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This is Leyton’s first official week of SUMMER BREAK because after his kindergarten graduation we went to Tampa for the beach! We are trying to figure out our new routine and new rhythm for the summer, and I really want to continue working on his phonics, letter recognition, and spelling before he starts school in August. That’s my goal, and I know I’m going to fail A LOT during the summer because…. LIFE. But I want to try to incorporate some type of sensory activity or learning activity at least once a week for Leyton and Finn.
I love those little moments when my preschooler and toddler are both entertained and learning. It’s a real bonus when those times don’t take a ton of preparation, don’t include a DIY craft, and isn’t something that requires major Pinterest mom skills! Plus, I’m happy when activities don’t make a huge mess! I strive to keep things as simple as possible in everything we do. (We have enough on our plates as it is, am I right?)
Sharing my 11 favorite sensory and learning activities you can do with YOUR littles this summer below!
An Easy Learning Activity For Your Kids
I recently found Sawyer on Instagram and immediately thought it would be a great fit for Leyton this summer! Sawyer emerged as a place of discovery for kids to explore their passions. It’s something for your kids to do that is actually educational AND FUN.
Sawyer offers engaging classes, camps and activities in TONS of different categories depending on what your child’s interests are. They have everything from arts and dance to cooking and Roblox, geared towards kids of all ages! I’m talking 0 to 18 years old! I am super excited to get a class on the books for Finn… if I can get him to sit still long enough!
Leyton participated in a this class today and we LOVED it! He was sent a workbook to print beforehand and his teacher was the sweetest. He was excited to show mommy how he does “school”. Doing the Sawyer class was easy for me to setup and provided an alternative to our everyday afternoon playtime.
You can even search your location and find summer camps and classes near you! If you are feeling behind on figuring out your kid’s summer schedule, Sawyer to the rescue! Click HERE to see all of their summer camp offerings.
Our Favorite Learning + Sensory Activities For Toddlers + Preschoolers:
- Sawyer – Click HERE to check out all of their classes!
- Supplies: You can access the classes from a computer, phone, or tablet! You might need crayons or paper, a printer to print the workbook, or whatever the class requires!
- Directions: Head over to Sawyer and find a class that fits your kids and get signed up!
- Sensory Bin Fun
- Supplies: Medium-sized plastic tub, Kinetic sand (can substitute rice or dried beans), sandbox toys, measuring cups, funnels, letters, trucks or animal figurines, or anything else around the house
- Directions: Fill your tub with either kinetic sand or rice. Set out the toys and demonstrate how you can touch the sand (or rice) and fill the cups and toys with it. Yes, it’s that simple! Watch your little one discover and play and use their imagination!
- Cleaning Station
- Supplies: Water table or plastic bin, waterproof toys, dish soap, and scrubbing tools
- Directions: I love letting the boys play with a water table made for these activities, but you can easily improvise with a large shallow plastic bin either outside or with towels underneath to protect your indoor surfaces. Adding a little soap and a dish brush gives your toddler the chance to scrub their toy vehicles, animal figurines, and any other waterproof toys. Bonus points: your child and his or her toys will be squeaky clean by the end of playtime!
- Pom Pom Soup
- Supplies: Water, a large bag of pom poms
- Directions: For this fun activity, I get a big bag of pom poms and dump them into a bowl or other large container of water. Yes, that’s all there is to it! They get mushy and the texture is a little funny feeling – perfect for sensory play!
- Ice Bath
- Supplies: Ice cubes
- Directions: This one is as simple as it sounds and perfect for hot weather! Dump the ice from your ice machine into your water table, a container, or straight onto your patio and let your toddler play! This is a cold sensory activity but also teaches what ice is, how it melts, and you can watch your toddler’s face as it all magically disappears! Let them explore and have fun!
- Rainbow Spaghetti
- Supplies: Cooked and cooled spaghetti pasta, food dye, plastic bin and kitchen tools
- Directions: This one takes a little extra prep time, but it’s worth it! Cook spaghetti, add to a ziplock bag once cooled with a few drops of food dye. Mix until you get your desired color. Rinse spaghetti off to remove any extra dye (using natural food dye will allow you to omit this step.) Add to a bin and let your little one explore and even pretend to cook with kitchen utensils and plastic dishes!
