Art and Sensory Experiences for Infants and Toddlers
Young children need to discover that they can influence the people and things around them. When presenting a sensory experience for infants and toddlers, it can be a challenge. Any material presented will likely be mouthed, eaten, pushed, pulled, and completely explored to its limit. Spend time carefully selecting or developing materials that are safe and explorable.
Remember, an important part of any experience for a young child is having a familiar caregiver to share in their needs and discoveries. Infants use their sense of sight, smell, taste, hearing and touch to help understand the world around them. When babies use their senses to explore, they form strong bonds with their caregivers and discover pathways to all areas of growth and learning.
The following are sensory explorations to try with infants and toddlers.
Slip a fuzzy sock over baby’s bottle or sippy cup.
Use empty coffee cans as drums to beat out a rhythm.
Gently play pull and tug with a pretty scarf.
Cover an old phone book with tape and then with contact paper. Let babies crawl/climb over it.
While baby is watching, hide a small toy inside a box with a cover. Say, “Where’s the ________?” and be delighted when the child finds the toy. You may need to help a little at first.
Cover 2-3 paper towel tubes with contact paper. Hand one to baby just beyond her reach, so she grasps it. Hand her another tube the same way. Show her how to gently tap the two tubes together. Gently tap on different body parts and sing...”This is Lacey’s _________(arm, tummy, toe).”
Gently blow bubbles around baby.
Tie lengths of ribbon onto a clothes hanger. Hang in front of an open window and watch the ribbons dance.
Finger paint with jello or cool whip on her high chair tray (place a bib/smock & shower curtain on floor under high chair).
Fill film canisters with different sounding items like rice, buttons, or paper clips. Securely tape or glue closed.
Babies enjoy the same sensory activities OVER AND OVER AGAIN!
Infant and Toddler Activities
Dump and Fill
Sensory Motor Development: Individual or Small Group, 16 to 36 months
Goals: To increase sensory motor skills; to increase cognitive development
Procedure: Put about 2 inches of rice, oatmeal, or beans in a dishpan. Add a variety of cups and spoons. If necessary, place children’s hands in the container and help them explore the medium. Encourage them to fill the container with their hands and dump them. Have toddlers dump the contents from one container into another.
Integration:This activity is a precursor to pouring liquids, but far less messy. It has the potential for simple exploration as well as for building concepts about measurement and size. With older children, I would not use edible products but with infants and toddlers, they are likely to eat whatever they use.
Social Awareness: Small Group, 16 to 36 months
Goals: To increase social awareness; to increase sensory motor skills
Materials: Plastic dishes, basin, water (lukewarm)
Procedure: Put the dishes in the basin and have toddlers explore the dishes. Encourage them to put the dishes in the basin, swish the water, and take them out. Talk about their actions. Ask them questions. Have at least two basins so that children can interact. Say “out” as you take a dish out and “in” as you put the dishes in. Physically guide the child’s hand, if needed. Say “Good, you took it out!” Fill the basin with a small amount of water and add a small amount of soap. Let children “wash” dishes. Add a sponge or handled scrubber for them to wash dishes. Have several towels available to dry dishes. Encourage appropriate actions; that is, placing cups on saucers, pouring, and stirring the cup with a spoon. Have children sort utensils in a storage unit. Encourage them to match items by color. Have children set the table and use dishes to serve snack.
Assessment: The toddler will parallel play with others while washing and drying dishes.
Integration: Toddlers enjoy pretending with familiar objects. The lukewarm water is soothing.
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