Activites for Families



Easy Sensory Ideas

Written by Julia Pelly

The first 3 years of life are a time of rapid growth and development for a child. As children grow from infants to toddlers to preschoolers they are able to take in vast amounts of information and turn it into working knowledge about the world.

Despite being an experienced teacher and recreational director, I had never heard anything about Sensory Integration Disorder until Hope was diagnosed with it. I mean 15 years of intensively working with kids, I thought I was ready for anything. If you think your child is not processing sounds, motion, touches, tastes or what they see as most children do, then get help early. Language, balance and coordination delays need early intervention as well. I would have been lost with out The ILS Team and Advanced Brain Technology. A local occupational therapist trained in sensory issues, will be able to help as well. Good Luck.  

Sensory play offers children a unique opportunity to engage with the world in a way that helps them grow and develop. This kind of active play helps to create connections in the brain that allow for increasingly complex thoughts and tasks.

Play also supports language development, cognitive growth, fine and gross motor skills, and fosters social interaction and peer engagement. Sensory play, known for helping children develop mindfulness skills, can also be excellent for helping to calm a child who may be feeling anxious or angry.

Sensory play builds observational skills and abstract thinking and encourages experimentation. So now that you know all the benefits, you probably want to get started. But where?

Sensory play ideas and activities

Sensory play can be loads of fun and is often fairly simple to set up, but it can be difficult for parents to think of ideas to help their child engage in sensory activities. Check out the list below for simple sensory play ideas that your toddler or preschooler will love!

Create a sensory bin

It’s simple for children to enjoy sensory play when you create a sensory bin for them to explore.

To create a sensory bin, simply fill a small tub or container with objects from nature such as leaves, rocks, and sand that have different textures for your little one to explore.

Or use foods, like pasta, rice, or beans, along with spoons, scoops, and small toys to bury and discover.

Remember, little ones often explore with their mouths in addition to their hands so be sure to clean all items, avoid choking hazards, and supervise play.

Playing with food

Yes, it gets messy, but allowing your little one to play with food — squishing, smearing, and tasting as they go — gives them a sensory experience that helps them learn. One 2017 Trusted Source showed that preschoolers who participated in sensory play with fruits and vegetables were more likely to try not only the foods in the experiment, but other new foods.

If you’re concerned about encouraging food play, you can always work to distinguish playtime and mealtime as different times. And as they get older you can talk about table manners. But when they’re young, food can be a great, safe way to explore texture, taste, and smell through experimentation and play.

Twisting noodles, smearing yogurt, smashing beans — all of these activities can be satisfying to curious little hands and tasty on top of that!

Sound tubes

To create a sound tube for your little one and help them connect with the auditory world around them, you’ll only need a few simple supplies.

First, save a few empty paper towel rolls. Next, collect a variety of different materials to go inside each tube like uncooked rice, dried beans, or beads.

Finally, fill each tube with a different material and safely secure the ends of the tubes (duct tape can work for this). Your little one will delight in hearing the different noises these similar looking toys will make!

Play dough

Recipes abound for making your own dough using household supplies and even adding colors and scents.

If you’re not interested in making your own sensory dough, consider heading to your local big box store and picking up some premade dough. Play dough’s soft and squishy texture ensures that your child will enjoy hours of rolling, slicing, and chopping as they play.

Balance beam

You can always head to the local park for some balance beam play, but you can work on the same skills at home with some painter’s or masking tape. Simply tape lines onto the floor and challenge your kiddo to walk the line.

Calming bottles

When the world feels out of control to a little one, it’s normal and natural for them to become overwhelmed and to act out their big feelings. If you’re looking for a way to help calm down your little one when those big feelings hit a calming bottle can help.

To create a calming bottle you’ll just need an old water bottle, water, clear glue, some food dye, and some glitter. To create, simply fill the bottle with water mixed with the clear glue and then add a few drops of food dye and a few shakes of glitter before gluing the lid shut.