- Edible Sandbox
- Supplies: Graham crackers, oats, large plastic containers, plastic shapes and sandbox toys, or measuring spoons from your kitchen! Be creative!
- Directions: Blend graham crackers and oatmeal in your food processor until they are finely ground into a sand-like consistency. Add the “sand” to a large container or kiddy pool. Give your little one plastic shapes or sandbox toys to dig and play. Plus they can eat it too!
- Painting Picasso
- Supplies: Paper, colorful paint, large ziplock plastic bag, masking or painter’s tape
- Directions: Don’t worry, this is a no-mess activity! On a sheet of paper, randomly squirt small amounts of colored paint. Carefully slide the sheet of paper into a clear ziplock plastic bag. Seal the bag! Using masking tape or painters tape, tape the bag to a floor! Let your little one stomp, slide, and poke all over the bag and see what design they create! (Perfect for babies who have just learned to crawl, too!)
- Cotton Ball Creativity
- Supplies: Cotton balls, large bowl, measuring cups, small toys, and/or painter’s tape
- Directions: For younger kids, simply filling a large bowl with cotton balls and small, (non-choking-hazard) items is enough! They love digging through the softballs to discover the hidden treasure and experiment with different textures.
- For older toddlers, it’s so easy to stretch a line of double-sided painter’s tape on the floor or a table and let them line up cotton balls on the sticky surface. (What toddler doesn’t love lining things up?) When you’re done, cleanup is so painless – just pull up the strip of tape and throw it away!
- Bean Blanket Time
- Supplies: Large blanket, dried beans, small toy cars, sand toys such as small shovels and buckets (optional)
- Directions: Dump beans onto a blanket and have fun spreading them around and pushing through them to make roads for the cars! You can also push them into a pile and bury your child’s hand or foot (they think this is hilarious!) or hide the toy cars for them to find. If you use a large enough blanket, you can easily clean up by gathering the blanket and dumping the beans back into a container!
- Professional Painters
Why I Encourage Learning and Sensory Activities For Toddlers + Preschoolers:
- Sensory play gives you a way to spend engaged one-on-one time. The bonding aspect is my favorite. There is just something about sitting and focusing on your child that really excites and ignites them to want to learn, play, and try new things together! Especially when there are other siblings around, taking time to do these “tivities”, as Leyton calls them, is something I want to always prioritize. Those little hearts need lots of nurturing!
- Sensory play builds nerve connections within the brain’s developing neural pathways. Continuously developing these pathways can be a huge help with the ability to solve complex tasks.
- Sensory activities support cognitive growth, language development, motor skills, and problem-solving skills as well as developing social interaction. All great things that help out with transitions and adjustments in preschool and social settings!
- Doing sensory activities can also aid in developing and enhancing memory! (You can also try to do a few memory games here and there to help with this as well!)
- Finally, sensory play can have a calming effect on anxious or frustrated toddlers! It is truly amazing the attitude change that can take place after having some time doing sensory activities. It helps them channel that amazing energy into learning something new!
Don’t be afraid to keep it simple and use whatever you have on hand at home! Remember, these are toddlers we’re talking about — they don’t need it to be elaborate to enjoy an activity! Tip: if I’m having a mom brain moment, I’ll even google or search on Pinterest for sensory activities for toddlers + name some items we have at home to find ideas. It’s a great idea to save this list for a rainy day so you’ll have it on hand instead of turning to the TV or devices all day. You might be surprised how excited kids get if you give them the opportunity to play and spend time with you… instead of getting on their screens.
Again, these things do NOT have to be elaborate! A few items that I like to keep on hand are beans, rice, measuring cups, little trucks or figurines, and cotton balls! How many of those do you already have in your pantry?
Also, you can make it as long and involved as you want, but if you don’t have a lot of time, keep it short and sweet.
My favorite way to do these “‘tivities” with my little guys is to turn on our favorite worship playlist, which allows us to relax and removes the need to “fill the silence”. We can just enjoy being together and wiggling to the music while we enjoy exploring new things!
One-on-one time with your kiddos is so important. These easy activities give us a chance to fill their love tanks with smiles, giggles, and our undivided attention – they’re only little for such a short time!