Toys for a Toddler's Sensorimotor Development

When your toddler plays, he is performing an important job -- he’s building an understanding himself, other people and the world around him. Your toddler uses sensorimotor play to figure out his environment and his own body.

When your child plays with toys and other objects he learns what his own muscles can do, gets practice with movements he needs for everyday life and learns the characteristics of the objects he is playing with. Numerous toys help with sensorimotor development.

Simple Is Best

Keep it simple when it comes to sensorimotor toys. Toddlers engage in more sensorimotor play when they are given simple and familiar toys. Give your child a more complex toy or a novel toy and he will engage in more exploration. Sensorimotor play involves repetitive motor movements including filling and dumping containers with objects, pushing and pulling, and examining toys by touching, looking or mouthing. Your child is experimenting with motor movement as well as body sensation and manipulating objects.

Shape and Size Sorting

Girl playing with toys

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Shape-sorting toys -- those that allow only certain shapes or sizes to fit through holes in a larger object – are good for sensorimotor development.

You can purchase these or make your own by cutting shapes in the lid of a plastic coffee can to accommodate blocks, spools and other objects. Also have your toddler play with size-sorting toys.

Create your own by giving your child a cupcake tin. Let her determine which objects fit into it, such as blocks and spools, and which don’t, such as boxes and balls.

Play Dough and Silly Putty

Play dough is a good sensorimotor toy that you can either buy or make. To make play dough, combine 2 cups flour, 1 cup salt, 2 cups water, 2 tablespoons vegetable oil and 4 teaspoons cream of tartar in a pot. Cook over medium heat for three to four minutes, stirring constantly. Remove from the heat and continue stirring until the dough becomes stiff. Remove the dough from the pan and let it cool. Add food coloring and, if desired, a scenting agent such as vanilla. You also can buy or make a silly putty sensorimotor toy.

Make it by combining 1 cup glue and 1 ½ cups liquid starch. Stir until the glue congeals, then drain off excess liquid.

Water Toys

Girl playing with toys

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Use a water table that has objects a toddler can fill with water and dump, or a sink filled with water accompanied by cups, pots and pans. Pouring water between objects and fitting them together is typical sensorimotor play for your toddler. Be prepared for noise if you give her pots and pans, however, because banging objects together to see how they sound also is typical.