Month 21: Top 10 Sensory Activities for your 21 month old toddler

Month 21: Top 10 Sensory Activities for your 21 month old toddler

Leo once said “Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.”. For the past few months I have been experimenting with different professions. Today I decided to be a painter, the Artissstttt type where I could express sophistication . You know, like Leo.. da Vinci.

I requested Mom to kickstart the whole process. We used my favorite fruit to make “paint”. Fruit paint. One small problem. The urge to satisfy my belly with that fruit was overwhelming, but I resisted.. for most part. By sheer coincidence, when mom wasn’t looking some of the raspberries and blackberries did a magic trick. Disappeared and reappeared inside my mouth. I’ve seen daddy pull this trick few times and get away with it 😉

Now the fruit paint was ready. I used my hands and a paintbrush to orchestra my masterpiece. In a rage of ecstasy I swiveled, I splashed, I smashed, I streaked and walla! It was done. Its true what Leo always said; Where the spirit does not work with the hand, there is no art.

Ok… enough of my rambling. Off to my next masterpiece.

Lots of smiles, Josh

 

Sensory Play Activities

Below I have included my top 10 sensory activities for your 21-month toddler. As always, these activities have been tried and tested. Enjoy!

1. Painting with fruits & spices

Painting with fruit

Skills Developed Targeted Senses
Fine motor skills, hand eye coordination and visual perception skills. Tactile & visual senses.

How to Play:

This activity is taking a twist on the typical painting activities. Instead of using paints we can use fruits and spices. The goal is to choose a variety of fruits and spices that will create different colored paints.

Some examples can include turmeric, paprika, raspberries, blackberries, strawberries. And if you are outside you can even mix up some dirt with water for the brown color.

Once you choose your fruits & spices mix them up with water to get some color paints. With berries you will need to squish them up first. Don’t worry about tossing out the lumps, as it will give the painting some extra texture.

I would start to encourage the use of the paintbrush but if it gets too tricky they can always use their hands.

Have fun!

2. Nature color hunt

Skills Developed Targeted Senses
Grasping, hand eye coordination and visual perception skills. Visual and tactile senses.

How to Play:

It doesn’t matter in what season you are playing outside, you can always find a variety of colors. White, green, red, purple, yellow, brown… Nature has it all. This is a great matching activity to teach your toddler about what things are similar and different.

Choose 2 or 3 nature objects of different colors. For example a green leaf, brown stick and a red flower. You can place them on a blanket or into individual containers. Walk around with your toddler to try and find those particular colors. It can include the same objects or different ones. Color is what we are interested in here. Teach them how to match those colors. Once they understand the rules you can ask them to find things of a particular color.

3. Play dough & nature

Play dough nature

Skills Developed Targeted Senses
Fine motor skills, hand eye coordination, bilateral integration. Tactile, proprioceptive and visual senses.

How to Play:

Any time I take out the play dough I let the child play around with it for a little while. While they are squeezing, pulling, pressing it they are strengthening their hands.

Then I introduce whatever I would like them to play with. During this activity I mix up the outdoors with the indoors. During one of your outdoor adventures take a note for your toddler to collect things from outdoors. It can include sticks, leaves, acorns, flowers, bark. Anything that isn’t too large.

Then let your toddler incorporate all those outdoor items with play dough.

They can:

  • Stick it into play dough and create an art work.
  • Make imprints.
  • Play hide and seek with the objects. This can be completed by first hiding some items in the play dough. Then finding those items as they continue to pull and poke around while practicing their fine motor skills.

 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 boiling 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.

4. Animal adventure

Jello & animals

Skills Developed Targeted Senses
Hand eye coordination, bilateral skills and fine motor skills. Tactile and visual senses.

How to Play:

This activity involves experiencing yet another texture, Jell-O. The toy animals go on an adventure to explore unknown lands (Jell-O).

Simply place Jell-O down on a flat surface and let your toddler explore this texture with their hands and toys.

