Finding ways to keep your little one educationally engaged and stimulated can be made easy when you recognize that fun, open-ended activities can easily be sites of learning. These sensory play activities will help your child develop cognitive skills by allowing them to directly engage with the material in front of them—and there’s no better time than summer to take advantage of outdoor sensory activities! The projects below encourage creative thinking, experimentation and independent exploration.
These arctic and oceanic sensory tubs from No Time for Flash Cards are perfect for learning about habitats, animal life, and water, while also introducing critical thinking skills like comparing and contrasting. The ocean sensory tub is super easy to put together- you just need a big bin, some ocean animal toys, and water to create an aquatic environment. Allow your child to explore the ocean life on a smaller scale and answer their questions as they arise organically. If you want to get them thinking, ask why they think some animals can live underwater but others can’t. To create the arctic sensory tub, freeze water overnight in a bin and leave an indent in the ice to make the terrain a little more varied.
By using the two ideas in tandem your little one can observe the difference in properties between ice and water, talk about how the water in the arctic bin became ice, and explore why some animals can live in water when it’s liquid but not when it’s frozen. This is great practice to get your little one familiar with using compare and contrast as a way to understand new concepts.
We love the way Lemon Lime Adventures re-uses bubble wrap with this project. Unroll a length of paper on the sidewalk, pour out the tempera paint, and get to stomping. Give your child free reign over the canvas and encourage them to experiment with different colors, different kinds of bubble wrap (if you have it) and different methods of moving the paint around the paper. This works well for meticulous little artists as well as abstract painters interested in getting messy. This activity is a great way for kids to experiment with mark making and color mixing while also strengthening fine motor skills and encouraging creativity.
This is a great activity from Nuture Store for working on literacy skills and can be tailored to your child’s needs and interest. Just mix water and dirt (and some flour if your dirt has trouble sticking) and either pack the mud into a mould or shape them by hand. Let them cook in the sun and you’ve got a natural alphabet! Play with the letters, sound them out, and make different words with your little one.
Another creative project from Nuture Store! Encourage your child to think outside of the paper and paint art activity with these clay sculpture masks. Mould faces (or something else of your little artist's choice!) onto trees and use the forest floor as a studio. Pick up pine cones, leaves, twigs, pebbles or whatever else you can find and create an outdoor sculpture that can stay on the tree as long as you want it.
The process of creating these nature paint brushes from Messy Little Monster is just as fun as making the painting. Collect flowers, leaves and twigs to make a DIY paint brush. Tie them together with rubber bands and get to work! Have your little one take their time picking out what flowers and leaves to use, and watch them experiment with the different materials.
You can gently guide their extracurricular learning by setting up these stations and letting them explore at their own pace. It’s all about creating a space for your little one to release their creativity! Make time this summer to learn, explore, and play with your little one.
To find more sensory art activities on our blog click here.