Top 10 Sensory Activities for your 18 month old

Ladies and gentleman please prepare for landing at Playground Airport. Local time is play-time and the temperature is moderately pleasant for kids.

For your safety and comfort, I will remain seated with my seat belt fastened until captain mom turns off the fasten seat belt sign. This will indicate that we have parked at the playground and that it is safe to disembark the stroller.

screech kapow-comic-word-wall-sticker-black-s

“On behalf of mommy Airlines, I’d like to thank…”

Bam! I don’t think mom knows what hit her as I leap out of the stroller running like flash towards the playground structure; growing giganotosaurus like in size the closer I get to it. My head bobbing, surfer blonde hair waving in all directions … adrenaline increasing (wow that’s a big word for me). As I approach the playground, it towers above me.

Within the playground structure, a stratoslidotron (a slide) shines at me; this is a structure known for accelerating superheroes down a guided path. Without hesitation I begin the 1.23 sec flash climb to the top.. wow… another 0.32 seconds and down I go.. woohoo…. That was fun!

As I look around I see fellow comrades running around the playground with smiles ear to ear. A rush of serotonin pushes me to join the funtivities. Zoom! I’m running under structures, over the small mushrooms and … Hmmm… there is a large ladder in front of me. All the big kids climbed up so quickly. Hmmm… can I do it? Let’s try.

Up I go the first step… yikes slipped down. Lets try again! Up… up… up… I made it!!! I turn around and see captain mom clapping and smiling. I started to clap away. Wait… where are the kids? They are all the way on the other side. OK… off I go! See you all next month.

Lots of smiles, Josh

Josh climbing on a ladder

Every day our toddlers are getting more confident. Just like Josh liking to push himself and test his limits, having an environment where there are more skilled children allows him to get more motivated and try new things. A playground is a perfect location to have fun and learn new skills.

Here are my top 10 sensory activities for your 18 month old toddler.

As always, these activities have been tried and tested.

Sensory Play Activities

1. Climbing the playground structures

Skills Developed

Targeted Senses

Balance, motor planning (ability to conceptualize, plan &  carry out an unfamiliar task), body awareness, bilateral coordination, hand & shoulder strength, core strength and trunk control. Proprioception, vestibular, tactile senses

Little toddlers love to explore. Their confidence is increasing. A playground is a perfect location to help them explore and learn new skills.

Most local playgrounds provide many structures that your little one can climb.

2. Play dough fun

Josh and play dough

Play dough is lots of fun and has many benefits.

Skills Developed

Targeted Senses

Fine motor development including: hand strengthening, pincer grasp, finger isolation as well as hand eye coordination and bilateral coordination. Tactile, proprioception senses

How to play:

When introducing play dough, give your little one time to explore how it feels. They may start squeezing and pulling it apart. After a few minutes start introducing new concepts. After a while you may provide an open-ended play opportunity to see what else they can come up with.

Let me get you started with the following ideas. Play dough can be:

  • Squashed
  • Pulled apart
  • Squeezed into different directions
  • Flattened
  • Rolled
  • You can hide objects in it. Start with larger objects such as toy coins, little animals etc. The first few times you may need to hide the objects for them.
  • Once things are hidden in play dough your little one can start digging through it and pull them out.
  • Poking is also fun. Start with them using their pointer finger to make holes in the play dough.
  • Introduce play dough toys that can poke and manipulate play dough.

I also recommend singing songs to match a particular action you are trying to encourage them to do. Make up songs about rolling, poking or squeezing play dough as you play.

My favorite no–cook Play Dough Recipe:

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups plain flour
  • ½ cup salt
  • 2 tablespoons of cream of tartar
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 ½ cups of boing water
  • Food coloring

What to do:

  1. Mix flour, salt, cream of tartar and oil in a large mixing bowl
  2. In another bowl add water and mix it with food coloring
  3. Add both mixtures together
  4. Stir until combined (it still might be sticky)
  5. Allow it to rest
  6. Take it out of the bowl and knead it until the stickiness is gone
  7. If after a few minutes of kneading it’s still sticky then keep adding small amounts of flour. Keep adding until you have reached perfect play dough consistency.

3. Rumble play

Skills Developed

Targeted Senses

Balance, body awareness, core strength and trunk control. Proprioception, vestibular and tactile senses.

How to play:

This can be a very regulating activity with many benefits. The main goal however is to have fun! As the name of the game suggests it’s rumble time. Find an open area so you and your toddler don’t bump into surrounding furniture.

Things you can do: cuddle them while falling backwards or sideways, lift them up, turn them around. Let them jump around on pillows or you (if you feel comfortable with that).

Occupational Therapy Tip:

If you notice that your toddler is getting over excited. Stop and take a break. Once your toddler has calmed down you can play again.

4. Feather blowing

Josh blowing a feather

Skills developed:

By doing activities that involve the mouth, your toddler gets to work on their oral motor skills. Oral motor activities have benefits related to speech, feeding and regulation.

By blowing feathers your toddler practices how to coordinate their lips, cheeks and jaw with airflow. Their muscle tone gets strengthened. They build awareness of their mouth, tongue, lips and jaw. Overall this is a great activity that strengthens your toddler’s muscles and builds coordination.

