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Sensory Play

Sensory activities can be extremely beneficial for all young children as well as being lots of fun. 

Engaging children in sensory activities is beneficial in several ways, as it can help with:

  • Stimulating the brain, creating neural pathways and improving sensory processing systems
  • Improving social skills such as communication and cooperation if playing with a sibling at home
  • Improving coordination, as well as fine/gross motor skills
  • Calming children down when they are agitated


  • Homemade Musical Instruments

There are lots of different musical instruments that you can make at home and creating them can be just as much fun as playing with them. Ideas include shakers (e.g. fill plastic bottles with rice or dried beans), rattles (eg thread buttons or beads onto some string), drums (e.g. use wooden spoons to beat on plastic tubs) and chimes (hang up some bottle tops or shells).


  • Scented Playdough

Make up a large batch of playdough and divide it into separate bowls. Mix different ingredients into each bowl, to create easily identifiable smells, for example cinnamon, almond essence, lemon juice, vanilla essence, ginger and so on (you could also add food colouring). While the children play with the dough they can enjoy the different smells and try to guess what they are.


  • Footprint Painting

For this activity you’ll need a large roll of paper and some trays of paint, as well as paper towels and water on hand for cleaning the paint off the children’s feet. You could try to create a particular scene (e.g. paint some circles and then get the children to make footprint petals around them), or just let them go freeform.


  • Tasting Game

In this game the children taste different kinds of food while blindfolded, and then guess what it is. Your choice of food will obviously depend on the likes/dislikes of the children, but bear in mind that this game can be a good way of introducing new tastes and textures. Your list might include things like yoghurt, cereal, jelly, rice cakes, bananas, bread, tomato sauce, satsumas and guacamole.


  • Ice Excavation

You’ll need to prepare this activity a day or two ahead. Find a large plastic box that will fit in your freezer, quarter fill it with water, put some toys or objects (natural or man made) in and freeze. Add three more layers, and then turn out your ice block. The children then have to get the toys out of the ice, using a selection of tools (eg spray bottles with warm water in, toy hammers etc).


  • Cornflour Slime

This homemade slime is great to play with as it has unusual properties – it’s a cross between a liquid and a solid. In a large shallow container, mix together cornflour and water until you have a slime consistency. If you punch the slime it instantly turns solid, but when you scoop some up and hold it, it will turn back into a liquid.


More Ideas

  • Follow a drum beat – use tin or saucepan with wooden spoon
  • Follow a clap pattern
  • Drop & watch bouncy balls
  • Sort boxes shape/size
  • Pile and knock down boxes/tower building
  • Pull colourful fabric slowly from a bag
  • Find self in pictures 
  • Use a mirror to look at their face
  • Play peekaboo using a mirror/cloth etc.
  • Use a torch 




  • Bubbles
  • Boats with straws
  • Cotton Balls
  • Maltesers
  • Paint
  • Feathers
  • Whistles
  • Sequins
  • Glitter
  • Confetti
  • Ball Maze

Sensory Ball Games


  • Squeeze
  • Throw/roll into bucket
  • Different textured balls – Wrap in paper, cling film, tin foil
  • Roll from head to toe and back
  • Bounce
  • Roll in playdough to make patterns
  • Splat into paint and roll/throw onto paper


Touch and Texture 


  • Put objects in a box and feel/guess

  • Sandpaper shape cut outs

  • Tearing paper (either to glue onto something, or just to tear up)

  • Crumpling newspaper

  • Sponges- Get out bowls and a sponge to transfer water from one bowl to the other.

  • Play Dough

  • Bubble wrap popping

  • Tin foil squishing

  • Objects in Shaving foam 

Fine Motor


  • Use rubber gloves to make dots
  • Cotton buds to make dots
  • Use a stick to trace letters/make marks
  • Cutting with scissors paper, straws
  • Retrieve items from shaving foam
  • Hole punch coloured paper then use to blow/for sticking
  • Trace numbers in sand
  • Use a pipette to drop liquid watercolours/food colouring onto toilet paper
  • Use clothes pegs on a line


Giant Plastic Tweezers


  • Move items into different pots
  • Pick items out of slime
  • Pick items out of water
  • Put items into a pattern
  • Put beads into a bottle
  • Pick up coloured pom poms



If you feel your child needs to improve their fine motor skills e.g. they appear to have a weak or loose grip I would highly recommend the tweezers and tools from Learning Resources. 

Body Awareness Sensory Activities


  • Sensory Ball throw/roll
  • Which hand is hiding the object?
  • Obstacle Course
  • Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes

Core Strength Activities


Circuit Training

  • Sit ups
  • squats
  • crunches
  • Bicycle kicks
  • Plank
  • Stand on one leg
  • Hop, skip, jump


See 'Physical Activity' splat for more ideas.



Make faces in the mirror

  • Monkey
  • Monster
  • Poke tongue out
  • Play peekaboo
  • Tense all face muscles
  • Relax all face muscles
  • Explore their face 

Scavenger Hunts


In the Garden:

  • Snails
  • Grass
  • Leaves
  • Long Stick
  • Short Stick
  • Thick Stick
  • Thin Stick
  • Shiny Stone
  • A flower

In the Kitchen:

  • Big Spoon
  • Little spoon
  • Fork
  • A frying pan
  • A saucepan

Guess the Sounds


Use the videos below to play 'Guess the Sounds'. An alternative would be to gather a selection of toy animals or vehicles, when your child hears the sound they hold up the matching animal or vehicle.