Summer Sensory Fun – Suggestions from a Teacher, Mom & a blogger
by Melanie Broxterman
I love summer! As a teacher, summer is my time to rejuvenate and organize myself before the next school year. It is time for me to become a student myself and learn something new. But more importantly, it is a time for me to spend time with my own two kids (ages 6 and 4). Most of the time we are busy taking advantage of programs at the library, going to a local amusement park, or just hanging out at the pool. I also like taking advantage of this time to do hands on, “dirty” activities with my kids. Some of these activities provide me with a “trial run” before I try these activities within my classroom.
Here are a few of my favorite sensory activities that are great for a rainy day or just a day to get messy!
Homemade “play dough”
Homemade play dough is my favorite messy task to do. Most of the ingredients can be found in your pantry and are “kid safe”. Making homemade play dough allows kids to help with the process from start to finish. I love to have the kids take part in the scooping and dumping…and of course the hand mixing. This recipe makes a pretty decent amount. For my own kids, I let them each make a batch and choose a color. For my classroom, I usually make a double match. We take turns adding ingredients and mixing together then break it up into smaller section to choose colors. Once mixed to the color of your liking, store in a airtight container. This play dough lasts for a very long time. My kids and I made some around the first of June and it is still like the first day we made it!
Here is what you will need to get started:
1 large bowl
Measuring cups and spoons
2 cups flour
2 cups warm water
2 Tablespoons vegetable oil
1 Tablespoon cream of tartar (optional for improved elasticity, I highly recommend adding this.)
** To add color, you can use food coloring, powder tempera paint, or drink mix (such as Kool Aid). To add scent, you can use scented oils (lavender and eucalyptus work well for calming)
(With that said, I always find myself having to add a little more flour to create the right consistency.)
Another great sensory activity that works out well is making flubber. Yes, goo, flubber or silly putty, whatever you want to call it, can be made a home. Like with playdough, this is an activity that the kids can help out with; however, you have to be a little more careful as the ingredients are NOT all “kids friendly”. When doing this in my classroom, I use recipe #2. I have the students help add the “safe” ingredients to a zip top baggie, tape the zip top shut, place that bag in a larger zip top bag, then let the kids mix it through the bags.
There are 2 recipes that I have used when creating the flubber. Full directions can be found at the links provided.
Measuring cups and spoons
½ cups of warm water
2 cups of Elmer’s glue
1-⅓ cups of warm water
3 teaspoons of borax (can be found near the detergent at the grocery store)
Food coloring or a little tempera paint
Bowl or zip top bags
1 cup of Elmer’s glue
1 cup of liquid starch (can be found near the detergent at the grocery store)
This activity is one that I recommend that you do outside. It isn’t like the previous 2 ideas that can be used again and again. Goop is a one-time use sensory activity that is messy from start to finish. It is an activity that kids can help with from start to finish. It feels really cool as the goop changes from liquid to somewhat of a solid. One other caution of goop: it is not the best to put down a sink drain. When disposing of the goop, through as much away in the trash before washing containers covered in goop.
Here is what you will need to explore goop:
2 cups baking soda
1 1/4 cups water
Follow these directions:
Mix cornstarch and baking soda and add water a little at a time. (This is important, as you may not need all of the water.) Mixture should be scoop-able with hands, but not too runny. When you pick up a scoop, it turns from liquid back into somewhat of a solid. It is really cool!!
Kiddie Car Wash
If you have a kid who loves water, but you are worried about pools, this might be an option for you. This is also a great way to water your lawn as the kids play. Now I have not made this myself, but my son’s preschool has a Kiddie Car wash (actually it’s a bike wash) and the preschool director’s husband made it. If you have a handy person in the family, this would be a great summertime activity. The Kiddie Car Wash is made using PVC pipe (and other fixings) you can buy at your local hardware store, a drill, and a little creativity. You can find basic directions here or if you are looking for a deluxe wash, check out this link. Although this project requires a lot of adult work, there are still ways that the kids can help out. Include them by having them had you pieces you need, have them draw what they want the car wash to look like, or have them choose sponges for the wash
Try one of these activities with your kids. Avoid the summer “I’m bored” attitude. There are so many skills that you can work on through these projects. Here are just a few…
- Turn taking, naming/identifying objects, asking for a turn
- Following directions, descriptive language, sequencing
- Number sense, how many, measurement
- Changes in “matter”, sink/float, making predictions
- playdough and flubber can be used to develop fine motor skills
- roll out and create letters
- hide items in the materials and have kids find the “buried treasure”
- using cookie cutters or practice scissor skills by cutting the materials
Unless stated, photos are licensed to Melanie Broxterman under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.
Melanie Broxterman is an intervention specialist in Ohio who has been working with students with mild, moderate, and intensive needs for the past 13 years. Melanie maintains two teaching licensures (General Education Grades 1-8 and Special Education Grades K-12). Melanie has taken numerous courses in Assistive Technology and currently is a graduate student at Michigan State University studying Education Technology. Melanie is an active part of her school’s technology team as well as a local resource for SMART Board and iPad use focusing on students with special needs. Melanie also maintains a classroom and technology blog at http://broxtermansblog.blogspot.com/ as well as a technology/app review website at http://teachingwithtechnology20.weebly.com/. You can also find her on twitter @teachwtechbrox.