When your babe is feeling angry or out-of-sorts they can shake the bottle and then take deep breaths as they watch the glitter resettle at the bottom.


If you’re itching to get outside or want your tot to feel the sun on their face as they play, consider investing in a sandbox and a few good sand toys to help them get a feel for the world.

You don’t need anything special to make a sandbox or sand table especially fun for little ones. Often, simple objects like shovels and cups are enough to spark their imagination and get them playing!

Swing, swing, swing

Swings are a favorite playground staple, but consider challenging your kiddo to use them in new ways. Encourage them to try swinging on their tummy, Superman-style.

Instead of pushing from behind, gently pull their feet and then release. Twist the swing in one direction and then allow it to spin back in the other direction.

Can’t make it to the park or outside? Use a blanket to create a hammock that you and another adult can gently swing back and forth.

Plant a garden

This is a fun activity you can do together that involves an ongoing sensory benefit. You don’t have to go big — you can even plant small seeds into the cups of an egg carton.

Digging in the dirt, sorting seeds, watering, and smelling the flowers or herbs you plant will all stimulate the senses.

Taste test challenge

As your little one grows, the type of activities they’re able to engage with expands. Once a child is preschool aged they’re likely ready for a taste test activity.

To create a taste test, ask your child to close their eyes or blindfold them and offer them different fruits that they enjoy. As they taste each fruit, have them do their best to guess what they’re tasting!

Bread baking

While cooking and baking anything is a great way to help kids learn and grow, baking bread offers unique sensory activities as little ones get the chance to knead the bread before it bakes.

Even though it’s often slower than doing it on your own, do your best to let your child measure, pour, and stir the ingredients as you bake together!

Homemade musical instruments

Another activity preschool-age children tend to enjoy is creating their own musical instruments. Children can (with a little assistance) create a band’s worth of instruments with items that are often found around the house.

Consider making maracas with dried beans, a paper cup, and some wax paper or a guitar from an empty tissue box and some rubber bands.

Jumping fun

Jumping is a great way to release energy and also stimulate your little one’s sense of movement. There are many great ways to incorporate jumping movements — jump ropes, small exercise trampolines, sitting on an exercise ball.

Try setting up an obstacle course that challenges your little one to climb and jump over small objects on their way. You can do this outside with sidewalk chalk and small rocks or toys or take the party inside using blankets, pillows, and stuffed animals as obstacles and paths.

Mud kitchen

If you love the idea of cooking with your child but would prefer to keep the mess outdoors, consider letting them set up a mud kitchen and create recipes from whatever they can find in nature.

Offer them a few pots and pans, some water and a mixing spoon and you’ll be surprised at how long they can happily bake mud cakes!

Painting Under Saran Wrap

Another mess-free way to help kids get a sense of colors and to feel some squish between their fingers is to allow them to paint through plastic.

To create a mess-free painting, simply slip a piece of paper with a few blobs of paint on it into a gallon Ziploc bag and seal it up. After your little one has spent some time squishing the paint together through the plastic wall of the bag you’ll have both a masterpiece to hang up and a tired toddler to show for it.

Frozen toys

Teaching a child about hot and cold can be a tough lesson but, with a little bit of ice and some miniature toys your babe will have a blast exploring these sensations on their own.

To create a frozen toy activity simply freeze some miniature toys (like action figures) into ice and then let your baby manipulate the ice with their hands until the objects are free. You can also provide kid-friendly tools to chip the ice and warmer water to melt the ice.

This activity can get a little drippy so it’s probably best to set it up outside on a hot day, perhaps when you’re already planning to break out the baby pool.

What’s that?

Your older preschooler is likely full of questions. This time let them be the one to find the answers with a guessing game.

Keep an object out of sight but use it to make a sound — crinkling paper, pushing buttons on a toy, bouncing a ball — and ask your child to guess the object making the noise.

Or use the sense of smell in the same way — encouraging them to guess strong but familiar scents like fruit, onions, coffee, or flowers.

