Natural Materials

Your toddler is naturally inquisitive, and he loves to explore. You don't have to look far to find fascinating sensory materials for him to play with. Don't be afraid to let him or her get dirty — that's half the fun!

Etch a Sketch

This activity can get a bit messy, so you may want to have your child do it outside or over a bin.

  • Put some salt or cornmeal on the tray to a depth of 1/8 inch.

  • Show your child how to use his finger to create designs. You may wish to guide your child in practicing shapes and letters, too.

  • To clear the picture, the child can either gently shake the tray or just smooth over the design with his hand.

Activity for an individual child

Age group: 18–40 months

Duration of activity: 15 minutes

A flat tray with edges, such as a cookie sheet or shoe box lid

Salt or cornmeal

Mud Paint

It's okay for young children to get dirty when they play. Why not? Just be sure to do this activity outside.

  • Either find some mud outside for your child to use, or help him make some mud by adding water to dirt. Use a spoon to whip the mud up to a creamy consistency. Add more water if needed.

  • With the spoon, place a blob of mud on the poster board for your child to finger paint with.

Activity for an individual child

Age group: 18–40 months

Duration of activity: 15 minutes

1 cup of water, or more as needed

Old spoon

Dirt

1 sheet poster board

Bare-Footin′

Not all sensory activities need to be experienced through your child's hands. Try these ideas outdoors, and have a hose handy to rinse off his feet. Check for any sharp objects or hazards in the materials before you begin.

  • Take your child outside and remove his shoes and socks.

  • Let him walk through mud, grass, and dry leaves. Talk about how each one feels.

Activity for an individual child

Age group: 18–40 months

Duration of activity: 20 minutes

Rock Painting

These make handy gifts as paperweights.

  • Take your child outside and help him find rocks for painting. Large smooth stones work best.

  • Let him paint his rocks with poster or tempera paint.

Activity for an individual child

Age group: 18–40 months

Duration of activity: 20 minutes

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