21 Easy Montessori Sensory Activities for Toddlers - The Toddler Playbook (2024)

Aug 24, 2020 | , Montessori

Sensory experiences are critical for brain development – especially in the first few years of life…

To best support your child’s development, look around for simple opportunities to engage your child’s senses. Feel the hot grass under your feet on a sunny day. Bake gingerbread together, taking time to smell each spice. Enjoy a walk through the neighborhood and listen to the birds.

When your child uses their senses to explore, they’re learning A LOT of valuable information about the world around them.

In Montessori, the goal of sensory activities (usually called sensorial activities) is to help children develop and refine each of their senses. Children might learn to differentiate soft and loud sounds by exploring a quiet shaker filled with sand, followed by a noisy shaker filled with beads. Or they might refine their sense of touch by exploring various natural objects with interesting textures, like smooth stones or rough pinecones.

Luckily, these kinds of activities don’t have to be complicated or require a lot of prep work. Ready to check out some Montessori-inspired sensory activities you can do at home with your toddler? Let’s go!

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21 Easy Montessori Sensory Activities for Toddlers - The Toddler Playbook (1)

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21 Easy Montessori Sensory Activities for Toddlers

1 | Exploring the fruit and veggie basket

Some of the most meaningful sensory experiences for little ones involve exploring everyday objects, like fruits and veggies. There are tons of interesting textures and smells for your toddler to discover in the family produce basket as they investigate a rough pineapple, smooth apple, squishy tomato, or sweet-smelling banana.

2 | Collecting natural objects

Children are fascinated by natural objects, like stones, pinecones, flowers, and twigs. Try taking a basket or egg carton outside and encouraging your toddler to collect a few interesting items. Back at home, you can store your child’s collection in a basket for them to explore whenever they’d like!

3 | Spending time outside in nature

Spending time in nature is one of the best things you can do for your child’s development. So, step outside and feel the sunshine, wind, and rain. Dig in the dirt, splash in puddles, and jump in a pile of crunchy fall leaves. Smell the flowers, listen to the birds sing, and watch the clouds move across the sky. These experiences help promote your child’s emotional wellbeing and boost brain development.

4 | Everyday water play

It’s no secret that little ones love splashing and playing in the water. Luckily, you don’t need to do anything fancy to encourage this kind of play. Bath time and hand-washing offer simple, everyday water play opportunities for children. Rinsing dishes, watering plants, and washing toys are fun options too!

5 | Working with playdough or clay

This is one of my favorite, go-to sensory activities for toddlers. (It doesn’t hurt that manipulating playdough or clay is an engaging, hands-on way to help children build fine motor skills, as well.) Consider adding essential oils, spices, or herbs for a more exciting sensory experience.

6 | Smelling bottles

You can make your own DIY smelling bottles at home by saturating cotton balls with different essential oils or extracts (e.g. vanilla, peppermint, lemon) and then placing each scented cotton ball in a small bottle or jar. As your child investigates each smelling bottle, you can talk about how each scent smells: Sweet? Sour? Bitter? If your child likes this activity, they may also enjoy exploring the spice cabinet with you!

7 | Playing sound games

Here are a few fun sound games you and your little one might enjoy…

  • Sound walk: Take a walk outdoors and talk about what you hear. Birds singing, rain hitting the neighbor’s roof, cars beeping…
  • Sound hide-and-seek:While playing hide-and-seek, take turns hiding and ringing a small bell. Can the seeker listen carefully to find the hider?
  • Silent game: Set a timer or flip an hourglass over and practice staying completely silent until the time is up. You may need to start with 15 or 30 seconds of silence and build up to a full minute over time.

8 | Discovery basket

Try filling a basket with several interesting, everyday objects for your child to explore. Almost anything can be added to a discovery basket, from wooden spoons, metal whisks, and napkin rings, to fabric swatches, compact mirrors, lavender satchels, and seashells. These ordinary materials can be incredibly exciting for little ones to explore, offering them early experiences with a variety of interesting everyday objects.

9 | Baking

Baking is, of course, a classic practical life activity, but it’s also full of opportunities for sensory exploration. Juicing a lemon, smelling herbs and spices, kneading and rolling out dough… These are all amazing and memorable sensory experiences for your little one. (There’s a reason the smell of cinnamon or the sound of the stand mixer whirring can instantly bring you back to your childhood!)

10 | Movement activities

In addition to the five senses you learned about in kindergarten – sight, smell, hearing, touch, and taste – humans have at least a dozen more senses. Many of these senses involve movement. For example, the sense of proprioception tells us where our body parts are in relation to other body parts. Meanwhile, equilibrioception helps us keep our balance. By offering your child a variety of movement activities, like dancing, twirling, running, jumping, climbing, and tumbling, you can help your little one strengthen these important senses.