Puff ball sorting

Puff balls are loads of fun for any child who is old enough not to put them in their mouth. These soft, squishy balls are also a great sensory teaching tool that can help kids learn about size and color.

To create a sorting activity with puff balls, simply pour a bag of them into one container and provide several smaller containers for sorting. Preschool aged kids often enjoy sorting by color and size. To increase the challenge, have them use tongs or plastic tweezers to pick up the puffballs one by one when sorting.


Beading offers kids the chance to run their fingers through a collection of funny feeling beads as well as the opportunity to make choices about colors, textures, and patterns as they bead.

While older kids will be able to bead with regular string and beads, younger kids will be better able to engage with this activity using stiff pipe cleaners that won’t allow the beads to slip off as they work.

Water play

As long as your tot doesn’t mind getting wet, water play will allow them to engage in sensory play with their whole bodies.

If you have a baby pool, fill it up and provide a few cups, balls, and other household items for them to explore in the water.

If you don’t have a baby pool you can simply fill up a few tubs or pots with water and let them pour and splash to their heart’s content!


Sensory play activities don’t have to be complicated to be fun and, often, they only require a few items that you probably already have around the house.

While it can get messy from time to time, helping your child engage with their senses will give them the chance to learn and grow as they interact with the world around them!

Last medically reviewed on June 15, 2020

How to Create Infant Sensory Bottles

DIY Ways to Turn a Plastic Bottle Into a Baby Toy

By Ayren Jackson-Cannady April 21, 2020

Here’s a clever way to get more uses out of your plastic bottles. From a crinkly musical instrument to a sensory-inspired experience, these upcycle ideas turn this ordinary household product into plenty of entertainment for your baby. Read on for nine fabulous ways to turn those bottles into an eco-friendly toy for your little one.

photo: Mama Papa Bubba

Exploring Hot & Cold

Let your little one experience the difference between hot (but not too hot) and cold by using two water bottles. Fill one with ice and the other with warm tap water and let the exploring begin. This idea from Mama Papa Bubba is a cinch to pull off, especially considering you probably have water bottles already lying around!

photo: Little Bins for Little Hands

Glitter Sensory Bottle

Great for both big kids and babies, these glitter sensory bottles from Little Bins for Little Hands are beyond easy to make. The simple ingredients include water, glue and glitter, and they provide your little one with a beautiful visual experience.

photo: Toddler Approved

Water Bottle Water Fountain

Perfect for hot weather or even bath time, this water bottle water fountain from Toddler Approved is an easy-peasy activity that baby will love! Decorate a water bottle in colorful tape, and then poke a few holes in it before filling with water. When you squeeze, the fun begins!


photo: Mama Librarian

I Spy Bottles

Road trips just got much quieter. "I Spy" bottles made from recycled plastic bottles provide hours of entertainment for babies of all ages. Fill the bottle with dried rice and a bunch of small trinkets or knickknacks. Amy from Mama Librarian used pom-poms, charms, buttons and crayons. Younger babies who are still working on dexterity will roll the bottle around, and bigger tots can use the bottle to learn new words and colors.

photo: Hello Bee

Tummy Time Bottle

Make blanket time and tummy time more exciting with this colorful sensory toy from Hello Bee. Fill a plastic, screw-top bottle with water and small objects in different colors and shapes (like glitter, buttons and shells). Baby can roll the bottle and reach for it, or you can shake it around for them to look at. If you plan on using the bottle for more than one day, consider hot-gluing the cap shut.

Discovery bottles like these make it fun to learn about the spring, summer, winter, and fall seasons. I always kept empty Coke bottles because Hope would create new bottle mixture all the time. Sometimes she would plan them, other times they just happened. But they were always creative and wonderful.

Like ocean discovery bottles, some seasonal sensory bottles are great for soothing and calming an overwhelmed child, while others make a fun learning aid.

