Now that school is out the TV’s sirenesque call is even louder, especially for our youngest who can fall into a trance-like state within seconds of hitting the power button. Stints at sports camp and the pool will provide some diversion, but during the in-between time, the rainy-day time, the “I’m-bored-and-you’re-making-dinner-time” the following list will come in handy. This sample of sensory fun activities is a shorthand version of the stuff I learned at the feet of preschool guru Judy Stump (of the Fayette Cooperative Preschool and Kindergarten fame), during our stint in sensory driven occupational therapy and from the pages of Carol Stock Kranowitz’s The Out-of-Sync Child Has Fun.
Even if your child is “in-sync” they can still have a ball with some of these fun non-screen-time activities. Besides it will make you one of the coolest moms on the block. I know. I may be known as the TV-Nazi-mom but when it comes to fun games and equipment my kids can stand proud!
Shaving Cream Fun – lay a plastic shower curtain on the deck, patio or grass (or inside on the kitchen floor if raining) and put child in bathing suit. Then spray shaving cream on mat and squish and swirl and swim in it.
Shaving Cream Fun II – Fill empty ice-cube trays with water and put a different color of food coloring into each compartment. Then cover table with plastic tablecloth (we use a child’s height plastic IKEA table which doesn’t need to be covered) and squirt shaving cream all over table. Set ice cube trays on table and hand out turkey basters or eye droppers and see what designs can be made in the shaving cream with the colored water.
Shaving Cream Fun III – skip the colored water and just use your fingers and hands to draw designs, words, math problems, Tic-Tac-Toe, or what-have-you in the shaving cream.
Crawling Activities (crawling calms and builds the brain) – hide various trinkets, treats, stickers, pennies on the floor around the house under opaque over-turned cups or bowls and instruct child to crawl on hands and knees to “find the treasures”.
Obstacle Course Fun - set up an obstacle course in the yard or house using pillows (“islands in a sea of crocodiles”), blankets draped over chairs (“tunnels”), stools (for perching on, stepping over, or hoping onto), small plastic cones or large cardboard blocks standing at attention (for maneuvering through, preferably on all fours) and hula-hoops laid flat on floor (for stepping into and out of speedily or picking up and twisting in). Then lead your child through the obstacle course. My own daughter likes to pretend she is a fancy dog in a dog show and I am her trainer leading her through the course.
Texture Table Fun – Obtain a large (at least 1’ x 2’ x 8” deep) Sterlite ™ Tub with a lid and fill with lentils or dried beans or rice to a depth of about four inches. Then hide small objects (preferably ones your child likes) in the “texture” and have a mini scavenger hunt. Or hand out ladles, spoons, small cups and let them pour, sift and pile to their heart’s content. Put lid on when not in use and slide under couch or bed.
Texture Tent Fun – Obtain a small child’s tent with a bottom (Toys-R-Us often has these in the shape of a Tepee, with a built in bottom) and fill the bottom with dried beans. Put child into tent with ladles, pots, pans and spoons. Fold tent in half with beans in bottom and slide behind a couch or large hutch when not in use.
Warm Soapy Water Fun – Fill a sink, small Sterlite ™ tub or large Tupperware ™ bowl with warm water and squirt in a little dish-washing liquid or other safe soap and hand the child ladles, whisks and bowls. Then watch them whip up frothy fun! Add food coloring for even more fun.
Wind Wars – hand out straws and put cotton balls (or ping pong balls on a carpeted area) on floor and have child race you or a friend by seeing who can blow their ball across the floor the fastest.
Wind Wars II – hand out straws and little cups of Jell-O, applesauce, thick smoothies, etc. and see who can suck up the contents the fastest. Note: Sucking and blowing calm and organize the brain.
Make homemade play dough, salt clay, “gack” or fill a pan with corn starch and a little water and let it ooze over their hands.
Break out games such as Twister and Hullabaloo and have fun moving your body in space.
Set up the sprinkler in the yard and set up an outside obstacle course under it.
Go to the park and swing and slide and bounce.
Buy a Slip-and-Slide!
Put the dog in the wagon and pull them around neighborhood. See if your child can pull you in wagon. Mine can!
Build a fort with the couch cushions, then crash into it and start over again.
Invest in a scooter board or two. My children’s friends gravitate to these every time they come over, even at the age of fourteen! Most won’t harm your floors and it gives the brain a whole new perspective on things while also providing vestibular input. Roll, spin, and make a “train” with others in tow.
*For a more detailed discussion of why all developing brains, neuro-typical or otherwise, need sensory work read my full-length version of this blog piece at www.motheringinthemiddle.com or buy Carol Stock Kranowitz’s book The Out-of-Sync Child Has Fun.