Toddlers learn best through sensory experiences, or activities that involve things they can touch and feel. Feeling a variety of textures can be a new experience for young children. As they touch and feel these textures, it can help them learn about the objects they are touching and also encourage them to use all of their senses, instead of just seeing and hearing.
Cut several small squares of a variety of materials, such as velvet, corduroy, faux fur, sandpaper, leather, plastic or tissue paper. Ensure that there are at least two of each type of material. Place all of the squares inside a shoebox or small lidded container. Ask the child to open the box and pull out a piece of the material. Help him describe it and how it feels. Is it smooth, rough, soft or bumpy? Then ask the toddler to find one that feels the same. Continue playing until the child loses interest or all the pieces have been matched.
Stuff a Sock
Gather several small toys with a variety of textures, such as a plastic toy car, a soft stuffed animal and a smooth round ball. Keep them hidden from the child while playing the game. Place one of the toys inside a large sock or stocking, so that the child cannot see it. Ask him to feel inside the sock and describe what he feels. Then, he may guess what the object is by feeling it. This activity helps explore textures while also building vocabulary to describe objects.
Textured Shapes or Letters
As young children learn to identify shapes and letters, it helps to engage more of their senses. Instead of just seeing the letters, they can feel them with this texture activity. Trace several shapes or the letters of the alphabet onto sandpaper and cut them out. Ask the child to use her finger to trace the shape or the letter. As she feels it, say the name of the letter. This way, the child uses three separate senses: sight, hearing and touch.
Another fun way for toddlers to experiment with textures is to press objects into modeling clay and see the designs that result. Help the child gather several different objects with a variety of textures. Going outside on a nature walk is a hands-on way to gather many different textured items like smooth rocks, bumpy pine cones or sharp pine needles. Provide modeling clay for the child and ask him to press the objects into it. Talk about what you see in the clay and discuss how each object makes a different pattern. To keep the patterns, allow the clay to harden.
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