  • DIY Sensory bottles can be a useful calming tool for anxious children with sensory needs and sensitivities, and kids that need help with self-regulation skills.

  • Homemade Sensory bottles can also provide a way for children and adults of all ages to engage in portable no mess “safe” sensory play. They can be tailored to their interests too.

  • Older children can begin to examine the inner workings of the sensory bottle in order to learn basic science principles, while babies and toddlers can investigate small items that are not yet safe for them to touch.


This fun collection of nature sensory bottles and discovery bottles have many purposes at home and in the classroom. They are fantastic educational teaching aids for homeschoolers and teachers.

Nature-inspired sensory bottles are the perfect way for babies and toddlers to safely investigate natural materials and small items without the risk of choking on them. DIY sensory bottles made with natural and recycled materials are also a great tool to help children (and adults) learn to calm down and unwind.


How do you make a sensory nature bottle?

Image result for creating simple sensory bottles

Begin with a trip outside to explore nature and bring a plastic water bottle with you.

Allow your child to really take the lead on this walk or hike. If they find things that catch their eye, they can add them to their sensory bottle. As they gather items to fill their bottle, have them describe the items to you. See if they can incorporate their senses into the descriptions. That will make the experience more memorable. MORE

The collection of nature discovery bottles below are all filled with natural materials. For the developing child, each natural sensory bottle can offer a new learning discovery about the natural world. At the same time, babies and toddlers can use them to safely investigate small items without the risk of choking on them.

To learn more about sensory bottles and their uses check out
calm down sensory bottles 101.


How to Create Discovery Baskets

Building Language Skills while Playing Together

Discovery baskets help to teach a baby about the world around them and sensory baskets help to teach toddlers independent play skills or sorting classifications. For example; everything in the tray is wooden even if they are different colors or all these things are balls even if they are different sizes.

To make a discovery basket for your baby or toddler all you need is a container, and some interesting things to go inside.

You don’t need to buy a special basket, as you can use what you already have. A wicker basket, picnic hamper, shopping bag, or even a cardboard box, are all good for the job.

It’s nice to have a container that has a lid, so the contents can be hidden and you can share the excitement of a big reveal with your child, as you lift of the lid of today’s basket to see what’s inside this time.

Once you have a container, start thinking about what you might put inside. You don’t need to buy anything new, as things that you already have will be new and interesting to your baby or toddler. Babies are exploring the world one item at a time. Toddlers try to find a way to play with the items or mimicking what grown ups do. Plus we have to make sure everything in them are baby safe.

I often collected things that they were curious about until I found a common denominator to make a set. Hope was always fascinated about things that her dad and I would use. So we created a basket for the computer room, the kitchen, the bathroom etc. They would give her things to play with while I was cooking, going to the bathroom, making a craft basket in the computer room. She loved things that were small version of what we were doing or she would be flashing the gimme hands for what we were using. Then she could do her own thing with them. She was quite creative.

During playtime, simply present a basket to your little one and allow him or her to explore each object while you sit back and watch from a little ways away. If possible, allow your little one to explore and discover without interrupting or showing him what to do with the objects. This is a fantastic opportunity for child-led play.

You'll Also Love: Nature Exploration Trays — Toddler-Safe Science

Discovery baskets can very much be filled with random assortments of objects (and sometimes the most interesting ones are!), but here are a few themed basket ideas to get you started...

Snagshout | Auney 28Pcs Kids Kitchen Pretend Play Accessories Toys, Cooking  Set, Pots and Pans, Cookware Playset, Healthy Cutting Vegetables, Knife,  Utensils, Learning Gift for Girls, Boys, Toddlers

Kitchen Treasures

This is such a fun one! After all, which little one doesn’t love digging through the kitchen cupboards and drawers, right? Go through your kitchen and find objects of different sizes, shapes, textures and materials and pop them in a basket and voila!

