by Noor Hafeez, UIC Class of 2020, Spring Intern
At Tuesday’s Child, many things in the classroom are sensory, imaginative, and creative activities. Sensory activities are activities that incorporate the senses (visual, touch, taste, smell, listening). They are particularly important for children because sensory stimulation is essential to brain development. Senses start to develop during the critical period of a child’s life, which is during the early postnatal years (Hensch, 2005).
Have you ever noticed your child becoming calmer after taking a bath or jumping and crashing into a bed? Sensory activities have the ability to calm an angry or agitated child, and once calm, allow them to talk about their emotions. Not only do these then become teachable moments, but sensory activities also support visual, spatial, linguistic, and fine motor skills.
These types of activities are beneficial for all children, but especially those with Autism and Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD) (Pfeiffer, Koenig, Kinnealey, Sheppard, & Henderson, 2011).
To mirror the experience of Tuesday’s Child, there are several sensory activities that your child can do right at home—with items you likely already have!
Touch & Listening Activity
- Macaroni/pasta (uncooked)
- A tub/large bowl
- Measuring cups and spoons
- Bottles of different sizes, with caps
For this activity, grab a tub or large bowl for the pasta. Once the pasta has been set out, get some cups or spoons to scoop out the pasta, and a few bottles for them to pour the pasta in. Your child will love feeling the texture of the pasta, scooping them into the bottles, and pouring it back out, and doing it all over again! Afterwards, tightly seal the caps of the bottles and wa-la – you now have maracas!
Brown Sugar Sandcastles
Touch & Tasting Activity
- Brown sugar
- Large baking sheet/baking tray
- Measuring cups
This activity brings all the fun from the beach home, and it’s edible! Grab a large baking sheet or baking tray and with some measuring cups as shovels, let your child scoop some brown sugar onto the sheet. See what cool creations they come up with!
- Paint (Preferably white)
- 4 – 5 Spices
- Paintbrushes (or fingers!)
- 4 – 5 cups
This activity is sure to get everyone asking “what’s that smell?” For this activity grab 4-5 cups, depending on how many spices you’ll be using. For a brightly colored palette, pick spices in contrasting colors, and mix the spices along with a squirt of paint into the cups. Grab a sheet of paper and some paintbrushes and see what scented paintings your child creates!
Where’s Spot? A Hide-And-Seek Game
- Stuffed Animal (This example uses a dog)
Inspired by the book “Where’s Spot?,” this activity is a version of hide-and-seek that will get your child to use their visual skills to identify objects and learn directional words (under, behind, inside, etc.). Hide the chosen stuffed animal, and then ask your child questions like:
- Is he inside the box?
- Is he behind the curtain?
- Is he under the chair?
- There he is, you found him!
This is an activity your child will want to do again and again!
What Makes A Sound?
Touch + Sound Activity
Items Needed (Suggestions):
- Water in a bottle
- Shelled nuts
- Paper (to crumple)
Atop a counter or table, lay various items and invite your child to come and explore the items. For this activity, play a guessing game, and ask what kind of sounds they think each item will make. Then, let them pick up each object and hear for themselves the differences in sounds for each item!
UIC Class of 2020
Hensch, T. K. (2005). Critical period plasticity in local cortical circuits. Nature Reviews Neuroscience, 6(11), 877–888. doi: 10.1038/nrn1787
Pfeiffer, B. A., Koenig, K., Kinnealey, M., Sheppard, M., & Henderson, L. (2011). Effectiveness of Sensory Integration Interventions in Children With Autism Spectrum Disorders: A Pilot Study. American Journal of Occupational Therapy, 65(1), 76–85. doi: 10.5014/ajot.2011.09205