Sensory Play Ideas and Activities for 1-year-olds

Every parent strives to provide their children with the best learning opportunities for optimum holistic development even during the earliest stages of childhood. 

Children for the initial six years of their lives, rely heavily on their senses to develop an understanding of the world that surrounds them. 

Hence providing ample opportunities to refine the senses through sensory play and sensory activities is crucial, especially during the early stages of development. 

Sensory play and sensory activities are among the best ways to incorporate informative and meaningful stimuli into your child’s environment. 

Sensory play activities for 1-year-olds are all about providing the child with multiple opportunities to autonomously explore new stimuli and broaden their horizons. 

Toddlers between the ages of 1 to 4 years are beginning to establish their autonomy and build the foundation for requisite cognitive, physical, and motor skills. 

If you are a parent or an immediate caregiver who is looking for some exciting and insightful sensory play activities to present at home, look no further. 

Below is a list of some of the best sensory play ideas and activities for 1-year-olds, that are not only easy to present but also easy to prepare at home.

What is Sensory Play?

Sensory Play activities are any form of activities that provide the child with isolated and appropriate stimuli to stimulate the child’s senses. 

Sensory play is also a great way of allowing children to utilize their energy on valuable, meaningful, and beneficial activities that allow children to develop as they play.

These play activities often stimulate and engage all the senses in children and allow them to explore and broaden their horizons through their senses. 

Sensory Play activities generally focus on the development of the main five senses: 

  • Visual Sense (sight)
  • Tactile Sense (touch)
  • Auditory Sense (hearing)
  • Gustatory Sense (taste)
  • Olfactory  Sense (smell)

Sensory play activities and developing the basic five senses gradually promote the development of the other two senses ie., vestibular sense (balance) and proprioceptive sense (spatial awareness). 

Sensory play is a unique way of allowing your child to safely and autonomously explore different sensorial stimuli and develop an understanding of the world that surrounds them.

Is Sensory Play for 1-year-olds different from Traditional Sensory Play? 

The main aim of any sensory play activity is to help children recognize and understand the world that surrounds them. 

All the activities involving sensory play integrate age-appropriate, meaningful, and valuable stimuli that help isolate and develop each sense one at a time. 

The motive of all the sensory play activities for any age group is to not only stimulate all the seven senses in children, but also promote physical, cognitive, emotional, and social development in children. 

Children, especially 1-year-olds have the tendency to explore new objects by putting them in their mouth, hence the only difference between traditional sensory play and sensory play for toddlers is the materials and toys that facilitate the activities.

What are the Benefits of Sensory Play Activities?

Sensory play activities play an important role in the early childhood development process.

While all children, in general, can benefit from sensory play activities for children with special needs like Autism Spectrum Disorder or ADHD these activities come as significant aid. 

To help you intimately understand how Sensory can help your child, here is all you need to know about the benefits of sensory play:

  1. Sensory development
  2. Language Development
  3. Development of preliminary skills
  4. Helps introduce cause and effect
  5. Increased concentration and attention-span
  6. Fine motor development
  7. Gross motor development
  8. Emotional Development
  9. Development of Social skills

A list of the best Sensory play Ideas and Activities for 1-year-olds:

Sensory play activities for 1-year-olds often integrate elements that simultaneously stimulate multiple senses. 

These activities promote children to autonomously explore new stimuli and develop an understanding of cause and effect with little or no adult assistance. 

If you are looking for sensory play activities and ideas for your 1-year-old, but are unable to find activities that cater to your child’s age-appropriate requirements, do not worry. 

Here is a list of some of the best sensory play ideas and activities that will provide your child with age-appropriate sensory stimuli:

DIY Tugging Box:

Tugging boxes are among the best ways to develop your child’s fine motor skills as they engage the child’s muscles in their hands, fingers, and wrists. 

To create your own DIY Tugging Box all you need are two simple materials that can be found laying around at your home: 

  • Cardboard box 
  • Ribbons, ropes, or fabrics. 

It is as simple as poking random holes in an empty cardboard box and Weaving the strings through the cardboard box holes. 

Not only will this activity allow your child to differentiate between the textures of the ropes, but also helps vocabulary for varied lengths.

Edible Sensory Bin:

Edible sensory bins are extremely fun for children to play with but can be a bit messy. 

