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How to Teach Toddlers About Rainbows by Using Sensory Tables and Activities

by Rosenya Faith, studioD

Help your child learn all about the colors of a rainbow while indulging her senses, too. Young children learn about the world through sensory exploration. Through sight, sound, scent, taste and touch, children absorb information like sponges. Your child's need to touch everything is not a ploy to drive you crazy, but rather a desire to experience and learn about her environment through sensory input. Use these sensory exploration activities to give her the input she craves and keep your knickknacks safe for a little while, too.

Make sandpaper arches by cutting strips that assemble into a rainbow shape. You can help her paint the strips or do the painting ahead of time and scatter the individual arches on the sensory table. Give her a picture of a rainbow and let her experiment assembling the strips into a rainbow. Encourage her to gently feel the bumpy, rough texture while she works.

Make colorful sensory bags by dividing dry rice or macaroni into small bowls or cups. Use food coloring to make each bowl a different color and let the mixture dry. Pour the contents of each bowl into a separate sealable bag. Close the bags and seal tightly with scotch tape. Place the bags on the sensory table and let your toddler try arranging them into a rainbow, while squeezing the bags to experiment with the texture.

Turn ribbons into ceiling decorations to show off your child's rainbow creations. Cut different textured ribbons into 18- to 24-inch long pieces -- cut one ribbon of each color of the rainbow. Let your child feel the smooth, bumpy or plush textures of the different ribbons and glue the end of each one onto a small paper plate. Hang the plate from the ceiling with string.

Fill your youngster's sensory table with a jiggling and tasty sensory experiment. Make jelly ahead of time and cool it in ice cube trays in the fridge. Draw a rainbow for your child to use as reference and then pour out the jelly cubes on her sensory table. Encourage her to arrange the cubes into a rainbow and then stimulate her senses by letting her squeeze, jiggle and mash the jelly, and see what happens when she combines the colors together.

Create a rainbow collage to display on the living room wall -- she'll be so proud to show it off to all your guests! Draw a rainbow on a sheet of poster board and then fill her table with all kinds of different textured decorations, such as foam shapes, satin bows, ribbon scraps and tissue paper. Have your child match the colors of the decorations with the colors of the rainbow and glue them in place.

Items you will need
  •  Sandpaper
  •  Tempera paint
  •  Dry rice or macaroni
  •  Small bowls or cups
  •  Sealable bags
  •  Scotch tape
  •  Ribbon
  •  Small paper plate
  •  String
  •  Jelly
  •  Ice cube trays
  •  Poster board
  •  foam shapes
  •  Satin bows
  •  Tissue paper


  • Rainbow Crafts; Andra Serlin Abramson
  • Sensory Integration and Self-Regulation in Infants and Toddlers: Helping Very Young Children Interact with Their Environment; Gordon G. Williamson, et al.

About the Author

Rosenya Faith has been working with children since the age of 16 as a swimming instructor and dance instructor. For more than 14 years she has worked as a recreation and skill development leader, an early childhood educator and a teaching assistant, working in elementary schools and with special needs children between 4 and 11 years of age.

Photo Credits

  • Digital Vision./Digital Vision/Getty Images