11 | Nesting toys

Nesting boxes, cups, anddollshelp children work on size discrimination and practice ordering objects based on size. As your child plays, you can introduce descriptive vocabulary like small, medium, and large, as well as comparing words, like smallest and largest. This kind of work is a great way to introduce early math concepts to your child through play.

12 | Mystery bag with familiar objects

For this activity, place a few objects in a paper bag so your child can’t see what’s inside. These should be everyday objects that your child is very familiar with, like a comb, banana, or fork. Then show your child how to reach into the bag without looking and guess what might be inside. At first, you can ask your child to find a specific item inside the bag based on touch, “Can you find the banana?” Once your child is comfortable with this game, try asking them to guess what each item might be.

13 | Taste testing

There are tons of ways to involve your child’s sense of taste through play. For a fun fall activity, try taste testing different kinds of apples and describing the flavor of each apple. Or create a snack plate with all kinds of flavors: Sweet, salty, sour, bitter, and umami. Talk about how each food tastes and which flavor is your favorite. You can even recreate a classic taste test activity by filling four small glasses with water and adding a little bit of honey, salt, lemon, or vinegar to each glass. Then have fun tasting each mixture!

14 | Puzzles

Simple knobbed puzzles are a great sensorial activity for little ones. In addition to traditional puzzles, look for puzzles that help your child practice size discrimination and sequencing. For example, this handmade circle puzzle features circles of different sizes to help children practice telling the small circles apart from the medium and large circles. Another great option is this wooden bar puzzle, which encourages children to practice sorting the puzzle pieces from shortest to longest.

15| Hand transferring activities

Montessori transferring activities simply involve moving objects from one container to another. For hand transferring, you’ll want to set your little one up with an empty bowl, as well as second bowl filled with interesting objects. Stones, pinecones, ice cubes, pom poms, the possibilities are endless! Then encourage your child to pick up each object and place it in the empty bowl. This is a simple sensory activity that helps build fine motor skills and concentration, as well.

16 | Juicing citrus fruits

Most toddler-friendly kitchen tasks make great sensory activities. Juicing citrus is no exception! Squishing and squeezing oranges, lemons, and limes offers children a fun opportunity to help out in the kitchen while exploring the bright colors, interesting textures, and sweet scent of the fruit. Depending on your child’s fine motor skills, they may prefer hand-squeezing or using a manual citrus juicer to get the job done.

17 | Exploring fabrics

A small basket or box filled with fabric swatches can provide little ones with an interesting sensory experience. Cotton, satin, silk, velvet, and so on. For a fun matching activity, try placing pairs of fabric swatches in the basket for your child to match. With this activity, the goal is for your child to explore various textures and describe them. Which fabrics feel soft and smooth? Which fabrics feel rough?

18 | Hot and cold sensory bottles

Toddlers are often fascinated by temperature. From investigating the warm soapy water in the bathtub to sipping cold milk fresh from the fridge, there are tons of simple, everyday ways to explore temperature with your little one. These DIY hot and cold sensory bottles are another great way to satisfy your child’s curiosity. Simply fill one water bottle with hot (but not scalding) tap water and another with ice cubes. Then let your toddler explore!

19 | Sound cylinders

Sound cylinders are simply small containers filled with materials, like sand or rice, that make different sounds when shaken. The goal with this activity is to listen carefully, noting the differences between each sound and matching like sounds together. You can purchase Montessori sound cylinders, like this unique crochet set, or make your own DIY sound cylinders at home.

20 | Matching paint swatches

Paint swatches are an amazing – and free! – sensory material for little ones. With a younger toddler, start by introducing three pairs of primary color paint swatches (red, yellow, and blue). Then encourage your child to match each color pair. Once your child has mastered this activity, you can add secondary color paint swatches (orange, green, and purple) for an additional challenge. When this activity becomes too easy for your child too, encourage them to create a color gradient using different shades of the same color.

21 | Playing musical instruments

Toddlers LOVE exploring music. Singing, dancing, and listening to music are all great options for little ones, but adding musical instruments to the party can help double the fun! Look for percussive instruments your toddler can hit or shake, like a drum, xylophone, bell, tambourine, or maraca. Homemade instruments work great too, whether it’s a DIY musical shaker or pot and pan “drum” with a wooden spoon. Musical exploration is a fantastic sensory activity that also helps children build language, math, and motor skills as they play.

Have fun!

Sensory play is critical for a child’s brain development in the early years. In addition, sensory activities are a great way for children to learn about the world around them and develop many different cognitive skills through play. So, look for ways to add a variety of sensory activities to your little one’s daily routine.

