Sensory play is any type of activity that engages the senses. This includes touch, smell, taste, movement, balance, sight, and hearing. The possibilities are nearly endless.
There are so many ideas out there, and we are using our senses constantly during everyday life.
30 Unique Sensory Play Ideas
I’ve created this list of unique sensory play activities from as many sources as I could find, so I could offer you a place to find new and exciting activities for your children.
The Benefits of Sensory Play
Sensory play is a crucial part of early childhood development and it’s beneficial to all children. Through playing and engaging in activities that stimulate the senses, sensory integration and processing develop.
This is so important for children with atypical sensory processing abilities because they may need more practice to learn how to process sensory input in an efficient manner.
For example, learning how to focus on their schoolwork when there are other noises or sights in their environment. For individuals with autism, it may be more difficult for their brains to sort incoming information and focus on what is most relevant and filter out what isn’t.
The result is everything happening in the child’s environment being processed at the same intensity. It’s very overwhelming and can lead to meltdowns.
Sensory play also helps children make connections and build an understanding of their world. Learning kinesthetically, using all of the senses, is proven to be one of the best ways to learn new information and the brain is more likely to effectively store that information into the child’s long-term memory.
These activities are also calming and fun, making them a great way to improve emotional regulation and help keep your little ones calm and well regulated. They support language development, motor skills, cognitive growth, social skills, and improve problem-solving abilities.
Sensory Play Ideas
Drawing With Feet & Mouths | Art Bar
Drawing with your feet, or mouth is such a unique sensory experience.
Children try to coordinate the gross motor movements of their legs, and fine motor movements of their toes and feet, in order to create art. It puts motor planning skills to the test.
Balloon Tennis | Little Bins for Little Hands
Balloon tennis is a great indoor gross motor activity for sensory play.
This game is loads of fun for children with motor challenges or special needs, for typically developing kids, and for adults too!
Cloud and Wind Play | Mama of Littles
Another fun and simple indoor gross motor play activity. “It was a windy day in the living room today as the littles raced to catch the clouds”.
Magnetic Sensory Bin | My Mundane & Miraculous Life
This unique sensory bin idea is simple because you can use items that you already have around the house.
It’s also a fun and creative learning experience that teaches children about magnetism.
Coloring on Sandpaper | I Can Teach My Child
This coloring on sandpaper activity is a unique sensory experience that will encourage your child to grasp their writing utensils correctly in order to color the rough surface, improving fine motor skills.
Shaving Cream & Water Beads | Learn Play Imagine
Water beads are a common sensory bin filler and I’ve seen them used in many ways but this is the first time I have come across the combination of water beads and shaving cream. This is a unique tactile sensory play idea that you have to try.
Sensory Balloons | Momtastic
This is a really fun activity for kids of all ages. You can fill the balloons with so many different things and have them guess what’s inside. You can make the fillers easy or more difficult to guess, depending on the child’s age.
Line Walking | Little Bins for Little Hands
This gross motor sensory play activity can be set up inside or outside and provides both proceptive and vestibular input.
Homemade Snow | Red Ted Art
This simple DIY snow is only 2 ingredients, simple to create, and perfect for winter themed sensory bins. Your kids can play with snow inside.
Scarf Sensory Bin | And Next Comes L
The simplest of activities are often the most engaging. Scarves make for great sensory play for a variety of reasons – different textures, colors, embellishments, etc.
Smelling Bottles | Things to Share and Remember
This is a great olfactory sensory play activity. You can make the smelling bottles with labels, like in this post, or without the labels and have your kids guess the smells.
These are made in old spice bottles with cotton balls and essential oils or extracts in them.
Musical Jars | Cool Science Experiment HQ
Tapping on the jars with the spoon causes them to vibrate and make a sound.
When the jars were all empty the vibrations and the sounds are the same.
However, adding water to the jars cause the vibrations (and sound) to change. This sensory activity is also an interesting science experiment and a music lesson!
Hurricane Jar | One Time Through
When you shake this super cool sensory jar it looks like a hurricane inside the jar.
Flowers Sensory Play | The Love Notes Blog
There is a lot to explore with flowers. This is a simple sensory activity to set up if you’ve had a bouquet of flowers that aren’t going to last much longer.
Smelly Potions | Pickle Bums
This science experiment sensory play activity is great fun. Gather your supplies and mix together smell potions using tools to improve fine motor skills too.
Rain in a Jar | Practically Hippie
Trust me, this isn’t another version of the calm down/sensory jar. This activity creates a unique visual experience as you’ve never witnessed before.
Fluffy Slime | Army Wife With Daughters
This fluffy slime is easy to make, smells great, and when you push it into a cup it makes a farting noise. What’s not to love?
Bubble Wrap Painting | Art Bar Blog
Beyond simple activity that lets your kids experience painting using a new texture.
Also, try putting the bubble wrap on your kiddo’s feet and having them walk on the picture for another fun tactile experience.
Wash The Muddy Animals | The Imagination Tree
Create lots of fun for preschoolers and toddlers with this wash the muddy farm animals’ sensory play! This is a taste-safe play idea that makes it perfect for even the littlest explorer and is wonderful when paired with a favorite farm story or song.
Outer Space Play Dough | Fantastic Fun and Learning
Playdough is a sensory play tool that will never go out of style.
Use playdough along with other items while your child experiences different concepts and textures, like this outer space playdough activity.
Rainbow Dyed Noodles | Growing a Jeweled Rose
Get ready for hours of cold, slimy, colorful fun with these vibrantly dyed noodles.
Bird Nest Sensory Bin | Fantastic Fun and Learning
Spring is here in full swing now. What better way to learn than with a bird nest sensory bin.
Fizzy Cloud Dough | Powerful Mothering
This multi-leveled sensory exploration becomes a science experiment and it’s a great way to entertain kids and a playful learning experience.
Frozen Dinosaur Eggs | The Imagination Tree
Have wonderful fun with these frozen dinosaur eggs for sensory play and scientific discovery! So easy to make and play with as part of imaginative, small world play scene and great for dinosaur-loving kids
Rainbow Chickpeas | And Next Comes L
Learn how to dye chickpeas to use as a beautiful sensory bin filler for toddlers and preschoolers.
Water Bead Window | Parenting Chaos
This mesmerizing activity is mess-free. It’s the perfect solution for when you need to distract and entertain but you don’t want to deal with the cleanup.
Star Box | Where Imagination Grows
This simple DIY activity is perfect for all ages from infants onward. Build a beautiful, visual sensory experience for your kiddo.
Frosting Mud | A Little Pinch of Perfect
A taste safe mud made from frosting that’s perfect for garden sensory bins.
Threading Station | Busy Toddler
This is a great quiet-time activity that is highly entertaining and builds fine motor skills.
Lava Lamp Sensory Bags | Growing a Jeweled Rose
Amazing lava lamp sensory plays. Explore colors, explore the Science of liquids, create fun works of art, and engage in sensory play in a mess-free way. There is no clean up with these and the fun never ends.
Looking for More Sensory Play Ideas?
There are so many ideas out there. Why not check out this huge list of proprioceptive input activities?