Sensory Play Ideas and Activities for 2-year-olds

Sensory play activities are among the best ways of facilitating optimum holistic development in 2-year-olds. 

As a parent, it can become quite difficult to provide your toddler with activities that keep them engaged and entertained for prolonged periods of time. 

By the age of 2 years old, children embark on a journey to becoming independent entities and often begin to manifest the basic characteristics of the sensorimotor stage. 

The best way to describe a 2-year-old is as active, energetic, excited, talkative, and always on the move. 

Noticing your 2-year-old actively exploring materials one after the other in their surrounding environment is not uncommon. 

While common toys are great for keeping your toddler busy they do not integrate valuable stimuli to promote the development of all the seven senses. 

This is where sensory play activities come to your rescue as these engaging activities not only entertain and keep your child busy for hours on end but also provide them with integral sensorial stimuli for their cognitive and physical development. 

If you are a parent or an immediate caregiver of a 2-year-old who wants to incorporate effective sensory play activities, look no further. 

Below is a list integrating some of the best and most effective sensory play ideas and activities for 2-year-olds. 

What is Sensory Play?

Children rely heavily on their senses to not only efficiently navigate through their surroundings but also to make sense of the world that surrounds them. 

Ideally, Sensory play is any form of open-ended play activity that allows your child to autonomously and willingly explore new and unique stimuli.

Sensory play activities are play activities that integrate components that help refine and stimulate each individual sense in children. 

Sensory Play activities especially for younger children commonly focus on developing and stimulating the five main senses: 

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

After refining the key five senses sensory play activities then gradually promote the development of the other two senses ie., vestibular sense (balance) and proprioceptive sense (spatial awareness). 

While sensory play activities mainly focus on sensory development, they also provide children with systematically arranged information to help develop preliminary skills.

What are the Benefits of Sensory Play?

Sensory play, especially during the early stages of development, helps children recognize and understand the world that surrounds them. 

These activities integrate age-appropriate and meaningful stimuli that isolate and develop each skill one at a time. 

Sensory play activities not only aim to stimulate all the seven senses in children, but they also promote physical, cognitive, emotional, and social development in children. 

Children during their early stages of development are unable to regulate emotions during unexpected events or in times of crisis, sensory play is a great way of developing the child’s emotional resilience through meaningful play. 

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

Why is it Important to Introduce Sensory Play Activities to 2-year-olds?

The sensorimotor stage was first proposed by Jean Piaget in his theory of child development begins at birth and often lasts in children up until the time they turn 2 years old. 

The sensorimotor motor stage is the very first developmental stage a child passes through. This stage allows children to develop an understanding of the intricacies of the world which surrounds them based on their senses. 

Children during this stage often rely on physical interactions with the objects present in their environment to learn about their surroundings. 

If you ever notice your 2-year-old constantly touching, tasting, smelling, licking, or banging objects together, this is because they are trying to understand the use and purpose of the said object. 

Providing your 2-year-old with sensory play activities is a great way of developing and enhancing the nerve connections in their brain during the sensorimotor stage. 

Children especially at the age of 2 years old face difficulty performing tasks that involve prolonged periods of focus and concentration, integrating interactive sensory play activities for 2-year-olds enhances the child’s attention span. 

Furthermore, Sensory play activities for 2-year-olds also facilitate the development of fine motor skills and gross motor skills.

A list of the best Sensory Play Ideas and Activities for 2-year-olds:

Sensory Play is a form of open-ended autonomous play that promotes your child to act and willingly explore new and unique sensory stimuli. 

2-year-olds are extremely active and always on their tiny toes, running, jumping, touching, and sensing every new object they can find in their vicinity. 

Sensory Play activities provide your 2-year-old with a multisensory experience that not only facilitates sensory development but also promotes the development of cognitive, physical, emotional, social, fine motor, and gross motor skills. 

If you are a parent looking for fun and exciting sensory play activities that keep your easily bored 2-year-old busy for hours, look no further. 

Here is a list of some of the best Sensory play ideas and activities for 2-year-olds that will provide optimum holistic development:

1. DIY Sensory Bottles

Sensory Bottles are a common Sensory play toy that provides children with a unique visual experience. 

But creating DIY sensory bottles for your 2-year-old allows you to add a personalized touch without breaking the bank. 

For this DIY sensory play activity all you need are simple plastic bottles you would like to upcycle, glitters, food colorings, water, and tiny objects.

Simply fill the empty disposable bottles with water, add different colored food colorings, and finish off with adding components of choice to facilitate visual stimulation.

