Sensory activities for toddlers give young children the chance to use their senses to explore things around them, use their imagination and can even help them to start thinking scientifically too, as they begin to discover how things work.

Although sensory activities are often thought of as being messy there are plenty of options which don’t involve being untidy, although getting messy every now and then is all part of the learning process, so it is important to allow this to happen in a controlled way sometimes.

Here are some of our favourite sensory activities for toddlers which you can introduce to the children in your care and have fun with whether you are a parent or a nanny.

Sensory trays

Sensory trays are essentially trays which are filled with materials that your toddler can explore with their hands and get used to different textures.

Flour is a good place to start as this is something that you are quite likely to have in the house anyway and children can draw pictures using their fingers or create handprints if they are a bit younger. Once they have become used to playing with flour you could try adding water and letting them stir this into a type of dough with a spoon, so they can learn how materials can come together.

Coloured sand is another great option for a sensory tray as your toddler can have fun burying and finding small toys or other items within the grains. You could even collect shells and pretty pebbles on a trip to the beach and create a seaside themed tray for them to play with.

Make some music

Musical instruments offer a great way for toddlers to explore different sounds and these can be easily made from things that you have around the house.

For example, pots and pans can be used to create drumkits, filling bottles with rice, beads, or other small items make great shakers and clapping hands along with rhymes or songs is a fantastic way to help toddlers to learn about melodies and rhythms.

Another creative way to make drums is to stretch balloons over the top of cans and secure these with rubber bands. These are certainly a less noisy option than using pots and pans and provide your toddler with the option to make something too.

Sensory jars

Sensory jars offer great visual stimulation for toddlers and are very easy to make. Simply half fill a jar with water and add soap, food colouring and glitter to make it look fun and interesting. Your toddler will then love to turn it and shake it to create bubbles and watch everything within the sensory jar move around.

Putting coloured loom bands into a jar of water also creates a good effect as they float around when the jar is moved. In fact, you can be creative and find a whole range of different things which will work well in a sensory jar, so you and your toddler can let your imaginations go wild.

Smelling bottles

It can be difficult to think of a sensory activity for toddlers which stimulates their sense of smell but smelling bottles allow you to do this very easily and are simple to make too.

To create smelling bottles, you will need small glass bottles or empty spice jars, cotton wool balls, and a variety of essences which your toddler can learn to identify. Vanilla, mint and lavender work well for this.

Then all you need to do is pop a cotton wool ball into each bottle and add a few drops of essence, you will then find that the smell will be present when your toddler smells the bottle. You can then discuss the type of smell with them and try to encourage them to describe what it is like e.g. sweet, strong, nice or nasty.

By trying out these different sensory activities for toddlers as a nanny or a parent, you can be sure that you are working to stimulate all their senses and giving them the chance to be creative and have fun exploring new things too.