Sensory play provides children with the opportunity to explore, learn, and make sense of the world around them. By giving young children a wide range of experiences, it helps them develop strong neural pathways in the brain, in turn boosting their ability to complete more complex learning tasks.
It is an essential tool in development – especially through toddlerhood and early years of school – as it stimulates and engages children’s five senses to support cognitive and language growth, social interaction as well as build fine motor skills. And, sensory play can also help to calm anxious or frustrated kids.
Integrating sensory play into daily life is way easier than it seems. All it takes is a little creativity, a couple of items you probably already have at home, and an indoor play space – you can always head outdoors if you’re worried about the potential mess.
*Each activity requires close parental supervision.
Squishy Water Beads
A preschool favourite, water beads are perfect for little hands to mush, roll and toss around. Easily available at local craft or gardening stores (Daiso sells ‘em too), soak these water beads overnight till they’re nice and squishy.
Then fill up Ziploc bags with beads and water – duct tape each bag shut for good measure – and hand them off to your little one. Keep a close eye on the tykes as they play, especially for curious babies who may start chewing on the bags.
Images and inspiration via Merri Cherry
Frozen Treasure Find
Head outdoors for this drippy activity! As introduced by The Chaos and the Clutter, Frozen Treasure Find takes more prep work (and freezer space), but will keep the kids occupied all afternoon. The objective is simple: for kids to use different tools (such as spray or squirt bottles and various cutlery) to release the treasures (plastic toys, sequins, foam cut-outs, etc.) frozen within.
Whether it’s individual treasure cubes or bucket-sized ice blocks for playgroups to work on, the little ones will definitely have tons of fun excavating and experimenting with different techniques.
Images and inspiration via The Chaos and the Clutter
Baby Sensory Crawl
This activity is great for babies who’ve started crawling. Combining baby’s newfound ability and sensory play, create a “sensory road” by grabbing objects with different textures and laying them out.
It can include everything and anything from a bamboo mat, fuzzy blankets and crinkly paper, to bouncy balls and wooden blocks… the list goes on. Baby will have a blast crawling through and exploring different textures, tastes, sights and even sounds!
Images and inspiration via Messy Motherhood
Baby Cloud Dough
Let your little one indulge in sensory play with this cloud dough recipe that promises tons of fun, and is safe enough for babies who’ll seize every opportunity to put things in their mouth. Lemon Lime Adventures created cloud dough out of rice cereal and melted coconut oil – it has amazing texture, the ability to be moulded and shaped, and is safe for tasting. Parents can even add rainbow hues by rolling in a few drops of food colouring!
Images and inspiration via Lemon Lime Adventures
Let your kids dive into the fun world of sensory bin exploration by sprinkling it with rainbow oats. And Next Comes L has the full tutorial, but all you’ll need to create the colourful confetti, are large flake wholegrain oats (one cup for each colour), food colouring and paper towels. If you’re worried about the impending mess, simply place the bin atop a large sheet so you can easily scoop up what ever falls out.
Images and inspiration via And Next Comes L
Crushed Cereal Rainbow Bottle
This sensory DIY will keep kids engaged from start to finish – and occupied for hours after. For starters, sort out your box of Fruity Pebbles by colour into individual bags. Then, crunch the cereal into a fine powder with a rolling pin. After which, layer each colour into a small bottle (if you don’t have a funnel, improvise with a rolled up piece of paper) till it’s filled to the brim, and tape the cap securely back onto the bottle. And voila, your child has a fun rainbow bottle he or she can roll, shake and decorate their room with.
Images and inspiration via Mess For Less