I love sensory play. Sensory play is a collective, term for activities which stimulate the senses in some way, or provide input to one of the eight sensory systems we humans possess (you thought it was just five, right?!). The eight senses are: Visual, auditory, olfactory (smell), gustatory (taste), tactile, vsetibular (sense of your position in the space around you), proprioceptive (sensations from muscles and joints), and interoception (sensations related to the physiological/physical condition of the body, such as thirst and hunger and needing the loo). Often used by parents and carers of children with additional needs and sensory processing disorders, sensory play can have amazing benefits for all children. Here are fifteen brilliantly easy sensory play activities for kids that you can try at home!
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15 Easy Sensory Play Activities for Kids!
Shaving foam play – use a large tray or a tuff spot* and squirt in a good amount of shaving foam (if you’re concerned about it going in the mouth, you could use squirty cream!). Try adding paint or food colouring, and glitter, and swirling it in with fingers and hands. Make marks in it, use forks, sticks and other implements to drag through it, squeeze it in your fists…
Splatter painting – this method of painting is great for visual stimulation, as well as being very physical, providing vestibular and proprioceptive input. Make sure you have a large area you don’t mind getting messy – the garden is ideal. Use large rolls of paper, or tape together smaller pieces. Then take some paints, brushes, and let it fly!
Bake something yummy! – baking and cooking is a very sensory activity, involving smell, taste and touch. Baking bread, involving plenty of kneading is perfect, as is making chocolate cookies, which smell amazing!
Playdough – it’s a classic, but it’s such a versatile sensory activity! Playdough is great for exploring texture, and, if you add colours and essential oils in to the mix, it adds another dimension. Playdough is easy to make at home with just a few ingredients – see our recipe for glitter playdough here. Rabbit Ideas has a great post giving ideas of making the most of playdough play!
Use vehicles to paint with – using bright colours is visually stimulating and if you use cars, trucks and other vehicles to make tracks through the paint, you will get vestibular and proprioceptive input too.
Edible chocolate slime – the slime craze isn’t dying down, but it’s a perfect sensory activity, and even better when the slime is chocolatey and edible! Pull it, squeeze it, squish it, watch it drip. See how we made it here.
Use nature for art – go out into the park, woods or beach and see what you can find to use as an alternative to paint brushes. We found some amazing fallen pine needles in bunches, which made a lovely swishy-scratchy noise as Tink swirled them in the paint and across the paper. Explore the textures and the smells too!
Coloured rice play – playing with rice, especially when it’s pretty rainbow colours, is a lovely activity for children to try. The rice can be poured using cups, through fingers or through a colander. Listen to the sound as it hits plastic, metal or fabric. How does it feel in your hands? Dyeing your own rice is pretty easy – there are some instructions here on this post from The Ladybird’s Adventures.
Making ‘potions’ – concocting potions and perfumes is a brilliantly (messy!) sensory activity to try. Choose products with a variety of smells, colours and textures, to mix together.
‘Painting’ with water – This is one of the easiest, cheapest activities you’ll ever do, but it seems to keep kids engaged for hours! Try painting on different textures: wood, concrete, plastic and see how the brush feels and how long it takes the water to dry.
Trampolining in the rain – this is such a fun activity, and a great way to make the most of a rubbish weather day, as well as giving the trampoline a clean – win-win! Wait until a rainy day – really, really rainy is best! Make sure the kids are wearing waterproofs, or clothes you don’t mind getting soaked. Put some bubble bath on to the trampoline and let them bounce away! The motion combined with the water creates bubbles, which makes trampolining so much more interesting! Great for vestibular and proprioception too!
Gloop – known by various names, including ‘gak’, ‘oobleck’ and ‘goop’, this mixture of cornflour and water is a favourite sensory activity in homes and child care provisions across the world! If you’ve never tried it, you must – there’s something so relaxing and mesmerising watching as it turns from solid to liquid and back to solid as you play with it! There’s no real recipe; just mix cornflour and water until you have something that you can touch but doesn’t stick to your fingers. Add food colouring if you like. Then, pick some up with your fingers… It will melt and drip! It can get messy, but it’s easy enough to clean once it’s dry!
Painting – good, old-fashioned painting is a great sensory activity – especially if your child uses something other than the brush on the paper, such as hands! Or try using fruit and vegetables as stamps to add a fragrant element to the activity.
Plant something fragrant! – OK, so this one takes some time, as plants don’t grow overnight, although using something like mustard cress seeds does produce quick results. Growing herbs is a brilliant sensory activity for those with more patience. Eventually you could have a beautifully fragrant herb garden to use in your cooking, or for use in home remedies (lavender for calming, for example). These lovely kits from Mud & Bloom are a great way to introduce kids to growing.
And, if you don’t have enough to try, this post from Thimble and Twig has even more quick and easy sensory play activities! Happy playing!
If you aren’t afraid of messy activities, you might also like this one!!