5. Animal obstacle course

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

How to Play:

Obstacle courses are fantastic for developing a wide range of skills that involve many senses.

This month’s adventure involves animals. Choose a range of animals that your toddler is familiar with. It can include zoo or farm animals. If you get very creative you can even print out pictures of those animals so you can refer to them during the obstacle course.

Now create an obstacle course from items in your house such as pillows, cushions, blankets, tables, chairs or boxes. The obstacle course should provide your toddler with an opportunity to climb over things, under things, maybe do some crawling or jumping. As they navigate through the obstacle course you can ask them to pretend they are a specific animal. (This might include them imitating you). For example: “Let’s pretend we are elephants and stomp our feet” or “Now we are a dog, so lets crawl quickly through the tunnel” or “Now we are a monkey and we are going to climb up high onto this couch”.

6. Playground exploration

Skills Developed Targeted Senses
Fine motor skills, gross motor skills, motor planning skills, language skills and social skills. ALL senses.

How to Play:

Playgrounds provide endless opportunities for children of all ages to explore all their senses. In my 3 part Playground series I explain in detail all the developmental benefits.

As your toddler observes and explores the playground they not only have the opportunity to work on interacting all their senses but they also have a chance to interact with other children. Through play they have many opportunities to work on their social and language skills. They can start getting familiar with some of the non-verbal cues of other children. They can learn how to share, take turns and figure out that throwing sand at another child is not the nicest idea.

So take your toddler out and give them the opportunity to learn!

7. Bubble storm

Skills Developed Targeted Senses
Motor planning (ability to conceptualize, plan and carry out an unfamiliar task), balance and hand eye coordination. Vestibular, visual, proprioceptive and tactile senses

How to Play:

To create a bubble storm you will need to blow lots of bubbles in the air. As they are floating all around encourage your toddler to pop them.

Strategies for popping:

  • Pop with your fingers. This is great to encourage the separation of individual fingers, which are essential for many fine motor skills.
  • Pop them by either catching them in-between their hands or by smashing them onto the floor or wall.
  • Pop them with their feet. Great motivation to lift up those feet and work on those balance skills.

Once the storm settles you can also encourage them to blow some bubbles. Even if they can’t blow a bubble yet, any blowing activity is great for strengthening oral motor skills.

8. Wipeout

Wipeout

Skills Developed Targeted Senses
Motor planning (ability to conceptualize, plan and carry out an unfamiliar task) and hand eye coordination.  Visual, proprioceptive and tactile senses.

How to Play:

This game can also be known as a non-traditional bowling activity. You set up your bowling pins and then knock them down. For bowling pins you can use store bought bowling pins or simply empty plastic bottles. Now… when knocking down the pins there are no specific rules of where to stand, what ball to use or how to hold and throw the ball. The main goal is to wipe as many pins as possible.

To start, your toddler can use larger balls and stand closer to the pins. As they get more confident and successful you can change to a smaller ball and slowly start moving them further away.

Occupational Therapy Tip:

Sometimes our little toddlers have a hard time of knowing where to stand. If you want them to be shooting the pins from a particular distance try to use a marker to stand on. The marker can be a hula-hoop, carpet square or just a sheet of construction paper.

9. Fun with Blocks

Building blocks

Skills Developed Targeted Senses
Fine motor skills, hand eye coordination, bilateral integration skills. Tactile and visual skills.

How to Play:

I love blocks as they build many great skills. As your toddler gets more confident they can start working on their creativity by exploring beyond a tall tower. However lets not get too far ahead of ourselves. First lets build their foundational skills. Depending how much experience your toddler has with blocks you can first demonstrate stacking blocks and knocking it down afterwards.

It’s easier to start with larger blocks. Then move to smaller ones. You can also provide some variety by interchanging between different blocks. These days there are plenty of options. Your toddler can play with wooden blocks, foam blocks, cardboard blocks, building bricks etc.

