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Tactile Toys and Fun Sensory Ideas for Children

by Erica Loop

What is sensory play? Sensory play are activities that stimulate the child's senses, according to the child development experts at PBS Parents. While there are five senses to contend with -- sight, smell, hearing, touch and taste -- tactile toys are built to help your little one explore her sense of touch. Using tactile toys, as well as other fun sensory activities, can help your young child to make discoveries and experiment with her environment.

Tactile Toys Defined

If you are wondering what a tactile toy is, you probably aren't alone. After all, aren't all toys that a child touches actually "tactile" in nature? That said, some toys are more sensory oriented than others. The pediatric experts at the Kids Health website note that tactile toys include items that specifically encourage your young child to use his sense of touch in an exploratory way. These may include ridged or softly spiked rubber balls, touch and feel books or any other item that has a specific feel to it.

Homemade Tactile and Sensory Activities

You don't have to break the bank buying tactile toys for your toddler or preschooler. Instead of hitting the toy store, search the house for sensory objectives that come in different textures. For example, you can crinkle wrapping or tissue paper for your preschooler to ball up and feel. Another option is to make a soft feeling touch toy from a fuzzy old sock. Fill the sock with cotton batting or other old socks to make it squishy.

Art Activities

Art activities make imaginative tactile and sensory play games for your young child. Kneading play dough, smooshing modeling clay and squishing finger paints are all ideal options for toddlers and preschool aged children. Add an extra layer of sensory learning to these artsy activities by combining materials. For example, fold some rough play sand into smooth modeling clay or add coarse salt to slimy finger paint to make it rough. Instead of asking your child to make something specific, have her explore and experiment with the materials to make her own tactile discoveries.

The Outdoors

Don't keep your little learner stuck inside for his sensory activities. Get the kids out, so they can be tactile in nature. You don't have to trek into the middle of the woods. Take your young child into the backyard or to a local park. Collect a bagful of textured items such as fallen tree bark, soft flower petals, crinkly, dried leaves or rough rocks. Have your child close his eyes and hold onto one of the tactile natural toys. He can guess what he is feeling by noting its texture. Have your child describe how each item feels before he puts it back into the bag.

About the Author

Based in Pittsburgh, Erica Loop has been writing education, child development and parenting articles since 2009. Her articles have appeared in "Pittsburgh Parent Magazine" and the website PBS Parents. She has a Master of Science in applied developmental psychology from the University of Pittsburgh's School of Education.

Photo Credits

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