My top 5 stimulating and soothing toddler/preschooler activities

My 3-year-old has many interests and preferences and does not hesitate to let me know!  I have found that we are all much better off when he has been involved in activities that engage all of his senses and challenge him.  He has always been strong-willed, persistent, and quick to react emotionally when things don’t go his way.  Very typical for a 2 or 3-year-old!  At the same time, he is creative, imaginative, very social and fun!  When my daughter came along, Gavin was 2 and a half and activities were hard to organize and execute.  Many times, I found myself flipping on the tv and calling it what it was- survival mode!

These days, I’ve been trying to get it down to a science with balancing activities that hold his attention, stimulate his mind, and allow him to explore through his senses.  When he engages in these on a regular basis, I find his attention is better.  He communicates more.  His attitude is more upbeat and he is easier to redirect (another way to say that he is more flexible!)  When I was a behavior specialist, I would not want to a formal plan for a preschooler for behavior until I knew the child was getting things he/she needed including a good amount of movement, hands-on activities, things that made him/her smile.  Let’s face it, are any of us engaged with anything when we are not happy or stimulated by the activity itself!


1.  Playground!  When we are at the playground, Gavin gets a chance to run, play, slide, jump and be imaginative.  He will climb to the top and confidently yelll “I did it!”  He will also pretend he’s driving a boat, or a car and the woodchips are the water.  Physical activity allows him to get his heart rate up and gets the endorphins flowing!  Just being outdoors can be soothing to the soul!  Trips to the zoo, beach, or even a walk at a local pond can be relaxing and fun!  Fresh air is a miracle in itself!  Did you know the recommendation is 60 minutes of activity EVERY day?
2.  Music or dance party!  Music somehow soothes the soul, doesn’t it?  When I see Gavin getting a little anxious about something or a little on edge, I will play one of his favorite songs right from my phone.  This usually helps redirect.  We also have spontaneous dance parties and he and his sister love to dance around the room!  It changes his mood instantly!
3.  Play-dough!  Yes, I know not everyone likes messy activities, but if you put down an old shower curtain or set rules about where play dough stays (on the table), this activity can be pretty neat.  I believe meal times are the messiest activity we have!  By providing sensory experiences we allow children to focus, relax and be present with an activity that can be quite calming!  We take play-dough out to restaurants, and Gavin has a blast squishing, rolling and making figures.  But you can make your own version of play dough that’s just as much fun to make as it is to play with. This recipe makes 3 1/2 cups of dough. 1. In a medium saucepan, mix together the flour, salt, vegetable oil, cream of tartar, and water.


And yes, sometimes it will end up on the floor and you will pray that it is JUST play-dough!
4.  Baking!  I am not a huge baker.  I don’t like the science behind baking.  I actually love cooking where I can throw in ingredients and change the way things taste.  I like to take control when prepping food!  On the other hand, there is something rather comforting about the smell of homemade muffins!  Gavin loves helping me cook and will stay engaged the WHOLE time.  He absolutely loved these healthy muffins he helped me make and they were fairly easy too!  They are over on my facebook fitness page!  Here is an easy, healthy and no-bake recipe!


5.  Shaving cream car wash!  Take out any toys that need to be washed, including cars, trucks, dolls etc. and have a cleaning party!  Get the sensitive skin shaving cream if you want to avoid the perfume smell, a bucket of water, some clean scrub brushes (dollar store or Target), a tub and some mats and towels.  Again, this is slightly messy, but it will hold your child’s attention and be stimulating to all of his/her senses!  If you don’t have shaving cream, sand or water table or even a trip to the beach are also great activities for the threenager!  Very stimulating and soothing at the same time!

I hope you enjoyed these!  Please share this post if you feel that other parents could benefit from hearing about easy to prepare sensory stimulating activities!

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  1. Julia LOVES to bake with me. She is a pro at cracking an egg!
    We made muffins the other day, and I did sneak in a bit of whole wheat flour and some flax seed. She didn’t complain about eating them (I am sure the chocolate chips helped!)

    1. That’s great Nancy! Funny that she is so good at cracking eggs! I have a hard time myself. 🙂 I bet she didn’t complain about eating! I find Gavin always eats what he makes. Maybe he trusts it more- lol! Thanks for stopping by my blog! xo

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