By Casey Daniel
Winter is a great time to engage in sensory activities with your child! The weather is colder, the leaves are crispier, and – depending on where you live – the outdoors may be blanketed in snow. Here are some tactile activity ideas to help your family make the most of the holiday season!
In the Kitchen
Cooking and preparing food is a great way for your child to explore their sensory abilities. If you have access to a fireplace or campfire, consider supervising your child while he or she makes s’mores. This activity can improve sensory integration and precision grasps – and yields delicious treats! You can even download a special s’mores lesson plan from Special Chef, a website that specializes in teaching cooking skills to kids with special needs. (They also have a lesson plan for hot chocolate – perfect for chilly winter nights!)
Chocolate-covered strawberries also make for a fun and delicious tactile activity. Substitute white chocolate to make “snow-capped strawberries,” or use green and red sprinkles for an instant Christmas theme. Try this recipe from Cooking with Kids.
Other options: Bake gingerbread men cookies and encourage your child to decorate them with red-hots, gumdrops, or other candies. Rice Krispies Snowmen treats are also sure to be a hit – you may need to cook the treats yourself, but kids will love decorating them with frosting and candies. You can also make pretty peppermint sticks, which allow your child to practice dipping the sticks in chocolate and rolling them in sprinkles. Or, if your child likes bagels for breakfast, try assembling this cute “Frosty the bagel” recipe together.
Want an even simpler tactile snack activity? Grab a skewer and some marshmallows and assemble “snowmen.” If appropriate, try making “baby snowmen” with miniature marshmallows and toothpicks for an extra challenge.
Visual Art Activities
The possibilities for winter-themed, sensory art activities are endless! Grab some green finger paints and create a handprint Christmas tree like this one. You can decorate it with whatever cutouts you like. The holidays are also a great time to make garlands using shoelaces and pony beads. You can also easily create unique Christmas ornaments by stringing beads onto pipe cleaners!
If you’re up for a bit of baking, you and your child can decorate yummy-smelling apple cinnamon ornaments. The Examiner details several holiday crafts for kids with special needs – including cotton ball snowmen, festive placemats, and a Rudolph made of handprints and footprints. KinderArt also offers basic instructions for the classic clothes-peg reindeer, as well as clay pot snowmen. (The clay pot snowman craft is a bit more ambitious and requires painting and gluing. However, it might be a good project to complete in phases over the course of a few days.)
Don’t underestimate the sensory power of good old Play-Dough in festive colors! Alternatively, consider making and playing with Christmas Cloud Dough, a sort of powdery Play-Dough that smells like peppermint. Cloud dough is designed to feel “like silky clouds in your hands,” yet still be moldable. Don’t worry, parents – this activity can get messy, but Cloud Dough vacuums up easily!
Want even more sensory, wintry, artsy fun? Don’t miss out on these free, printable Christmas coloring pages.
If you’re looking for directly tactile, “touch only” activities, North Shore Pediatric Therapy suggests the following ideas:
- Finger painting with holiday colors
- Creating gingerbread man ornaments
- Playing in the snow – making snowmen or throwing snowballs
- Making “snow angels” (on the carpet, if the snow is too cold!)
- Decorating the Christmas tree
Alternatively, you can “bring summer back” by creating a bean box – a sandbox alternative that’s suitable for indoor use. You fill a large tub with dry beans and sandbox toys. This opens opportunities for lots of learning games, like sorting the beans, making “shakers” with old medicine bottles, and hunting for buried objects. The Mother Huddle, a blog owned and operated by moms, offers detailed instructions for bean boxes here.
Want even more ideas for sensory activities? Check out this extensive list from Mommy Poppins, a New York-based parenting blog. Enjoy your winter tactile experiences, and happy holidays!
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