Sensory Play Ideas

By: Ellie Springer

Materials for a sensory tub:

(other than the standard sand or water)

  • Cornstarch and water
  • Cooked spaghetti noodles
  • Shaving cream
  • Cotton balls
  • Oats
  • Rice
  • Beans
  • Paper to rip and/or shredded paper
  • Soapy water
  • Ice cubes
  • Snow
  • Ribbons
  • Jell-O
  • Uncooked pasta
  • Dry cereal
  • Tin foil
  • Grass, leaves, flowers

Tools to add:

  • Sponges—car, doll, or toy wash
  • Turkey baster, medicine dropper
  • Colander, sieve
  • Buckets, shovels
  • Measuring cups
  • Funnel
  • Hammer (for dry cereal or pasta)
  • Empty bottles or other containers from recycling
  • Wooden or slotted spoons, ladle

In a Ziploc bag taped to a table:

(get a good, sturdy plastic bag, and tape the top closed, and let your child push the materials around with her fingers, and use toys—cars are fun—to make different marks)

  • Baby oil and food coloring (be careful, this leaks easily!)
  • Paint
  • Shampoo or conditioner
  • Hair gel
  • Shaving cream with food coloring or paint (use two colors and let your child mix them)
  • Water beads (in the floral section of a craft or dollar store)
  • Dry cereal or crackers, and let your child roll over it with a rolling pin

Simple sensory "doughs" (all can be colored with food coloring or liquid watercolor paint):

  • Baking soda and water
  • Shaving cream and baking soda to make fake snow
  • Cloud dough: flour and baby or vegetable oil ( about 8 to 1 ratio)
  • Corn flour, water, and a little bit of vegetable oil
  • Cornstarch and conditioner (this has always been very messy for me, but on Pinterest it looks great!)

Other sensory play ideas:

  • Large cardboard boxes they can crawl into
  • Twinkly lights over their crib
  • Contact paper, painter’s tape
  • Bubble wrap taped to the floor
  • Taste-safe "finger paint": yogurt with food coloring (just for painting on a high chair tray or other cleanable surface, not for artwork to be saved)
  • Ellie’s favorite: sensory bottles!

This is just the beginning. You can find LOTS of ideas for Sensory play online. Just google sensory play, sensory bags, or sensory bottles, and you'll find lots of ideas.


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Rachel has been a part of the JRI team since January, 2000. For over 20 years, Rachel has been working in the field of human services assisting families with accessing and navigating services. Rachel received her Bachelors degree in psychology and Masters Degree in Public Administration from Bridgewater State University. She was promoted in July 2005 to Family Networks Program Director where she closely worked with the Department of Children Families for 10 years ensuring that children and families received the highest quality of individualized services ranging from community based through residential care. Rachel is very dedicated to helping the individuals she works with and is committed to improving the lives of children and families. Rachel’s passion for creative service programming inspires her in her role as JRI Service Navigator.