Importance of Sensory Experiences
I am going to share some fun and edible mark making activities for toddlers and preschoolers. They can be done inside or outside but you will need to think about how to minimise mess if you do them inside. The first 5 are also edible unless you add such things as sparkles. They are a bit messy but give a lovely sensory experience for children! Sensory activities are hands on to encourage children to engage, explore and to develop language.
As we encounter anything with our senses (sight, touch, smell, taste, sound or vestibular & proprioception – our sense of balance, body position and place in space) it helps to develop new connections in the brain. The more sensory experiences we have, the greater ability we have to develop pathways in the brain for thought, learning and creativity (Gascoyne, 2016). New experiences are also very engaging for children. Practicing these mark making activities gives toddlers a variety of sensory opportunities which can be very motivating.
Gooey slimy mark making provide toddlers with the opportunity to use all of their senses. Children see the marks they make and feel the texture of the sauce as they run their fingers through it. They will also be able to hear the sounds of the sauce moving around, especially if they squeeze their fingers – which they will be very tempted to do! At the same time they will be able to smell the sauces which can also trigger their sense of taste (even if they don’t sneak a little lick). Finally, making marks also involves proprioception. Children will need to sense and control the movements of their hands, and the pressure that they apply as they move their fingers to make marks.
Pre-writing and Gross & Fine Motor Skills
Before children begin learning to form letters they need to develop the ability to make different lines and shapes. Some of this is developmental, but the more practice they have experimenting with making marks, the better equipped they will be for putting these skills together to form letters. These mark making activities will give children to practice making a range of shapes and movements. Children also need to develop gross and fine motor skills as part of this. You can see some of my posts on gross motor skills such as Colour Sweep, or fine motor skills such as my Hungry Caterpillar Threading or Pom Pom Numicon.
Edible Mark Making Activities for Toddlers and Preschoolers
To do these activities I used the following:
Most of the sauces or mixtures I had in the cupboard or got in the shop so they are fairly easy to find and use at home or in school.
Chocolate Sauce Edible Mark Making Activity for Toddlers
This is a great sticky, slimy mark making activity that children can do on a tray or even a tuff spot. My son really enjoys making marks in chocolate sauce not only because it’s chocolate, but because of the way it feels! He seems to like making marks in it just as much as he likes rubbing it over his hands and squeezing it between his fingers. This slimy chocolate will be a great way to draw in children, particularly boys, to get them making marks or practicing letters. As an added bonus its edible – though you may have to be careful that children don’t eat it all!
Ketchup Edible Mark Making Activity for Toddlers
Similar to chocolate sauce, ketchup is also a great consistency for making marks. It’s also good that it’s edible but not quite as tempting to eat. The marks stay for a little bit but they are not permanent. They slowly disappear which is perfect for children who worry about making mistakes. The bright colour and slimy consistency is exciting for children to explore. Children love running their hands through it, squishing it in their hands and drawing in it. This works particularly well on a tray or baking tray where the colour really stands out.
Gloopy Edible Mark Making Activity- Cornflower & Oil
Cornflower and oil is a really squishy mark making material. It holds its shape much better than ketchup or tomato sauce. This means that the marks really stand out and hold their shape until they are wiped away. To make this even more enticing you can add food colouring, glitter, spices or essential oils. These will also provide children with additional visual and olfactory sensory experiences. *Keep in mind that if you add glitter and/or essential oils (depending on which) it will no longer be edible/non-toxic.
Ready Brek / Cream of Wheat Edible Mark Making Activity
This provides different consistency which is squishy but also fluffy rather than slimy. It’s another great option for providing a different experience for children to make marks. Adding more or less water changes the consistency making it either fluffier or more watery. With less water, it holds its shape and the marks can be made more easily. As you add water it won’t hold its shape as well. This is ideal for children worried about making mistakes, who are having trouble taking risks with mark making. Like the corn flower activity, you can add food colouring, glitter, or essential oils/spices to make it exciting! If you would like to change its colour but not use food colouring you could use natural ‘dyes’ such as turmeric for yellow, beetroot juice or freeze dried raspberries for red.
Boba and Cornflower Edible Mark Making Activity
Boba (bubbles) are tapioca balls used in bubble or pearl tea. Combined with cornflour they make a truly squishy, bumpy, slimy concoction that children love to touch! There are two different sized boba balls- big and small. These are non toxic and edible so they are safe to use even with young children. My children love playing with them but I prefer using the small pearl balls with my youngest (baby). He tends to stuff his mouth with things we play with and I don’t want to risk him choking on them! Adding in food colouring and/or getting colourful boba balls is another way to make it enticing for children.
Non-edible Mark Making Activities for Toddlers and Preschoolers
Mud Mark Making Activity
This is a particularly good mark making activity for outside. Children can make marks in the mud on the ground with their fingers or a stick. Alternatively, mud can be put on something like a tray or tuff spot where they can explore the texture and change its consistency by adding water. If children are initially a bit squeamish about putting their hands into mud they can begin by using sticks to make their marks. They can also use rocks to make patterns and shapes in the dirt and mud.
PVA Glue Mark Making Activity
PVA glue on a tray or tuff spot is a particularly sticky mark making activity! It can be spread all over by itself or with some food colouring. Alternatively, you can use glitter glue (such as Elmer’s Glitter Glue) which is even more fun for children! Because of the consistency a lot more pressure is needed to make marks. Alternatively children can scratch it with their nails or use sticks or forks to create lines, shapes or other marks.
Mark Making Activities for Toddlers – Questions to Ask
- What do you notice?
- What sounds do you hear?
- How does that feel?
- What can you smell?
- What have you made? Are there other lines, circles, shapes, pictures, letters, numbers, etc. can you make?
- Can you make larger or smaller shapes? Show me!
What they get from it
These are all great opportunities for sensory play which as discussed above, support brain development and learning.
Children need lots of experiences and practice forming lines and shapes. These are a few exciting and motivating ways that they can practice.
Take it further
I will have more mark making activities for children coming soon! If you would like to try making edible paint which is great for mark making on tuff spots or trays, see my post Corn Starch Paint – Homemade Edible Paint!
Other typical slimy mark making activities include finger painting, using cornflour & water and yoghurt. Some people like putting food colouring in yoghurt for babies to play with. I personally think it smells very quickly, so I prefer using one of the other options discussed above.
*This post contains affiliate links in case you would like to buy any resources. It helps me to cover the cost of running this website.
Gascoyne, Sue (2016). Sensory Play: Play in the EYFS. Andrews UK Limited.