Shape Basket

Does your baby appear to be drawn to a particular shape? My little one just adores balls, so we ran with that and put together this basket of spheres for him. While the objects are all the same shape, they vary in size and texture, which keeps things fun and interesting. There’s even an element of smell and taste included, which makes things extra fun.

Treasure Baskets for Baby - Easy Sensory Play for Babies - Natural Beach  Living

Color Basket

This one is so easy and fun! Simply choose a color and find several objects in shades of that hue. Search the kitchen, the craft drawer, the toy basket, and the holiday bin — anything goes here! Present one colour this time around and then switch it up to a new colour next time.

Frutas de juguete - Ikitoi - Juguetería online

Fruit Basket

One of my baby’s favorites! A fresh fruit discovery basket makes for a gorgeous collection of smells and colors. I like to present a couple of the pieces of fresh fruit cut in half just to add interest and an added ability to taste, but you certainly don’t have to. The same can be done with veggies too. Green onions, celery, carrots, sweet potato and kale leaves all make for wonderful additions to a veggie discovery basket.

Discovery Baskets for Babies and Toddlers | Play | CBC Parents

Crumple Basket

One of the easiest of the bunch and perfect for around birthdays and holidays when packaging and wrapping is abundant. Simply dig through the paper recycling bin and see what you can find. Cardboard, tissue paper, wrapping paper, crepe paper and foil offer a wide range of colours, textures and sounds that babies will love exploring.

Music Sensory Basket small / Treasure Basket / Plastic Free / | Etsy

Music Basket

Many little ones love music and making noise, so why not present them with a basket of goodies that will help them do just that? We just so happen to have a wide selection of musical instruments in our house, but you can make a similar basket with just regular things from around the house too. A small pot with a mallet or spoon makes a lovely drum, small containers filled with jingle bells or popcorn seeds make lovely shakers, and two smooth stones make a satisfying sound when knocked together. Anything that can be used to make noise goes!

A shiny discovery basket

A quick look through the kitchen cupboards gives you some goodies for a shiny-themed basket.

When you group objects together on a theme it often makes the differences more noticable. So, in this assortment, which at first all ‘match’ it’s really interesting for children to look more closely and notice the different sizes, shapes and dimensions of the objects.

Premium Photo | Happy children sitting on a blanket outdoors

Outdoor Play Basket

Is there anything better than spending a beautiful day outside? When you and your child play outside, they get more than just fresh air; they get to explore a brand new environment, hear new sounds, see new sights, and interact with the seasonal changes! We always celebrated the first sign of flowers budding, the falling of the leaves and harvest season, the first snow, and it being warm enough to go outside barefooted. Hope cheated on the last one. If she missed being barefooted she asked to go to her aunts house in Las Vegas. The two of them loved to be barefooted.


I find that these baskets work best when it is items that are of course safe for her to play with independently and access was based on a rotation cycle rather than available all the time. Changing them up in order to inject some new life into playtime by providing a new surprise in the basket was nice too.

DIY Sensory Play

Sensory play is critical for babies’ developing brains, and you’ll enjoy watching as your child discovers new textures and learns about cause and effect, all while having tons of fun. Try these easy DIY ideas (many use household items you already have, like baby safe paint!) to stimulate baby’s senses and satisfy their need for exploration.

photo: Little Bins for Little Hands

Foamy Fun

Bubbles! Grab your hand mixer, dish soap, water and food coloring to make this foamy soap that will entrance your child. Spoon it into a tray or low plastic bowl and add plastic animals or bath toys for even more fun. If you can't play outside, lay down a large towel underneath or put your tray in the bathtub for minimal mess. This good, clean fun doubles as an easy way to clean some kid toys. Get the recipe at Little Bins for Little Hands.

photo: Hands On As We Grow

Jiggling Jello

Hands On As We Grow has an anthropological spin on the snack-time favorite by suggesting you insert small toys (or beans, rice or beads) into the Jell-o, let it set, and then let your little one study how objects are suspended inside and dig into it to see what they can extract. Your child will probably smell the fruity Jell-o, but if they take a nibble, watch closely for any choking hazards. It can get messy, so you might want to lay down a towel or tray, or take this project outside or into the tub to minimize clean-up.

