How would you like a simple activity that will captivate your toddler, calm them down, teach them about different textures, and exercise the muscles in their fingers at the same time?! Well, you’ve come to the right place! Introducing the sensory balloon for toddlers!
All you need are some balloons (they have them at the Dollar Tree!) and a few things to fill them with. I used rice in some and beans in others. But it would be so fun to do all sorts of little surprises – pompoms, pasta, play dough, buttons, jingle bells… the list goes on! (Warning: I have filled balloons with play dough before, and it requires a second person to hold the balloon open while you stuff the play dough inside - otherwise, lots of fun!)
Instructions are simple: fill each balloon with the desired texture(s) and tie them up! Then present them to your youngster and let them go to town! We also have described the “fillings” for our children, so they can differentiate between the “rice” and “beans” and ask for their preferences.
Playing with these brings many opportunities and benefits for young children. Not only can they enjoy the texture through the balloon (without having to worry if they will swallow any small grains of rice or beans!), they can also compare what different things sound like when shaken up inside the balloons.
And of course everyone likes to hold the balloon up as high as they can and hear the “plunk” it makes when they drop it on the table or floor!
These sensory balloons have become sort of a calm-down activity for our class. There is something therapeutic about squeezing a little balloon full of rice or beans. I find myself enjoying it along with the kids.
We give them to the toddlers while changing diapers (it keeps them still!) and also when we go for stroller rides (to stave off aggression and hitting), along with randomly during the day just for fun!
They beg to be squeezed, which means that not only are children feeling the texture, they are also exercising their finger muscles and learning fine motor skills necessary for later holding a pencil in school.
I recommend making only one color balloon available at a time to reduce conflict among toddlers :)