Some days, going outdoors isn't really an option. Whether there are sickies in your house, the weather is crummy, or you just don't feel like putting on pants (hey girl, I feel you!), sometimes you need to keep those kiddos entertained indoors. And while I am the first to admit that I use my TV pretty often, I also like to have Caleb do engaging activities that hold his interest for a little longer than 5 minutes.
Sensory play is anything that engages your child's senses. Sensory play is important in helping your child explore the world. It also helps them to naturally use scientific processes, problem solve, and develop skills such as fine motor skills and hand-eye coordination. PBS Parents has a really informative article on why sensory play is so important.
Most of these activities require little prep, and I actually keep everything stored in a box and just pull it out a couple times a week. Once you have all the tools it's actually fairly easy to incorporate these activities into playtime a couple times a week.
If you check on Pinterest, there are hundreds of activities you could do with your little one. I'm only focusing on five that are tried and true in our house..
Sensory Rice Box
I bought an underbed storage box, filled it with rice, and bought a couple of tools so he could play. The same tools are actually used for multiple activities. There are: measuring spoons, fine motor skills tool set, plastic tongs, and little construction trucks. He's snuck a few other toys in there over the months but those are generally the tools he uses in there. I know many people do this using beans, but when we started doing it, Caleb was still pretty small and putting everything in his mouth. Even if uncooked rice would give him a tummy ache, it wasn't a choking hazard, whereas a dry bean could be.
Level of ease: Very easy once you have the tools, but cleanup can be a nightmare if you don't prep for it. Pro tip: use a fitted sheet with the ends propped up on the sides to keep the rice contained and make for easy cleanup!
We did this just yesterday, with zero prep or advance thought. I realized I was out of paper towels and decided to do something with the roll since I had a cranky toddler. I cut the roll in half, and covered one end of each with paper. I had him fill them about halfway. We used garbanzos and couscous because that's what we had on hand, but you can use rice, pasta, any kind of dry bean, cheerios, etc. With the garbanzos, I also practiced counting with him. Once they were filled, we covered the other end and had a dance party! A friend also reminded me that this can be down its water bottles, which probably makes it quite a bit easier!
Level of ease: Easy. But not very independent. If you're looking for something to keep them busy without you having to work, this isn't the activity for you. lol
Pom poms keep Caleb entertained for over an hour. There are so many things you can do with them: counting, color sorting, size sorting. He likes to transfer them from one place to another. A lot of times I will pour them all into a big mixing bowl and give him the muffin tin and his fine motor tool set and let him do as he pleases. This day I just put some on the floor and some in the muffin tin and let him use the tools to move them around as he pleased.
Level of ease: SUPER. Literally just dump everything and let them go.
Strainer & Pipe Cleaners
This is another super easy activity. The strainer is in my kitchen, so I just thread a few pipe cleaners through the holes and have him do the same. Sometimes he does it, sometimes the game is pulling them all out, but it keeps him busy for a little bit.
Level of ease: Eh. Doesn't keep him busy for a super long time, and threading those pipe cleaners can be a pain in the ass.
No Mess Painting
I fill Ziploc baggies with some paint, tape it down to chart paper, and put the chart paper on the window. Taping the baggies down keeps them in place, and I love the effect of the light coming through the paint, which is why I attach it to the window.
Level of ease: Semi-easy. Requires a little bit of prep with the taping and such, but I typically leave this up for days.
There you have it! Five sensory ideas that will keep your kids busy for a good amount of time! Incorporate them as you feel your child needs it - one a day, a couple a week, once a week. Below is a photo of how I store the tools, pom poms, and rice. I usually have the pipe cleaners in there too, not sure where they are at the moment. haha
What other fun activities do you do with your kids around the house? I'd love to hear about them! Drop them in the comments below!