photo: Mama.Papa.Bubba

The Sweet Sound of Velcro

The family at Mama.Papa.Bubba discovered their little one’s fascination with VELCRO and share lots of creative ways to use it to engage your curious kid. VELCRO can be used on its own, so kids can learn about how it sticks together and comes apart, or with different materials (think shoelaces, stuffed animals, socks) so they can figure out what sticks and what doesn’t. This is a no-mess activity, making it a great choice for days when you just can’t clean up another spill.

photo: Inner Child Fun

Sponge Bombs

On warm days, these sponge bombs are fun for kids of all ages. Your littlest explorer will be fascinated by the shape, color and texture of the sponges, and how they absorb and release water, while older kids can play catch, surprise friends with an unexpected shower, or score baskets. These can also be enjoyed in the bath or in your kitchen (perhaps with cookie sheets or towels to contain the water). Find out how to make them at Inner Child Fun.

photo: Mama. Papa. Bubba.

Bubbles & Blocks

And speaking of bubbles.... Mama.Papa.Bubba put them together with DUPLO bricks for an easy way to keep kids entertained for a long time. Lay down a towel or plastic tablecloth, and fill a plastic container with blocks, soapy water (use baby wash or dish soap) and a dish brush or sponges. Then watch as your child explores the bricks, splashes the water, plays with the bubbles and picks up the scrubber to get those bricks clean.

photo: Fun at Home with Kids

Cotton Ball Bonanza

Want to take a quick shower? Let your child entertain themselves with a container of water and some cotton balls. As with most sensory play, simpler is often better when it comes to engaging little minds. Kids can explore how cotton balls absorb water, how the water comes out when you squeeze them, and how dry cotton balls stick together and come apart. This easy, inexpensive idea comes from Fun at Home with Kids.

photo: Fun at Home with Kids

Super Seeds

Also from our friends at Fun at Home with Kids is this edible, safe-for-little-mouths activity that uses basil seeds instead of the more common water beads. These seeds absorb water, resulting in a squishy, jelly-like consistency, and can be dyed any color you like. From there, your little one can scoop, pour, fill, empty, press, swirl and more, all without you worrying about a choking hazard.

photo: Toddler Approved

Toddler Tunnel

The folks at Toddler Approved are onto something with this simple yet brilliant idea to attach ribbons of varying lengths, widths and textures to an old box and letting your little one crawl in and out, feel the ribbons passing over their body, drag the box around, and play peek-a-boo with it. This creation can be left out and re-used or re-purposed, given it extra longevity and entertainment value.

photo: Domestic Mommyhood

Cool Painting Trick

On a warm day, try out this idea from Domestic Mommyhood: painting with colored ice cubes. Using ice trays from your freezer, liquid watercolor and tap water, make ice cubes and then head outside with some big sheets of white paper and watch kids use them like crayons to make their own masterpiece. Holding onto slippery ice cubes is a great way for little fingers to practice their grip strength, and we love that any mess from this activity is left outside.

photo: Meri Cherry

Wonderful Water Beads

Pop by any preschool classroom and you’re likely to find kids and parents equally enamored with water beads. Something about their squishy texture just screams “play with me!” However, because they aren’t edible, sharing them with young children means getting creative. Meri Cherry has the great idea to fill resealable bags with these beads, seal ‘em up with duct tape, and let your little one squish, mush and roll to their heart’s content (under your supervision, of course).

photo: Happy Hooligans

Welcome to the Coffee Shop

This coffee shop activity from Happy Hooligans combines two of our favorite things: imaginative play and sensory exploration. With just a few ingredients, including sand, water, dish soap and coffee cups, your toddler can set up a play coffee shop and explore mixing ingredients in different proportions and serving your family, all while learning about cause and effect, textures, and the basics of running their own restaurant.

