Skip to main content

4 best sensory activities your toddler needs this summer for preschool-readiness

If your toddler is getting ready to start preschool, you may be busy teaching them sight words and ensuring they’re independent enough to put on their own shoes and jacket without help from the teacher. Although teaching independence and reading basics are definitely important, sensory activities are another great way to help ready your child for preschool.

The best part about sensory activities is they don’t have to cost a lot of money and often just require a bit of imagination and some basic supplies you may already have. If you’re not sure what sensory activities are or how they can help your toddler get ready for preschool, read on to learn about four of the best sensory activities that will help ensure your toddler is ready for preschool.

Mother and child playing with sensory bin
Image used with permission by copyright holder

What is a sensory activity for toddlers?

Sensory activities are just as they sound  — activities that engage your senses. Engaging a child’s senses, most commonly their sight, touch, and hearing, but also sometimes including their taste and smell, is a wonderful way to help teach them about the world around them.

According to Healthline, “Sensory play offers children a unique opportunity to engage with the world in a way that helps them grow and develop. This kind of active play helps to create connections in the brain that allow for increasingly complex thoughts and tasks.” Sensory play can also be soothing to a child who may be experiencing anxiety or stress, and since sensory play is largely unstructured, it can help children learn and explore at their own pace.

What are the best practices for sensory play?

Sometimes it can be hard for parents to incorporate sensory play into their at-home playtime because they often perceive sensory play as messy, but that doesn’t have to be the case. Sensory play can definitely be messy, but it doesn’t have to be. However, allowing your child to be messy while playing lets them discover new tastes and textures and really experience them before being quickly cleaned up.

You can also make use of what you have around the house to create a sensory activity for your child without having to spend a lot of money. For instance, rice in a zip-close bag or a plastic container filled with beans can be just as fun as a sensory activity as an expensive toy for a toddler.

L.A. Parent also suggests using as many nonplastic items as possible, since so much plastic can feel the same for toddlers. Allowing kids to use their senses to safely explore their surroundings can really help prepare them for preschool. Here are four sensory activities you can create at home for your toddler.

1. Sensory bin

Sensory bins are a great way to use items you have around the home and create a fun and stimulating experience for your toddler. The best part about a sensory bin is you can change them up. If you’re OK with messy play, you can fill a bin with water and some of your toddler’s toy figurines, or you can create a dry bin by adding some oats, rice, or cereal along with jars or scoops. Busy Toddler has a great recipe for a rainbow rice bin that toddlers will love. Giving children the option to explore different textures, measurements, and weights really allows them to stay engaged while playing.

2. Water beads

Water beads are colorful, tiny beads that grow into squishy, vibrant beads when hydrated. Add them to a zip-close bag for a fun sensory activity, or fill a bowl with water beads and allow your toddler to hold them and play with them. Artful Parent has a ton of great ideas for sensory activities using water beads, including making a light table, using them in water balloons, and mixing them with shaving cream.

Child playing in flour
Image used with permission by copyright holder

3. Sound tubes

Sound tubes are a great way to turn regular items around the house into fun, sensory activities. Healthline recommends you save up your empty paper towel or toilet paper rolls, and then find items from around the house, like uncooked rice, cereal, beads, glitter, or anything else that makes a fun noise. Pour some of the various items into the tubes and tape them shut. Your toddler will love shaking and playing with the various sound tubes while guessing which items are in each one. The best part of these is that you can continually create new sound tubes using different items you already have in your house.

4. Flour tray

If you’re not afraid of a bit of mess or your weather is nice and you want to do some playtime outside, grab a tray and pour flour on it. Your toddler will delight in making all sorts of designs in the flour, from writing letters and numbers to simply making finger “paintings” in the flour. You can also add small toys, trucks or cars, or even figurines to play with the flour. Hands On As We Grow has a lot of fun and different ideas for parents who want to make a flour sensory tray.

As you can see, sensory play just requires a little bit of imagination to create endless hours of fun, exploration, and learning for your toddler. Of course, it’s important to supervise your youngster if they tend to put things in their mouth or they’re using items that may be a choking hazard in your sensory activities. Allowing children to use their senses while playing really helps them as they get ready to head to preschool. These are just a few ideas of different sensory activities you can create using items you already have in your home.

Editors' Recommendations

Kelli Catana
Kelli is a freelance writer who has covered the world of entertainment, pop culture, parenting, and lifestyle for various…
The best Halloween costumes for a family of 4 that are simple to find or create
Halloween themes for your crew of four
Family of four dressed in Halloween costumes.

Dressing up for Halloween as a family is a bonding experience your kids will remember forever. Plus, it might get you guys the good candy for being the cutest family out trick-or-treating. Whether you have little ones or older kids, there are a variety of group costume ideas to get the whole family in the spooky spirit. Check out some of the best Halloween costumes for a family of four that will make your crew the neighborhood celebrities on All Hallows' Eve.

Dress up as your favorite animated or movie family
Use being a family of four to your advantage by looking up families that feature four or more members, then each family member could pick their favorite character and bring the beloved show or movie to life. Let the little kids pick out their favorite show or see if the parents want to throw it back to a movie they grew up with.
Iconic animated families to recreate

Read more
Create the ultimate goodie bags for your toddler’s birthday party
Need goodie bags for your toddler's birthday party? Try these awesome ideas
Three kids celebrating a birthday party

Hosting a birthday party for your toddler is a fun way to celebrate the milestone of them getting older. Getting together with your closest family and friends is fun, but the preparations for the party can also be stressful. Parents know that planning for and buying the perfect toddler birthday goodie bags is almost as important as planning the party! The ritual of handing out toddler birthday goodie bags at the end of the birthday party isn't necessary, but many parents like to give their party guests something small to go home with as a token of their appreciation. Goodie bags are like the icing on the cake and kids love to see what’s inside. Usually, they can’t wait until they get to the car to take a peek.

Parents walk a fine line between filling goodie bags with items toddlers enjoy and parents will appreciate while keeping the price tag budget-friendly. Here are some tricks and ideas for toddler birthday goodie bag ideas that are fun, useful, and low-stress for you.

Read more
The best party games for your sports-loving kids
These best party games score big with sports lovers
Kids running with each other at a party.

Got a sport-loving kid with a birthday coming up? Hosting a sports themed birthday party for your kiddo is a super easy way to score a touchdown. Whether you've got a kickball fanatic or a budding soccer star on your hands, choosing the birthday party theme for your sports fan is a lot easier than scoring in a shootout. There are tons of sports party games that are a slam dunk.  You don't have to stick to one sport either when choosing the activities for your little one's big day. From soccer-themed games to kickball games to an Olympic theme, there are a ton of options for all your guests whether you are hosting indoors or out. Now, let's hear the starting lineup for the best party games.
Sports party kickoff
Before we get to the best sports party games to knock it out of the park to celebrate your child's special day, let's not forget about the warmup. It's a big part of any sport as all athletes know. So, a fun way to get all the kids excited about a sports-themed birthday party is to kick it off with a warmup.

Have an adult dress up as the coach and lead the kids in some useful and silly stretches. Play upbeat music to pump them up. The theme from Rocky is a timeless choice. Then, have the coach give the partygoers tips for the games ahead before concluding with an introduction with a cheer for the birthday guy or gal.

Read more