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

2. Water Play

If your tiny 2-year-old cannot resist playing in the water on a warm, sunny, summer afternoon, this sensory play activity is meant for you!

You can either purchase a sensory water table for your toddler or you can create your own water play station with simple materials. 

To make your own DIY water play sensory table for your 2-year-old all you need is a bin, water, cups, bowls, a toy water can, a rubber ducky, and other toys that can easily float on water. 

Water play activities provide children with a unique tangible experience along with developing and enhancing their fine motor as well as gross motor skills.

3. Fruit and Veggie Stamping

Painting can be fun but extremely messy when your 2-year-old likes to paint anywhere but on a sheet of paper. 

Stamping with fruits and veggies can be a great way of introducing mess-free painting activities to your tiny 2-year-old.  

This sensory activity helps stimulate the visual sense and allows the child to identify and recognize different shapes by stamping fruit and veggie imprints on a piece of paper. 

All you need for this exciting sensory play activity are some fresh fruits, vegetables, different colored paints, and paper. 

You can also use cling wrap on the working table to prepare a more controlled environment and prevent any mishaps. 

4. Shaving Cream Play

Shaving Cream sensory play activity is a perfect activity for parents who are in search of outdoor play activities. 

Although on the messier end of sensory play activities, the shaving cream provides a unique tactile experience that not only develops the child’s tactile sense but also provides them with a calming sensation. 

All you need for this sensory activity are bins or tubs, shaving cream, and food coloring (optional) if you want to add a touch of color to your unique visual stimuli. 

Allow your 2-year-old to get their hands dirty by touching or squishing the shaving, and smearing the dye around in the shaving. 

It is important to keep a close eye on your toddler as they play with shaving cream to prevent them from putting it in their mouth.

5. Play Dough and Kinetic Sand Play

This sensory play activity is great for promoting your child to indulge in hours of end sensory play. 

Kinetic sand and play dough provide your child with unique tactile stimuli as they not only have different textures but are easy to mold and shape. 

For this sensory play activity, you will need baking trays, play dough, kinetic sand, and toys to promote pretend play.

6. Color sorting with Tasty Gummy Bears

Sorting activities not only stimulate the child’s senses but also facilitate the development of fine motor skills and cognitive skills in children. 

If your 2-year-old is just beginning to identify and recognize different colors, promoting them to sort different colors will help develop their hand-eye coordination and categorizing skills.

7. Scent Jars

Scent Jars are a fun and exciting way of developing your child’s olfactory sense. This fun activity involves small jars that contain different scents with a corresponding pair that the child has to identify and match. 

All you need for this fun activity are small jars, fresh fruits, or foods with different fragrances such as vanilla extract, mint extracts, orange peel, lemon zest, and more. 

Simply place the different scented components into the jar base with duct tape and close the lid. 

Allow your child to unscrew the lid of the jars, smell each bottle, and match the bottles with the corresponding pairs. 

Not only does this sensory play activity promotes the development of olfactory sense in children but also facilitates the development of categorizing skills and critical thinking.

8. Tasting bottles

Enhance your 2-year-old’s gustatory sense by allowing them to test and try different tasting bottles. The child is given two sets of bottles with matching tastes. 

Tasting bottles are a great sensory play activity that stimulates, and enhances the child’s gustatory sense and helps the child identify and isolate different tastes. 

The child has to identify the taste and pair the matching bottles. These Tasting Bottles include 4 fundamental tastes: Salty, Sweet, bitter, and Sour.
The adult must fill the tasting bottles with four fundamental tastes using a dropper. The fundamental tastes can be easily achieved:  

  • Salty: For a salty taste, salt is mixed with water
  • Sweet: For a sweet taste, Sugar is mixed with water 
  • Bitter: Tonic water is used
  • Sour: For a sour taste, Lemon is mixed in water

9. Alphabet or Number Scoop

Although the name of this activity is Alphabet scoop, it can also be replaced with numbers. 

This simple activity develops the child’s gross motor skills and visual sense as they are promoted to scoop or pick out the selected alphabet/number. 

All you need for this exciting sensory play activity is a bin and foam alphabets or numbers, and a scooper. 

This activity is great for developing your 2-year-old’s preliminary mathematics and language skills by introducing them to the alphabet and numbers.

10.  Puff Ball Sorting

This is another sensory play activity that allows your 2-year-old to sort soft, fuzzy, and colorful puff balls. 

For this activity, you will need 7 rainbow-colored browns and large corresponding colored puff balls. 

Allow your child to usually discriminate between the seven colors and develop their hand-eye coordination by sorting each ball into its corresponding bowl.