5 Sensory Activities for First Graders
We hear a lot about sensory play for babies and toddlers, but sensory activities are a great way for first graders to learn about and explore their environment. These activities can be done in a classroom setting or at home, and will promote learning and creativity.
Just because a child reaches elementary school age doesn’t mean they won’t benefit from opportunities to play and explore through their senses.
What is sensory play?
Simply put, sensory play can be anything that gives children the chance to learn more about the world around them through sight, hearing, touch, taste, and smell.
Why is sensory play important for children?
Children of all ages benefit from the exploration of sensory materials that support all areas of development including language, literacy, social, early math, motor skills, and creativity. Sensory play is open-ended and allows the child to imagine freely, directing their own play and allowing for brain development through focused and varied sensory input.
Some of the activities include making a sensory bin, painting with ice, creating a hopscotch game with different textures, and more!
Sensory integration is the ability to take in information through the senses of touch, smell, taste, vision, hearing, and movement, and to combine the resulting perceptions with prior information, memories and knowledge already stored in the brain. In other words, children learn by exploring and discovering using their five senses and movement. You don’t need flashcards or expensive products to teach your child through playful activities. [Susan Case from Kindergarten & Preschool for Parents & Teachers]
What is sensory processing?
Sensory processing is the way the nervous system receives, organizes, and responds to information from the environment. It involves all of the senses: touch, smell, taste, sight, movement, and hearing.
For some children, sensory processing is a problem. They may be oversensitive to certain stimuli or undersensitive to others. This can make it difficult for them to function in everyday life.
There are many ways to help children with sensory processing issues. One is through sensory activities. These activities can help kids learn to process information more effectively and make it easier for them to cope with everyday life.
Sensory Activities for First Graders
1. Sight words in sensory bins
Sight words are an important part of first grade curriculum. By playing with sight words in a sensory bin, first graders can learn to recognize them quickly and easily.
To make a sight word sensory bin, simply gather a container, some rice or beans, and some small objects that represent each letter of the alphabet. Write the sight words on cards and place them around the bin. Invite your child to find the letters and spell out the words. As an added challenge, see if they can find all the words that start with a certain letter.
2. Nature sensory exploration and suncatchers
As the weather gets warmer, take advantage of the great outdoors and incorporate nature into your sensory activities!
Collect leaves, flowers, and other natural materials on a nature walk, and use them to create beautiful suncatchers. Your child will love exploring the different colors, textures, and shapes of the items you find, and you’ll have some lovely decorations for your windows when you’re finished!
3. Lego water play
Lego water play becomes an engaging, simple sensory activity. Suddenly, the Legos that had been causing so much trouble only minutes before were fun again as they went into a sink full of bubbles!
4. Hopscotch with a sensory twist
Creating a hopscotch game with different textures is a great way to get kids moving and exploring their environment. Use different materials like sandpaper, foam, carpet, or even different fabrics to create a fun and tactile experience for your child.
5. Yummy sensory learning
Making applesauce is a delicious and easy way to engage your child’s senses. The process of cooking the apples down into sauce engages their sense of smell, while the act of mashing the apples with a potato masher or similar tool engages their sense of touch. The finished product can be enjoyed by sight and taste, making it a well-rounded sensory experience!
If you want to add an extra layer of fun, try adding different spices or other ingredients to the applesauce while it’s cooking. This can help engage your child’s sense of smell even further, and they’ll be excited to see (and taste) the results of their experimentation!
More Sensory Play Ideas
- Make smelling jars to guess different herbs and spices.
- Scented playdough is a winning activity for any age.
- Do a taste test and practice describing words.
- Set up an ‘ice cream shop’ (with clean snow in the winter).
- Plant an indoor or outdoor garden.
- Writing practice in shaving cream, rice, or sand.
- Learn about the rainforest and make rain sticks.
- Making homemade instruments like oatmeal container drums and rubber band guitars.
Explore and Discover Using the Six Senses
Young children are eager learners, but due to their limited language they learn more from hands-on experiences. Of course, we know they explore by putting things into their mouth. But they also love feeling interesting textures, smelling different scents, hearing rhythmic/rhyming music and words, seeing/observing everything around them, and moving/interacting in their fascinating world.
Yes, I know. There are five senses, you’re thinking. You are right! But I like to include movement as a sense.
Here are some examples of Six Senses:
- Let children taste different items that are salty (pretzels), sour (lemons, pickles), sweet (candy) and bitter (olives). Food has an amazing array of tastes, textures and aromas.
- Your child will love to see what happens when they mix paint, melt colored ice cubes (food coloring), play with shaving cream, or use chalk, crayons and markers. Shaving cream also helps erase crayon marks and gets rid of germs.
- Encourage your child to be still and hear different sounds such as the wind, soft music, bells, humming, laughing, sneezing, whistling, ice cubes melting, ocean waves, a rock thrown in water, rain, eating an apple, crying, breathing, birds chirping and anything else imaginable. Or give them pots and a wooden spoon or make simple instruments and they can entertain themselves for long periods.
- Children love to feel objects such as using Playdough and finger paint. If you want your child to enjoy books, start with ones that have interesting things to touch, pull, push (sound buttons), pop-up or manipulate in some manner.
- Children enjoy the sense of smell. Put different scents into baggies or jars and enjoy watching them experience scents and odors. They could smell vanilla extract, perfumes, flowers, onions, lavender, vinegar (pickles) and scented oils. Put scents in playdough for extra enjoyment. Take a walk and discover the world as they see, hear, feel, and smell it.
- Children explore and feel through their body’s movements, spatial awareness and gravity. Kinesthetic learners need to MOVE, even while learning letters. The sense of kinesthetics involves body awareness, motion, balance, strength, and coordination so we can navigate through our world.
[Susan Case from Kindergarten & Preschool for Parents & Teachers]
Sometimes we only hear about sensory activities in the younger years, but first graders are certainly still learning a ton about their world through their senses. These are just a few ideas of sensory-rich activities that you can do with your first grader at home. With a little creativity, you can promote learning and exploration in a fun and engaging way.
Give one of these fun sensory activities a try with your six-year-old!
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