Not only do these bins stimulate the gustatory sense in children but it also provides children with a unique tactile and visual experience, 

It is quick and easy to whip up and often involves two or three food items, for example, oatmeal, trail mix, cereal, beans, tapioca pearls, or rice. 

Choose the food items of your choice and place them in either a plastic bowl or a roasting tray to create a controlled activity environment. 

Edible Sensory bins allow your toddler to experience new tactile sensations by interacting with different food items and develop an understanding of different shapes, sizes, dimensions, and textures.

Mess-Free Finger Painting and color mixing:

Painting with toddlers can be messy, especially when your 1-year-old likes to paint anywhere else but on a sheet of paper. 

This sensory play activity is great for tiny toddlers and is completely mess-free. Just add a few dollops of colored paint in a zip lock bag and tape down the zip lock bag on a sheet of white paper. 

Not only does sensory play activity enhance your child’s visual sense but also provides them with unique tactile experiences as they squish and smear the paint around. 

Watch your little Picasso explore new color combinations and enhance their vocabulary through this fun visual sensory activity.

Colored Spaghetti Sensory Bin:

The Colored Spaghetti Sensory bin is one of the most fun and exciting ways to introduce different colors to your 1-year-old. 

Just boil your spaghetti as per usual and add a touch of food colorings to the pan to achieve the colored spaghetti.  

Simply place the different colored spaghetti into a bin and promote your child to tangibly explore different textures and visually differentiate between the colors of the rainbow.

Edible Jell-O Playdough:

Playdough is a sensory toy to develop fine motor skills and tactile sense in children but can be unsafe for tiny 1-year-olds who cannot resist biting into the smooth and colorful dough. 

This is where the edible Jell-O playdough comes to your rescue. Not only is this activity fun and engaging but it is also toddler-safe. 

All you need for this sensory play activity is a box of Jell-O pudding and a spoonful of cornstarch to achieve a dough-like consistency. 

Simply prepare your Jell-O pudding by adding the recommended amount of warm water and later incorporate cornstarch into the mixture.

Scoop and Transfer Ball Pit:

Scooping and transferring activities are not only an efficient way of developing the child’s fine motor skills and gross motor skills but also provide children with ample opportunities to develop hand-eye coordination and visual discrimination. 

All you need for this sensory play activity are two bins, different colored balls, and a scooper. 

Promote your child to scoop the balls from one bin and place them in the other to develop their gross motor skills.

Pom Pom Color Sorting:

Sorting activities are another great way of developing your child’s hand-eye movements and the skill of visual discrimination. 

This sensory play activity not only stimulates your 1-year-old visual sense but also promotes them to identify, differentiate and categorize colors. 

It is recommended to use Jumbo-sized pom poms to ensure the safety of your toddler. 

Sensory Water Table:

If you are ready to spend a couple of extra bucks to provide your child with an optimum sensory play experience, this sensory play activity is meant for you. 

Splurge on a versatile water table to provide your child with different sensory experiences and allow them tangibly sense unique materials like sand or mud while they also play with water.

Rice Play:

The small grains of rice are great for providing a tactile experience and bringing about a calming sense. 

This sensory play activity allows your child to scoop, dig, transfer, and pour the rice from one bin to another using funnels, cups, and scoopers.

Bubble Wrap Stamping:

This fun sensory activity is a great way of not only developing the visual sense but also promoting the development of fine motor skills. 

All you need for this sensory play activity are paper towel tubes, bubble wrap, and duct tape. 

It is as simple as wrapping the bubble wrap around the paper towel and securing it with duct tape.

DIY Sensory Bottles:

Sensory bottles are a great and efficient way of developing your 1 year old’s visual sense. 

For this easy-to-whip-up DIY sensory play activity all you need are simple plastic bottles you would like to upcycle, water, glitters, food colorings, and tiny objects to facilitate visual stimulation.

Allow your child to explore new sounds, colors, and shapes by shaking and maneuvering the bottles.

Egg Carton Push and Pull:

The Egg Carton push and Pull sensory play activity is another version of DIY Tugging boxes. 

This amazing activity involves an egg carton you would like to upcycle and some ropes, fabrics, and strings for the child to tug and pull on.