photo: Little Bins for Little Hands

A Rainbow of Exploration

Fill a container of any size and shape with almost any assortment of objects and voila! Instant entertainment for your little one. Little Bins for Little Hands tells you all you need to know to make one (or several bins), using items already in your home. Raid the pantry for beans, rice or cereal; head to the kitchen for measuring cups, spoons and whisks; duck into the yard for flowers, grass, pinecones and rocks; or hit up your closet for bracelets, shoelaces, old keys and buttons.

photo: Fun at Home with Kids

Rice, Rice, Baby

One of our favorite bloggers, Fun at Home with Kids, came up with a fun and super-easy idea for rice play. Why rice? It makes a neat swishy sound and is safer than sand for babies who put everything (and we mean everything!) in their mouths. Just add a tray and some wooden toys and your tot will be occupied for a good chunk of time.

photo: The Imagination Tree

Spectacular Spaghetti

What’s colorful, slimy and completely fascinating? Cooked spaghetti. Spice it up with a bit of color, throw in some alphabet shapes, and you have an afternoon of sensory play for wandering toes, exploring mouths and bright eyes. It's another great idea from Anna at The Imagination Tree.

photo: Jen Haas

It's in the Bag

These baby sensory bags are so cool, older kids will want to have a go. They're made using resealable bags and hair gel. Fill 'em with all kinds of items, from hair bands to buttons, so baby will have interesting things to squish and push. Tip from blogger Jen, a.k.a Plain Vanilla Mom: Seal the bag with duct tape to keep contents contained.

photo: Amanda Rueter

Splish, Splash!

All children love water play. To entrance younger kids, you just need to dribble a little water on a cooking sheet, add a couple balls, and watch baby explore the wet space. Get more on this from the mama at Dirt and Boogers.

photo: Kate via Laughing Kids Learn

Pinterest for Babies

Make a cool "pin" board in a flash. Just grab the hot glue and some kid-friendly scraps you may have lying around the house for an eclectic collection of textures and colors. Check out Laughing Kids Learn for the DIY guide.

photo: Anna via The Imagination Tree

Make It Rain

Rain sticks take take some time and work to create, but this is a musical instrument that will keep kids engaged for a long time. The Imagination Tree shares the instructions, which involve putting nails into a cardboard tube and filling it with small items (like rice, lentils and barley) to make interesting sounds. Use one item per tube so each will make a different sound, just perfect for an impromptu jam session.

photo: Dayna via Lemon Lime Adventures

Star Light, Star Bright

Fill a jar with twinkle lights for your child's own personal light show! Watch them roll it, bang on it, even gnaw on the jar. Just make sure that top is on tightly. Dayna and the gang at Lemon Lime Adventures show you how it’s done.

photo: Dayna via Lemon Lime Adventures

Rolling in the Dough

Soft and shimmery, light and flaky, this baby-safe cloud dough is made with just two ingredients (whole-grain rice cereal and coconut oil) and is safe for wee ones to get in their hands, hair and even mouths. Head to the Lemon Lime Adventures blog for supermom Dayna's recipe for cloud dough.

—Elizabeth Carr & Gabby Cullen


Let’s Play! Sensory Activities for All Five Senses

Authentic Sensory Experiences

I really think that real life is so much better than a sensory bin or Small World. So if you can provide real world sensory experiences its better than bins. I no longer live near the ocean so I would enjoy setting up an sensory bin for that. But if you live near the coast, visit the beach instead.

I simply use:
Food play-Homemade Sensory Supplies

Baking or cooking-

The Listening Program
Outdoor Play

I loved sensory play as much as my little one did. What’s not satisfying about squeezing a big ball of playdough? Here are a few favorites that are easy, fun, and {almost} mess free!

