Last week I promised a couple more projects good for all children, but particularly for those who need sensory stimulation. These are all going to require quite a bit of parental setup, but are so much fun! Let’s start with balloon sensory toys. You may have some bad thoughts about me while setting this up, but your children are going to love them! Gather balloons (be sure to get the helium grade ones or they will break too easily), a funnel, and various dried goods from your pantry. Good items to use are salt, dried lentils, and flour. Be careful not to use things like rice that may pierce the balloon. Carefully stretch the mouth of the balloon over the funnel and slowly put whatever material inside. You are going to have to stretch and pull and prod to get enough of the material in. When you tie off the balloon, first make sure to gently squeeze out the excess air. Now you have a great sensory toy. A fun idea is to draw faces on the balloons with marker so the face expands and contracts with the toy. If you have the patience, make two toys of each material and have children match them up and/or compare materials. From experience, I suggest playing with them outdoors to make cleanup easier if the balloon happens to break.
Another fun sensory activity to do at home is to make slime. Some recipes are so complicated and require odd materials, but there is one I enjoy that I find easier than most. Super simple–crack an egg white into a bowl, stir it, then mix in some dish soap. Pop it in the fridge overnight and you have a simple slime. For more types of slime, check out this book, available on Hoopla.
One sensory toy that is fairly simple to make often gets forgotten because it provides visual and auditory stimulation, rather than touch. This is a sensory bottle. You can use any type of clear bottle with a wider opening than a traditional disposable water bottle. The type that is usually recommended is Voss bottles because they have a wider mouth and good closure. For auditory stimulation, simply put materials like rice, beans, sand, or rocks in the bottle and seal it. Children can shake these and listen for the different sounds. For visual stimulation, put glitter, beads, marbles, or small toys into the bottle with water and a few drops of glycerin. Children can focus on the movement within the bottle for calming. But remember to super glue these shut tightly or you will be very unhappy!! A similar activity is the Surprise Sensory Bag. Check out these suggestions from the Children’s Museum of Manhattan.