How to play:

I started with feathers, as they are the easiest to blow. You want your child to feel some success to increase their motivation to play. Seeing a feather move is very exciting. Knowing that you are the one that made it move is even more so. You can start by demonstrating it. You can blow on your child’s hands or face so they know how it feels. Then blow the feather. I recommend placing the feather on your hand and keeping it close to your toddlers mouth. This will ensure that even a small amount of air will move the feather. As they get more comfortable with it you can move it further away. You can also place it on a table and have them blow the feather off.

5. Doodle fun with chalk

Josh drawing with chalk

Drawing with chalk is lots of fun. It feels different then crayons and it disappears when wet. The primary goal is to have fun with it! It’s not about drawing perfect lines. It is about learning the cause and effect and scribbling. You can encourage them to draw horizontal and vertical lines but it’s ok if they won’t do it yet.

OT (Occupational Therapist) Tips

  • Try drawing on different surfaces (wood, cement, paper, chalk board).
  • Drawing on a vertical surface is very beneficial. Working on a vertical surface strengthens muscles in the shoulders and in the wrist. Those are important for many fine motor skills such as writing and cutting.
  • Have fun drawing but also show them what happens when you put water on it. Encourage your toddler to clean the surface using large hand movements. Movements that go up and down, side to side and around in a circle.
  • Using chalk, water, large hand movments as well as drawing on multiple surfaces provides a mulitsensory learning environment. Using mulitple senses allows more cognitive connections and associations to be made with this concept. Meaning they will remember and retain information more easily. Practicing these movements will make it easier for your toddler to later draw lines and circles.

6. Spice it up

Pipe cleaners in a spice container

Equipment: Empty spice container, cut up pipe cleaners

How to play: Your toddler will be strengthening their hands while opening and closing the container.  This activity can be graded up or down depending on your toddler.

Option 1. Open and close the container while putting the pipe cleaners in and out.

Option 2. Open and close the lid while putting the pipe cleaners through the small holes (see picture above).

7. Dancing Caterpillar

Dancing caterpillar with blueberries

This caterpillar has been one of my favorite toys for many years now. It is a toy that can grow with your child for many years.

Skills Developed

Targeted Senses

Fine motor skills (pincer grasp), hand eye coordination, crossing midline Auditory, visual, tactile and taste senses.

How to play:

At this age you can throw away the instructions with the game for another year or so. Instead try my idea.

Equipment: Just the dancing caterpillar and blueberries

On each of the caterpillar arms place one blueberry. (Note: You can use other foods/snacks that your child prefers).

Then get the caterpillar dancing and have your toddler collect the blueberries and eat them. If your toddler struggles to take them off while the caterpillar is moving try it stationary first.

8. Messy play: Pool of flowers

Flower bath

Skills Developed

Targeted Senses

Fine motor skills and hand eye coordination Visual and tactile senses

How to play:

Equipment: Large container of water, flower petals and cups, spoons, ladles or whatever your toddler decides he wants to play with in the water bath.

This can be a very open ended activity. Follow your child’s lead and present some guidance if they feel stuck. Some ideas include: pouring water from one container to the next, fishing out individual petals, searching for hidden objects, sticking the petals on the wall or your nose!

9. Walk about

Josh going for a walk

Skills Developed

Targeted Senses

Fine motor skills, bilateral integration, hand eye coordination, gross motor skills, visual perception skills. ALL!

 

Taking your toddler for a walk around the block can put you on a path for some adventures. You never know what you may encounter. Just remember not to rush your toddler.

Your toddler can practice many fine motor skills by shredding leaves, breaking sticks apart or picking little flowers from the ground.

Their shoulders and hands can strengthen as they lift heavy rocks to find what creatures are hiding underneath it.

They can practice their gross motor skills as they walk on different surfaces and different inclines.

They also stimulate their visual and auditory senses by simply being and observing the surrounding environment.

10. Dance party

It’s time to let your hair down and get goofy with your toddler. You probably spend a lot of your time teaching your toddler about boundaries but with this activity it’s time to make room for some fun.

Put on your or your toddler’s favorite music and dance! Dance on the floor, the couch and maybe get your toddler flying in the air. Anything goes. Just make sure to laugh and have fun!

Summary

There you have it. My top 10 Sensory Activities for your 18 month old toddler. These are bound to spark up other ideas. Let me know what activities you have tried in the comments section below.

Remember: Each baby develops at their own pace. If your child is not ready or not interested in this month’s activities, just try them again in a few weeks.

~ Urszula

Disclaimer: Adult supervision is recommended for every activity on this blog. All activities are to be performed at your own risk.

❮ 17 month activities 19 month activities ❯
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Occupational Therapist Registered & Licensed, Associated Learning & Language Specialists. Founder of SensoryLifestyle.com and BabyLog app.

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  • Erin Salter

    Perfect timing, I was just looking for some more activities! Going to make some play dough tomorrow!

    • Urszula Semerda

      Great. Have fun!

  • Kim

    Thank you so much for the playdough recipe! I will be making it this weekend!! I love that it’s pretty much eatable, though probably not so tasty (which is good). My daughter still tries to eat everything so it’s good to know if she does eat it, she’s not going to die. 😉

    • Urszula Semerda

      Hope your daughter enjoys play dough!

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