Children love to explore with all their senses, which can cause havoc in your house when they want to put their hands all over your makeup or your fragile decorations or when they spray your perfume just to see what it smells like. However, you can encourage your preschooler's natural curiosity in a safe and contained way by creating a sensory table geared toward something that all young children enjoy...pets!
Create a texture activity to help your preschooler understand what different pets might feel like to touch. Make fluffy textures to match the feel of animals like dogs, cats and guinea pigs by cutting out squares from faux fur fabric. Place the fur swatches on top of the sensory table for your preschooler to touch. To replicate the scaly texture of pets like snakes, turtles and lizards, attach a real snake skin shed off by a snake to a piece of fabric, or place a turtle shell on the sensory table for your child to pick up and investigate. Some pets are silky feeling, like mice and rats. Duplicate a silky texture by wrapping silk fabric over a water bottle or whoopee cushion. Create a feathery experience by placing a bowl of soft feathers on the sensory table. Provide pictures of animals that match the various textures and let your preschooler sort the pictures into groups by their texture.
Smell and Taste Activity
If you have access to various kinds of pet food, such as fish food, cat food, dog food or rabbit food, put some in little bowls on the sensory table. Let your preschooler smell the various foods. Talk about how dog food is sometimes stinky, or how alfalfa hay can smell nice. When your preschooler has finished smelling the pet food, swap it out for similarly shaped cereals to eat. Puffed ball-shaped cereal can resemble dog food, and uncooked oatmeal can stand in for rabbit food, for example. Your preschooler will laugh and exclaim as she eats her "pet food."
Different pets create different noises, so set up a sound activity on your sensory table for your preschooler to hear what type of sounds each pet makes. Have a CD or tape ready that has a collection of actual pet sounds from animals like birds, cats, dogs, guinea pigs and mice. After listening to the sounds, have your preschooler guess which animal made each sound, then have him try to make the different pet sounds himself.
Preschoolers enjoy seeing all the different animals people keep as pets, especially when the pets have vastly different shapes, sizes and colors. Set up a display on a sensory table showing a variety of different creatures people keep as pets. For example, have a series of picture cards showing how different pet birds can look by including pictures of possibilities like a fat chicken, a yellow canary or a brightly colored parrot. Have other picture card stations featuring different types of dogs, cats, horses, fish and rodents. Your preschoolers will be amazed by the huge variety of animals that are loved as pets.
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