10. Stomp painting

Stomp painting

Skills Developed Targeted Senses
Balance, motor planning (ability to conceptualize, plan and carry out an unfamiliar task) and visual skills. Tactile, visual and proprioceptive senses.

How to Play:

This activity is lots of fun, but it can get a little messy. I would recommend doing it either outside or staying away from carpeted areas.

Simply place a long strip of paper on the floor (I used banner paper) with paint blobs on the corners. I avoided paper plates for paint placement as they can get stuck to the feet which makes the activity more messy and slippery. NOTE: Make sure your toddler doesn’t have too much paint on their feet to avoid slipping.

Then let your toddler stomp away creating a master piece.

Summary

There you have it. My top 10 Sensory Activities for your 21 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 toddler 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: The activities in this blog are intended for sensory play. They are not a replacement for treatment of children with Sensory Processing Disorder, are not medical advice and should not be used in place of the care of a medical doctor or other qualified healthcare professional. These activities should be facilitated and supervised by an adult. All activities are to be performed at your own risk and in no event shall Sensory Lifestyle be liable for any damages.

❮ 20 month activities 22 month activities ❯
The Developmental Benefits of Playgrounds – Part 1

The Developmental Benefits of Playgrounds – Part 1

by Urszula Semerda with Dr. Lucy Jane Miller

Playing on a structure

Playgrounds are fun, and they also provide many benefits. It doesn’t matter if you have a child with no challenges or one with a sensory processing disorder. Everyone benefits.

As an Occupational Therapist I frequently use playgrounds as part of treatment. In this 3 part series I will share with you my playground adventures at the STAR Center’s Sensation Camp. I will also dive into discussing the many benefits your child can get from playing on playgrounds.

Playing on a playground can bring on many rewards related to self-regulation, social participation, increased self-confidence and self-esteem. From an occupational therapy perspective it doesn’t get better than that. As a parent you too can take advantage of the many benefits.

The number one objective on the playground is to HAVE FUN! While having fun children can also learn new skills, develop new friendships, and interact with their environment in a meaningful and purposeful way.

Self-Regulation

Self- regulation refers to the child being aware of their own sensory and emotional needs and controlling their body and mind. ‘By the time a typically developing child is 5 years old, they are frequently in charge of most of their own regulation; unless they are tired or hungry. When arousal is in a good place we call that a quiet, alert state or a calm, alert state. This is the state a child must be in to learn…’ Lucy Jane Miller, Sensational Kids.

Children with SPD (Sensory Processing Disorder) are frequently dysregulated and benefit from occupational therapy. Treatment focuses on helping them get into the ‘just right’ arousal state  (quiet, alert state or a calm, alert state) and develop strategies that parents can use daily to create a sensory lifestyle.

Depending what particular difficulties a child might have there may be specific strategies that will benefit them. More details about these individual strategies will be discussed in my upcoming posts. Alternatively, you can have a look at my Recommended Sensory Resources page for more details.

Besides the individual strategies, here are additional methods that can be used to assist with regulation.

A.    Use of a theme

Batman

 

Using a theme assists regulation. Themes tend to increase attention and engagement to the activities. Using themes allows children to “enter” different worlds. One group may take children on a safari adventure, another may have them diving down into the ocean to explore the underwater worlds, or Presto! They can become superheroes or fairies. Whatever the theme, the excitement is reflected in the children’s eyes and their affect.  Every day the children come to our sensational camp eager to find out what new world we are entering that day.

B.   Use of an alertness chart

While using themes and strengthening children’s ability to self regulate an alertness chart can really increase success.  The figure below is an example of one of the charts used in our summer camps at STAR Center.

Figure 1-A. Alertness Chart

Alertness chart

Group Scoop

During our “Group Scoop”, all the children would come together at the beginning of each day of our camp. They would review their own body speed using an alertness chart. Each person would devise their own strategies to keep their bodies regulated. Some kids were in the ‘just right’ zone and they could sit nicely and pay attention.  Some bodies were in the ‘too slow’ zone and needed an alerting activity to get going. Some children were in the ‘fast’ zone and their bodies just would not stop moving. They needed an organizing activity to bring their level of arousal down.  Finally, on few occasions children could go into a ‘too fast’ zone as their bodies encountered sensations that send them over to the fight or flight.

