Activities to Help Develop Children’s Sensory & Motor Skills

5 min
Jan 27, 2020

All children develop their sensory skills and motor skills at different rates and at slightly different times, which is why BrightPath’s daycare curriculum engages children in a wide variety of age-appropriate sensory activities. But when young children struggle to acquire these skills, they can have trouble with key tasks like grasping utensils, moving objects with their fingertips, or just figuring out exactly where their bodies are in relation to everything around them! If your child’s sensory and motor skills need a little extra help, we have a few fun activities for you to practice with them. But first, let’s look at what is meant by sensory skills and motor skills.

Motor skills are the movements and actions of the muscles. Typically, they are categorized into two groups: Gross motor skills which require the use of large muscle groups to perform tasks like walking, balancing, and crawling, and Fine motor skills which utilize small muscle groups to facilitate holding a pencil or picking up something.

Sensory skills are those such as vision, hearing, touch, smell, taste, vestibular (for balance and head position in space), and proprioception (information from the muscles and joints). They are responsible for receiving information.

Gross Motor Skills

Our daycares offer children many inter-curricular activities such as Music, Dance & Yoga to support children in developing and refining their gross motor skills. Here are some fun ideas for developing gross motor skills at home:

Paper plate skate (indoor activity) – It’s a very simple, but very enjoyable activity and you can do this with either two or four paper plates.

Stand on two paper plates and simply skate across the floor!

If using four paper plates, pretend to be an animal, put one plate under each hand and one under each foot and move like a tiger (or dog, or cat etc!).

The child can also decorate or colour their plates if they wish.

There is nothing more children like than to help with chores! At the same time, they can also be developing their motor skills.

Some activities to consider:

  • Shovelling snow
  • Raking leaves
  • Collect broken sticks and branches in the yard and place them in a pile ready for use in the firepit later.
  • Asking your child to help you with cleaning and rearranging all of the tins in a kitchen cupboard.

Sensory Skills

While daycares preschools and other childcare providers often offer children with sensory activities throughout the day, involving your child in day to day family life, giving them specific responsibilities and ensuring they have time and opportunities to practice and refine their skills in a fun and engaging manner, are some of the best ways to make sure that your child’s sensory and motor skills are on track!

A sensory activity is anything that involves the 5 senses (taste, touch, smell, hearing, sight). Sensory activities for children can be messy, engaging, fun, and easy to put together!

Here are some fun motor activities that kids are sure to enjoy:

Setting up a Rice Bin!

You will need:

  • A plastic storage tub
  • Some coloured rice
  • Cookie-cutter shapes
  • A funnel or two
  • Some pots and some spoons/scoops etc
  • You can also add in some vanilla drops to make it smell nice!

You can encourage your child to use the scoops to fill the cookie-cutter shapes with rice and then carefully level off the surface, pour the rice through a funnel into a bowl, transfer the rice from one shape to another and so on.

Author: Debbie Couldrey – Education Coach

Pipe Cleaners & Pasta

Pipe cleaners can be used to thread through a colander and pasta can be threaded to make a necklace or bracelet is always something the children love to do!

Oil & Water Sensory Bags

You will need:

  • A freezer bag – any size, large or small
  • Baby oil
  • Water
  • Food colouring
  • Duct tape

Put about a quarter of a cup of oil in the bag, add some water, food colouring and then seal up. Leave a little bit of air in but not too much to help avoid the bag popping. For added interest, you may also want to add things to the bag like leaves or small flowers.

One simple idea is to use permanent markers to draw a smiley face on the bag – everything except the eyes and put googly eyes inside the bag. The children can then push the googly eyes into position to make a happy smiley face!

At home, the kitchen is a great place to work on sensory activities with your child. Baking is a lovely activity you can do together. It involves pouring, spooning, measuring, mixing and, of course, taste testing!

Here is a simple recipe for making Gingerbread Cookies. It involves all five senses, taste, touch, smell, hearing and sight!

You will need:

  • 3 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 tsp salt
  • 1 1/2 tsp ginger
  • 1 1/2 tsp cloves
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 2 Tbsp cocoa powder
  • 1 Tbsp cinnamon
  • 1 cup butter
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 cup molasses

To make the cookies:

  1. Sift the flour, salt, ginger, cloves, baking soda, cocoa powder, and cinnamon into a bowl and mix together. Have your child smell each ingredient individually (be prepared for some sneezing!) as it goes in.
  2. In a separate bowl, beat softened butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the egg and molasses. Use mild molasses if possible. At this point, discuss with your child what the mixture looks like. Smell and texture are important components to consider too!
  3. Add half of the dry mixture and beat until combined. Then, add the other half of the dry mixture. This is a very thick dough mixture, so you may need to use a heavy-duty mixer. If safe to do so, let your child turn the mixer on and off.
  4. Let your child scoop out the mixture and place it on a suitable tray. Chill the cookie dough for 2 hours.
  5. On a lightly floured board, roll out the cookie dough to ¼ inch thick. Use cookie cutters to cut out the dough. If you have a selection, let your child pick the shapes and talk about each one as you use it. Let your child press each one out.
  6. Place the cookies directly onto a baking tray. Bake at 350 degrees for 7-8 minutes. Small cookies will need much less baking time than larger cookies. Talk about the smell of the cookies as they bake and the colour of the cookie, before and after baking.

After the cookies have cooled, decorate as desired. Eat and enjoy – don’t forget to talk to your child about how they taste and the texture!