Finger Painting


I love a good art project but sometimes I don’t want to clean up a big mess. So, I did some research and found a much cleaner way to finger paint. Start by placing a sheet of white paper into a gallon zip lock bag and then add a few squirts of paint into the bag. Zip the bag up and tape the opening so your little one can’t rip it open. Then let your child finger paint while the mess is contained!

Kinetic Sand

 Kinetic sand was our favorite throughout the winter. Place a bag or two of the sand in a shallow container and give your kiddo a few toys to play in it with. It’s really easy clean up and great to use in the house or outside.


Playdough is a tried and true favorite. I remember it being one of my favorite things to do when I was younger. This is really easy to make yourself and there are tons of recipes out there. If you’re not up for making it yourself, you can find it in just about any store. This can get a little messy but it keeps my son occupied for more than five minutes, so it’s a win in my book.

Water Play

Now that the weather is nice in New England, adding some water sensory play is perfect for outside. Fill an appropriate-sized container for your child with water, toys, buckets, things that sink and things that float. I suggest this outside because it can get messy. Let your child splash and play until their heart’s content!

I want to share my favorite summer activities with you.

As parents, you’re naturally doing so many of these things already. Getting to the beach, park, and playground. Really mastering the bike riding, jump rope, monkey bars, and swim strokes. Learning how to lick around an ice cream cone and catch the drips, spit watermelon seeds and cherry pits. Teaching your kids to make your teeth into “lawn mowers” and mow the rows on the corn cob so that they’re even.

Here’s a few more to throw in your bag of tricks!

Flashlight Tag – This reminds me of my manhunt days. Being outside awakes the senses! This can be an incredible sensory experience for everyone. For younger kids, a more confined space with an adult nearby and some cool flashlights can get the whole family involved.

Homemade Popsicles – Get out those kitchen tools! A lettuce knife or a crinkle cutter is a kid-friendly tool to help chop up some seasonal fruit, put in the blender, and freeze into molds.

Paint Outside – At this time of year, you’ll find an easel on my deck. This is the time to get messy, when a hose is nearby and cleanup is easier. A blue tarp can be helpful, or a plastic backed tablecloth works, too. Get a big roll of butcher paper, or large sheets of easel paper. Paint with hands/feet/whole bodies. Add shaving cream, or bubble soap. Incorporate kitchen sponges, potato mashers, scrub brushes, slotted spoons. Go jump in the kiddie pool afterwards.


Chalk – From a motor perspective, there is so much more work that goes into designing the driveway. More force to apply on the chalk, more feedback from the concrete surface, bigger movements to make lines and curves – its all good stuff for little bodies. At our house we make an obligatory hopscotch board, a racetrack for ride on toys, and parking spaces. At the end we bring out the water bottles and wash it all away.

Turn on the water!

Car Wash – Wheel the bikes and Cozy Coupes into a sunny spot and grab a bucket and sponge. Better yet, let them wash your car! Hoses, squirt bottles, and towels are all helpful, too.

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This is my inspiration…. I’m sadly not a Pinterest mom.

Paint the House – I keep a stash of small adult-sized brushes around and let my kids “paint” with water. Totally drench the side of your house, their play house, the deck, whatever. It keeps toddlers busy while you supervise the construction crew. Let it all dry in the sunshine.

Water Balloons – Next time, freeze them (without throwing them at a sibling, ouch!). Let them thaw in a shallow storage bin, or water table. Let the kids add warm water, food coloring, etc. Freeze containers of water and float figurines on different shaped “ice bergs” and see who lasts the longest. If its really hot, put it all in the bathtub or kiddie pool.

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Spray Bottles – These are my all time favorites. The small beauty ones are a good size for little hands. To be honest, anything with “gun” in the title freaks me out, so I steer clear of the water guns. Most stores now carry spray toys in the shape of anything. We have ice cream cones, dinosaurs, and fish in our stash right now. Plain old spray bottles are still the favorite of every kid in my backyard. We water plants, knock down plastic cups from the deck railing, spray our friends (with permission) and make “paint” in the street.