Toddlers always seem to be on the move, but with the influx of electronics, a lot more time is spent watching television, staring at a computer screen, or fiddling with a video game controller. These activities sharpen only 2 of the 5 senses: sight and sound. Even touch is limited because toddlers tend to become preoccupied and stop moving when something virtual catches their eye.
To keep your toddler’s body and mind sharp, here are IKO Community Management’s favorite sensory activities for this fall:
Play with the leaves. Hearing the crunch after stepping on a cracked leaf is a sound that's undoubtedly satisfying. To get your child involved in more than just jumping into a pile leaves (which can increase vestibular input due to the specific motion), ask your toddler to help you rake the leaves with a small rake. This chore requires heavier body work, which provides proprioceptive input to their muscles and joints, increasing body awareness and building strength.
Carve a pumpkin with parental supervision. With Halloween creeping up slowly, it's time to hit the pumpkin patch for that perfect fall decor. Carving a small pumpkin will facilitate your child’s fine motor skills. This tactile activity also provides a healthy treat: Pumpkin seeds! Ask your child to sniff some seasonings and dips, such as cinnamon, nutmeg, salt, butter, and honey, to interact with their nasal passages.
Go outside. The crisp air might be a little chilly, so bundle your toddler up and take them on a bike ride through the neighborhood. Your child will use bilateral movement in their muscles and rely on balance when peddling. If riding a bike isn't your child’s exercise of choice, pull a wagon, push the stroller, ride a manual (not motorized) scooter, or take a walk with the dog. Being outside provides your kid with more sensory action than TV, video games, or the computer because it works all senses.
Get artsy with finger painting or drawing with chalk in the driveway or on the sidewalk. These crafts provide more stimulation than regular pencil drawing because it involves tactile input other than crayon to paper. Just be on standby with a towel because it'll get a little messy!
Create a sensory spot at home. The best part about this area is that it can be adapted and themed to your child. Place a bean bag or rocking chair in a well-lit room. Then, add books, games, and toys to stimulate your child. Ditch the electronics this fall, and incorporate Halloween books, fun pumpkin-themed coloring pages, and a plush stuffed animal that's holiday-ready.
To keep your child’s fine motor skills, bilateral movement, and tactile, vestibular and proprioceptive inputs strong, do at least one of these fall activities per week. Go outside to play with (or rake) the leaves, carve a pumpkin for your front porch, or go on an exercise playdate. If you choose to stay inside, take your toddler to a sensory spot for some quality quiet time where they can get creative, read, or cuddle with their favorite toy.
From all of us at IKO Community Management, have a great fall!