One day, during our Group Scoop while most of the group was sitting comfortably on large beanbags discussing where their body was, Mikey’s body was in the ‘fast’ zone.  His little legs just could not stop running around the room.

“Mikey” I said, “Where is your body right now?”

The group waited patiently for his response but his little legs kept on running and running. You could see that he had a hard time slowing down to come up with an answer.

All of the sudden Emma, another group participant jumped up and said “I know!…Mikey is fast”.

“That’s right” I said. “His body is ‘fast’ and he needs something to get him to the ‘just right’ zone.”

“I think lying under a heavy blanket will help.” Emma said feeling happy with her answer.

“Wow!” I thought. They are getting it!!!

I lifted up the blanket as Mikey ran towards me.

“Blanket…. Let’s lie under it”.

In a quick manner Mikey stopped and I placed the blanket on top of him. He wiggled and wiggled under the blanket but after few minutes his body started to calm down and he became ‘just right’.

From that day whenever Mikey came into our Group Scoop he would first find his heavy blanket. He would curl up underneath it and stay engaged and regulated while we spoke about our adventure for the day.

What an amazing result!  Seeing how the campers became more self aware of their own and others’ arousal states but to also brainstorm and try out different strategies was incredible.

C.    Emotional Regulation

Kids driving on playground

 

I find that challenging situations may occur more frequently on a playground as you find multiple children. This is perfect because it provides an opportunity to learn and implement alternative and appropriate strategies in real time, and with the support of a parent.

During our summer camps children had the opportunity to interact with many different pieces of equipment that brought out many unpredictable reactions.  Adrian was a young boy who really enjoyed coming to the Sensational Camp at the STAR center. He enjoyed it so much he ended up coming to three different camps.  His sensory profile included sensory over responsivity to many sensations and he frequently encountered challenging situations.

On the second day of our Animal Adventures camp all the children were getting ready to go onto our sensational playground to experience a safari adventure.  Running towards the door Ben accidentally bumped Adrian. “Ouch!!!” I heard.  As I turned around I saw Adrian biting Ben on his arm. “Oh No!” I thought.

When the boys were separated I took Adrian to the side. We knew that once Ben bumped into Adrian it triggered a fight or flight response and Adrian responded by biting Ben. This was a great opportunity to teach Adrian some very valuable skills.  We sat away from all our friends and excitement onto the comfy beanbags.

What happened?” I asked.

He hurt me! He really hurt me!!” exclaimed Adrian.

Is that why you bit him?”

Yes!” Said Adrian loudly.

How do you think that made him feel?” Adrian shrugged his shoulders.

Do you think it hurt his hand?”…..

Maybe” he said quietly.

Hmmmmmm” I said, “I wonder if there is another way we could tell Ben that he hurt you without hurting him?”

After some pondering and receiving nice deep pressure through the beanbags Adrian looked at me and said: “Maybe I can tell him not to push me?”

I was so excited that he came up with this idea on his own. Now we all needed to help him implement his excellent plan.

Over the next few days Adrian had many opportunities to follow his plan. He wasn’t always successful but he certainly tried.

Then on the second last day of the first camp Adrian got bumped once again. His little face scrunched up in pain, his arms came close to his body. He turned over to his friend and said “You are too close… I need space”. His friend casually moved away while I was secretly jumping up and down in my head and screaming “Yey!!!!”

He did it and I could not have been prouder.   As Adrian continued to participate in the other camps he became more independent in using his words versus hitting and biting.

There you have it! Some great strategies that can assist with regulation. To learn more read the Part 2 of Developmental Playground Benefits discussing self-esteem & confidence.

Part 2