can incorporate in your next sensory box.
Water Bead Color Sorting
You want to know the trick to keeping your kid entertained for HOURS (yes, I said HOURS), It’s water beads, and they actually offer several days of fun. The night before you are ready for water bead play, follow the directions on the package. A little bit goes a long way!
Explain to your children that they will “grow” overnight, but only if they get lots of sleep. They will LOVE waking up and seeing that the tiny little pebbles expanded overnight.
Squishing your hands around is so much fun (even for the adults). Enhance the activity by doing some simple sorting with colors. Ask your child to place all the red beads in one measuring scoop, and purple in another, etc.
Depending on your child’s age you could also use the beads as a way to practice counting. Add 4 beads into the blue cup. Now add three purple beads into the blue cup etc. After the learning, add spoons, scoops, measuring cups, and things you already have around the house and let their imagination go wild.
2. Adding A Puzzle
Another fun sensory box enhancement, is to hide puzzle pieces in the sensory box and have your child dig for the missing pieces. They can put the pieces back into the puzzle as they find them, or all together at the end. My daughter loves doing this on repeat over and over again.
3. Letter Recognition
If your child is just getting into learning the alphabet, hide the letters in the sensory box, and ask them to find an A, then the B, then C, etc.
If they already have mastered letter recognition, on a seperate piece of paper write out their name, and ask them to sort and find the letters of their name (almost like putting a puzzle together).
You can also ask them to find all of the green letters, blue letters, etc. and go over which each letter is as you place them in piles.
I love using these Melissa and Doug magnetic letters. They have both uppercase and lowercase that you can work with your child on, and easily take them out of the sensory box for use on a chalkboard or other magnetic surface.
4. Grouping Objects
Walk around your home until you find some small toys that you have several of (I’m sure you won’t have to go far). Think: Little People, Match-Box cars, Barbie shoes, blocks, army men, or other small figurines. I love counting bears they offer so many opportunities for learning, outside of just being cute. Hide a few sets of the alike things within the sensory box. Now ask your child to search the box and make piles of similar things.
You can even kick it up a notch, and hide 3 different objects and ask them to place all of the ___ colored objects in a pile. Remember go at your child’s pace, and if they get distracted, that is ok.
What Are Your Favorite Indoor Activities?
What do you and your toddler do to keep busy during the winter months. Let us know and snap a picture, we would love to feature it on our Normal Life Mom social media channels. Send us an e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or keep us posted in the comments.