From splashing in rain puddles to baking a warm loaf of bread on a stormy day, there are tons of fun and simple ways to get started with sensory play with your toddler.


♥ Meg

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21 Easy Montessori Sensory Activities for Toddlers - The Toddler Playbook (2024)


21 Easy Montessori Sensory Activities for Toddlers - The Toddler Playbook? ›

According to Dr. Maria Montessori, sensorial experiences begin right when a child is born. Children use their senses in order to study their environment. By participating in sensory activities, children can consciously obtain clear information that helps them classify their surroundings.

What did Montessori say about sensory play? ›

According to Dr. Maria Montessori, sensorial experiences begin right when a child is born. Children use their senses in order to study their environment. By participating in sensory activities, children can consciously obtain clear information that helps them classify their surroundings.

What is the sensory curriculum in Montessori? ›

The Sensorial Curriculum is a special and unique principle of the Montessori method. It involves a progression through a specially designed set of wooden materials designed by Dr. Montessori herself. The materials aim to train and refine the child's senses.

How do you set up sensory play for toddlers? ›

It's simple for children to enjoy sensory play when you create a sensory bin for them to explore. To create a sensory bin, simply fill a small tub or container with objects from nature such as leaves, rocks, and sand that have different textures for your little one to explore.

Why is Montessori against pretend play? ›

Montessori observed that being given the opportunity to engage in real activities not only made children happier than playing with toys, but also facilitated their self-development, which she saw as more important.

Is Montessori good for kids with sensory issues? ›

These characteristics of Montessori classrooms are a natural fit for environments designed to promote sensory integration (SI) in young children.

What are the three main activities a child can perform with sensorial materials? ›

The child can do a variety of exercises with these materials, including matching them with the cylinder blocks, stacking them on top of each other to form a tower, and arranging them in size or different patterns.

What is a sensory lesson? ›

What is Sensory Play? In essence, sensory play includes play that engages any of your child's senses. This includes touch, smell, sight, sound and taste. But it also covers movement, balance, and spatial awareness.

What are the 5 sensory play? ›

Understanding the five senses – sight, touch, taste, smell, and sound – helps children make sense of the world around them.

What is the sensory playdough activity? ›

Playdough is a wonderful sensory and learning experience for children. As your child shapes the playdough into a ball or a snake, they're thinking creatively. The squeezing, pinching and pulling movements also strengthen your child's hand muscles and develop their fine motor skills.

How do you create a sensory play? ›

It's so satisfying to watch children learn and develop through various sensory play activities that are often quick, cheap and easy to create for them.
  1. Make Homemade Playdough. ...
  2. Create Pasta Necklaces. ...
  3. Try Finger Painting. ...
  4. Make a Mini Sand Garden. ...
  5. Sorting Pebbles. ...
  6. Moving Cotton Wool Balls Between Jars. ...
  7. Stacking Bricks.
Dec 4, 2019

What is an example of sensory play observation for toddlers? ›

Sensory play for toddlers – observing light and shadow created by torch light on objects of different shapes or sizes, or watching the colours mix and the patterns form by finger painting or sponge painting (with child-safe paint)

What are the activities of messy play? ›

Messy play is the open-ended exploration of materials and their properties. Activities like squishing clay, pouring sand, and sorting stones allow children to repeat and experiment as they like. Children are naturally curious, and messy play engages their senses at a developmental level that is appropriate for them.

What are sensory bins for toddlers? ›

Essentially, a sensory bin is a container filled with materials specifically chosen to stimulate the senses, allowing the child to explore and interact with the items as they choose. Sensory play is a great way to expose your child to a variety of textures, facilitate communication, and actively engage with your child.

Does Montessori do sensory play? ›

Montessori education is well-known for its sensory focus, which lies at the heart of young children's learning. We use sensorial apparatus, activities and materials to enhance children's understanding of shapes, colours, textures, sounds, tastes and smells.

What did Maria Montessori believe about play? ›

According to the movement's founder, Maria Montessori, “Play is the work of the child.” Her vision was to combine play with learning and satisfy a child's curiosity while still allowing them to have fun. Throughout Montessori history, play has been an integral part of the curriculum.

What do theorists say about sensory play? ›

Piaget's theory of cognitive development suggests that early years children learn most effectively when exploring the world around them and making use of all of their senses. This supported the popularity of discovery learning and sensory play.

How does Montessori address sensory deficit? ›

Montessori created specially designed learning materials that are still relevant and used in classrooms today; students in the Children's House learn through experiences that involve sensory motor activities and provide experiences with sight, sound, touch, taste, smell, visual discrimination, and movement.

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