How about a few spring-themed sensory play ideas for elementary students to do on their own or with one another? These sensory and STEM activities are great for preschoolers, too. The open-ended and self-directed nature of play means kids can explore how they want to engage with the activities and then change it up when they’re ready for something new!
Friends, I do not know about you, but I love spring. Okay, actually, I love seasonal changes. But the winter-into-spring moment is refreshing. And I am here for it. Toodle and Twinkle are, too. So I put together some spring-themed sensory play ideas for elementary students and preschoolers to enjoy.
Now, admittedly, we encourage outdoor play on the regular. But there are times when it’s nice to have a few indoor sensory activities, too. Activities that will invigorate the senses, promote exploration, and provide opportunities for independent and group play.
I kept this set of activities simple, and I’m glad I did because each daughter had an activity that was her favorite. Each girl took her respective favorite activity and explored new ways to play. Loose parts play and sensory play activities are some of my favorites because they:
- Promote independent play AND group play.
- Are inclusive (for example, kids of different ages can often share the same materials).
- Don’t require major pre-planning.
- Are often low-cost .
- Easy to mix and match with other activities.
There are two main activities that came out of this setup. And as children explore, they often find new ways to play.
“CATCH AND RELEASE” HAND-EYE COORDINATION GAME:
I first discovered this game through Integrated Learning Strategies’ Facebook page. But ILS found it through Maos Criativas Brasil who found it on Instagram via @mom_gordeya. Ya’ll, my work here is done. 🙂
When playing, children pick up or “catch” different types of objects and drop or “release” them into a dish or pail. To get the most out of the activity, it helps to have objects of different sizes and textures. Then children can identify which objects are easy to work with and which ones require more problem solving. For example, Toodle found the paper flowers and pom poms were easy to “catch and release” but the gems were heavier and harder to manipulate.
WHAT YOU’LL NEED:
- For the handle, you’ll need chopsticks, straws, dowels, or pencils.
- For the cup, you’ll need little plastic containers with lids (the kind tiny trinkets come in). You could also use egg cartons by cutting the carton into individual cavities. And condiment cups will also work.
Use a glue gun to adhere the stick to the cup, let it dry, and within minutes you’ll be ready to play!
- Set a timer and see how many items a child can be catch and release in a timeframe.
- Have children compete to see who picks up the most items within a certain amount of time.
- Pair children up, each with one half of the scooper, and work together to catch and release items.
There are countless ways to put this game together, tailored to how children like to play and what motivates them to try new activities.
MUFFIN CUP BUILDING CHALLENGE:
This was a surprise hit! And not one I would have thought of for spring-themed sensory play ideas. However, even Toodle’s friend, who came over to play, immediately gravitated to the muffin cups. Whereas Twinkle used them to build a tower and Toodle used them to create catapults, Toodle’s friend pretended it was raining muffin cups. The options are endless and clean-up is easy.
WHAT YOU’LL NEED:
- A few packages of paper muffin cups. I chose pink and purple because they were readily available. However, you could run wild with this and do countless different color combinations, including traditional rainbow colors, cool colors, warm colors, primary colors, and secondary colors.
- Wood or craft sticks. These are great for building ramps, elaborate towers, and catapults on or with the muffin cups.
Then step back and let the kids get building! You could also use drinking cups in place of muffin cups, if you have them. Integrated Learning Strategies has an article about cup stacking that provides more details about the benefits of that activity.
EXTRA MATERIALS FOR SPRING-THEMED SENSORY PLAY IDEAS:
For those days when it doesn’t work to go outside, we bring the outside indoors, even if just figuratively. While just about anything goes for spring-themed sensory play ideas, below is a list of items we keep on hand. We look for low-cost items that we can use in other activities to get the most bang for our buck.
- Small plastic dishes. These are great for sorting activities.
- Metal pails. These are great for games as well as storing loose parts kids aren’t currently playing with. I’m surprised by just how many different activities the girls come up with using a few pails.
- Easter grass. Twinkle invented her own sorting activity by separating the multi-colored Easter grass pieces and putting them into the pails that matched their colors.
- Pom poms. I buy multipacks that have different colors, sizes, and textures.
- Gems or beads. I geek out on beads. And I’ve tried to find the multi-colored gems online that we bought in Walmart. No luck. But I do think if you can get your hands on a few different colors of gems, you’ll be set to go. No need for anything fancy. I think I paid $5 for one bag. And it served us well. So well, in fact, that the next time Walmart restocked them, I bought another $5 bag.
- Small tongs. Tongs are great for fine motor skills and hand-eye coordination. I have also found the little tongs encourage the girls to use their fingers a little more, instead of always using their hands.