With the holidays underway, fun is in the air, the temperature is decreasing, and the days are getting shorter. One way to help your kids connect with nature and get them into the spirit of the season is to do some holiday themed sensory activities.
Sensory play is an important part of child development. From babies putting everything in their mouths to toddlers opening cupboards and making messes, children learn by exploring the sights, sounds, smells, tastes, and textures of the world around them. Learning what is hot and cold, rough and smooth, squishy and hard, can help build vocabulary and develop fine motor skills. Fun experiences in a controlled environment help children learn to process sensory input so they are less likely to be overwhelmed when they’re in crowded or noisy places. This is particularly important for children with sensory integration issues.
So how can you incorporate sensory play into your activities with your child this fall? Here are some fun, affordable ideas that the whole family is sure to enjoy.
Eight great holiday themed sensory activities:
Decorate your home: One great activity to do with your children is decorating your home. With Christmas or any holiday upon us, placing decorations around your home can help to set the proper mood for this time of year. In order to give your decorating activity a sensory component, make sure your decorations have different textures for your children to experience. Consider getting some decorations that make noise, move, or involve some crafting, as they’ll encourage your little one to actively participate in the decorating, and give them a chance to ‘interact’ more with your decor.
Make homemade gifts: Helping your child make their own holiday gifts can be a lot of fun. There are a plethora of items that can be used for gifting and crafting. Adding finishing touches like paint, glitter, buttons, and gluing felt are all things your kids can do to help keep them involved in making their holiday gifts. Gifting loved ones with items they have made will give them a sense of accomplishment because they put work into it.
Write and perform a play: Sit down with your kids and help them draft up their very own play. Once the play is written and they have a cast composed of their friends, help them make simple costumes and create their set and ‘stage’ complete with props and twinkle lights. Since the weather is so nice this time of year, think about having the play outside. Help your kiddos rehearse and set up chairs for their audience on the night of the show. Have parents and friends over to watch, complete with an ‘after party’ celebration following the show.
Plant a winter garden: Starting a garden at this point in the year can be a little tricky. Make sure to research what plants are hardy enough to survive the winter temperatures in your particular location. Lettuce, carrots, radishes, garlic, and onions are all options for a winter vegetable garden. Seeds should be started indoors and transplanted outdoors. Think about investing in some type of heat-conserving covers for your plants, which can keep plants at a temperature 5 to 10 degrees above the temperature outside. A great way for your kids to get hands-on when starting the garden is to have them make their own mulch for the plants.
Make a fall-themed sensory bin: Create your very own fall-themed sensory bin. Sensory bins are really easy to make. All you need is a container and a filler. Make sure your container is large enough for your kids to explore in without making a mess, or lay a plastic tarp under the bin to keep the mess under control. A fall-themed bin can simply be a plastic fall-colored bin. After deciding on your bin, pick out a filler. It can be anything from unpopped popcorn, to oatmeal, sunflower seeds, and dry rice. All are acceptable filler items for your bin. Once you pick your filler, consider adding farm animals, fallen leaves, fall-colored pom poms, and various scoops and spoons for digging and exploring.
Go on a nature walk: Going for a walk may seem like a simple activity, but it gives your kids a chance to combine most of their senses at the same time while also providing them with some exercise. They’ll be able to feel the temperature shift from summer to fall in the air, hear leaves crunching and crackling under their feet, see the leaves that haven’t fallen yet change color, and smell the fall air. We recommend Bluebonnet Swamp Nature Center for a Baton Rouge trail.
Try geocaching. For older children, you can add a sense of excitement to your walk by going geocaching. Working to find the caches will help your kids focus more on their surroundings and learn about coordinates and directions. Chances are they’ll be getting more hands-on with nature than they would have otherwise.
Earn merit badges. Whether you do it as part of a formal scouting program or invent your own, you can award your kids merit badges for trying new foods, performing CPR on dolls or stuffed animals, cooking something, building a tower, and lots of other tactile activities.
To get your kids into the spirit of the season, change up their at-home activities to have a holiday theme. Different seasonal activities can usually be tailored to have more of a sensory aspect. These activities help kids work on their fine and gross motor skills, communication and linguistic skills, and they improve their understanding of their own senses. These holiday themed sensory activities will get your little ones ready for the season ahead, and keep them having fun and learning at the same time.