Sensory play encourages cognitive and motor development, and the holidays are the perfect time to engage in sensory-based activities that the whole family can enjoy. It's crucial to encourage this type of play if you have children with issues related to ADHD, Sensory Processing Disorder, and Asperger Syndrome. This season, we’re expanding on a previous post with even more ideas to keep kids busy and learning this holiday season. Find 5 holiday inspired sensory activities below!
Sensory Activities for the Holidays
Baking is the easiest way to engage in a sensory based activity with your children during the holidays. From kneading cookie dough to measuring, sifting, and pouring ingredients, getting your kids involved in the kitchen offers a tactile experience with the reward of a treat once they’ve completed the task. Allowing kids to complete “heavy work” like pouring and kneading offers the proprioceptive input they need to organize their senses. Remove all other distractions except for some soft holiday music, and let your kids get messy in the kitchen. Decorating treats allows kids to tap into their creativity as well. Need some all-natural, gluten-free toppings for those cookies and other treats? Check out The Natural Candy Store! Encourage your children to stick around for cleanup time to foster pride and responsibility in their workspace.
2. Making Sensory Bins
Sensory bins are a great way to encourage sensory learning throughout the year, but they can be especially fun during the holidays! Fill a plastic bin about a third of the way with cotton balls to simulate snow. (If you'd rather use something your child can scoop, consider using dry white navy beans instead of cotton.) Add small, holiday inspired items like non-breakable ornaments, holiday confetti, small pine cones, mini all-natural candy canes, jingle bells, etc. Have your child explore the bin and then, with eyes closed, describe what they find. This activity is a fun way to promote language and sensory-motor development.
Making holiday decorations and other crafts with your children can be fun for the whole family while encouraging the development of fine motor skills. Try stringing beads or popcorn for a great fine motor workout. Glue pipe cleaners, glitter, and fuzzy pompoms to paper trees cut from green construction paper. With supervision, allow young children to use scissors to strengthen small hands which will help make handwriting easier. Wrap gifts in plain paper and allow children to decorate the packages for more fine motor practice.
4. Making music
Children with neuro-developmental disorders like ADHD and SPD often have rhythm and timing issues and can benefit greatly from making music. Grab some pots and spoons from the kitchen, jingle bells, home-made rattles made with dry beans, or other “musical instruments.” Have your children practice their percussion skills while listening to their favorite holiday tunes. Encourage them stay on the beat with their instruments while they sing for a multi-sensory experience that promotes cognitive development. Don’t have an instrument? No problem! Have children clap their hands or stomp their feet to the beat. For children who are sound-sensitive, find quieter instruments or use hands to tap on pots instead of spoons.
5. Using Your Imagination
It’s no secret that kids with neuro-developmental disorders often have trouble using their imaginations and engaging in pretend play. Imaginative play isn’t just fun, it’s also an important developmental stage. If your child struggles to use his or her imagination through pretend play, consider encouraging imaginative scenarios with your child this holiday season. For example, tell your child you’re taking an imaginary trip to the North Pole. Grab blankets and clothes pins and build a fort to keep warm throughout your journey. Ask your child what sights, smells, and people he or she "sees" along the way. Take the lead during play time if your child struggles to tap into his or her creativity. It may take several tries before your child is comfortable with pretend play, but the effort is worth it. To learn more about the crucial role of pretend play in cognitive development, read this article from Psychology Today.