Sensory Play Catalog

Sensory play is crucial for a child’s development. Sensory play can help your baby develop a better sense of  touch, taste, hearing, and smell. While a child with cerebral palsy or other various disabilities may experience an abnormal degree of sensory processing, sensory play is still important.

Regardless of limitation, there are plenty of play ideas you and your child can engage in together. Reiter & Walsh ABC Law Centers has compiled a catalog of sensory play ideas for children of varying ages and levels of ability. Browse the catalog to find fun activities that are sure to excite and captivate your baby.

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Infant
Disappearing Act
Disappearing Act Image

As an infant, your child will spend most of his/her time trying to figure out and understand the world. Creating a disappearing act is a great way to help. To make toys disappear, you’ll need a collection of colorful toys and something to cover them with (blanket, towel, cloth, etc.)

You can start by seating your baby comfortably in an infant seat. Take out one of the toys and hold it in front of your baby. You may also want to talk while you do so to ensure you have your baby’s attention. You can then cover the toy with the cloth while your baby is watching.

At this age, a child is not able to grasp depth or dimension, so it will appear as if the toy is disappearing and reappearing out of nowhere. Sudden disappearance can be upsetting for some children. If this is the case, you can cover the toy slower to show your baby what you’re actually doing.

After covering the toy, you can wait a few seconds before uncovering it and continue to repeat the cycle of covering and uncovering. Avoid waiting too long to uncover the toy, as the wait may cause your child to lose interest. To keep things exciting, you can also switch up the toys you use. Making toys disappear is an extremely cheap and easy way to excite your baby’s senses.

Tunnel Crawl
Tunnel Crawl Image

Crawling is an important development skill and tunnels can help to encourage crawling. To create a tunnel crawl game, you’ll need a tunnel, a collection of toys (balls, duplo bricks, etc.), a bowl, and an empty baby wipes container.

Begin by placing the empty baby wipes container on one side of the tunnel and a bowl full of toys on the other side of the tunnel. If you don’t have a tunnel, you can buy one for under $10, or create your own by cutting and joining two circular collapsible hampers.  The goal of the game will be to take the toys from the bowl, crawl through the tunnel and place them into empty baby wipes container.

To help your child understand the game, you can demonstrate it first. Make sure the toys are big enough that they can’t be swallowed while still being small enough to fit in the baby wipes container.

Crawling back and forth through the tunnel will help develop your baby’s vestibular, proprioception, and motor skills. Once all of the toys have been placed in the container, you can empty the container back into the bowl and start the game all over again.

Touch 'N Tell
Touch

There’s nothing more fun for an infant than being able to explore the world via their hands and mouth. Playing touch ‘n tell lets your baby do just that.

To be able to play this game, you simply need a variety of different foods. Place your baby in a highchair and place one of the food items on the tray. Food could include yogurt, bananas, cereal, oatmeal, spaghetti, etc.

Allow your baby time to play with the food and explore it with his/her hands and mouth. Once the food has been played with for several minutes, you can remove it and add the next food item. You should verbally name each food as you introduce it to your baby. That way your baby can start to associate the names with each type of food.

The different textures, tastes, and smells are sure to excite your baby. This game is recommended for infants 6 months or older. While possible, most younger infants cannot handle solid foods.

Baby Massage
Baby Massage Image

Your baby will begin to respond to touch immediately after birth. You can delight your child with the comfort of a soothing hand by providing your baby with a massage. All you’ll need to provide a massage is a blanket or towel and baby lotion.

Begin by spreading the blanket or towel out on the floor. From there you can place your baby on the blanket with his/her tummy down. Pour some of the lotion onto your hands and rub your hands together to warm up the lotion. Once the lotion is warm, you can begin applying it to your baby. Start at the neck and work your way down to shoulders, back, and feet.

Be careful not to apply too much pressure, as a lot of pressure could give your baby rug burn. You’ll also want to avoid massaging anywhere near your baby’s eyes. Make sure the lotion you decide to apply doesn’t contain anything your baby is allergic to. The tactical comfort of your touch during a massage can go a long way for your child.

Sock Puppet Show
Sock Puppet Show Image

Your baby’s vision will develop over time so that objects become clearer at greater distances. You can help your baby improve visual focus and tracking skills by putting on a sock puppet show!

To create your puppet, you’ll need a sock large enough to fit over your hand and a set of permanent felt-tip markers. You can use a black marker to draw eyes, ears, and a nose near the toe area of the sock. You can then take a red marker to draw a tongue on the inside of the sock fold. Drawing works best on white socks, but you can still draw on socks with other colors.

With your puppet created, you can put on a show for your child. Place your baby in your lap or in an infant seat. Use the sock poppet to sing songs, tell rhymes, or conduct normal conversation. If you have the time, you can make a second puppet to have conversations from sock puppet to sock puppet.

While putting on a performance, you’ll want to keep the sock puppet a safe distance away from your baby. If your baby sucks on the puppet, some of the ink may come off. In addition to being a fun play activity, sock puppets can also come in handy when trying to get your child to sit still while changing or eating.

Stuffed Animal Safari
Stuffed Animal Safari Image

Bringing a safari to your baby is a great way to introduce your infant to the animal kingdom. Your baby likely loves to make sounds and as your infant gets closer to talking, he/she will be able to imitate sounds. Being asked to imitate animal noises challenges your baby’s listening and language skills.

To create a safari experience at home, you’ll need a collection of stuffed animals or large pictures of animals. Sit your baby in an infant seat and hold up a stuffed animal or photo for your baby to see. You’ll want to hold up the stuffed animal or photo near your face, so that your baby can see your mouth. Imitate the sound of the animal you’re holding up and wait a few minutes to give your baby some time to produce the same sound. Once your baby has copied the animal noise, you can move on to the next animal.

If you have stuffed animals you can also let your baby pet the animal to excite his/her sense of touch. Avoid making extremely loud animal noises, as this could scare your baby. A stuffed animal zoo is a great precursor to visiting an actual zoo.

Toddler
Babble Talk
Babble Talk Image

It won’t be long before your baby can talk, but you should take time to capture all of the incoherent babble while you still can. This play activity only requires a tablet or smartphone.

To begin, seat your baby down in an infant chair or on the ground beside you. Fire up the camera on your smartphone or tablet and make sure it’s front facing. After pressing record, start talking to your baby. Try making noises and mouth vibrations as well if your baby doesn’t respond to normal talking.

You’ll want to pause after vocalizing for a few seconds to give your baby a chance to respond to you. Once you’ve recorded back and forth babble conversation, you can end the recording and play it back for your baby.

The recording will give your child the chance to hear and see themselves, which excites the senses and instills curiosity and discovery. Make sure to adjust the phone or tablet volume before playing the video back. You want to be sensitive of your baby’s hearing. Recorded babbles are great for learning, but they also provide you with fond memories to look back on.

Sensory Tubs
Sensory Tubs Image

Creating a sensory tub is a cheap an easy way to entertain a child for hours on end. To make a sensory tub, you’ll need a large plastic container and a tub filling of your choice.

You can fill the tub with a number of different materials, each providing different textures and smells for unique sensory experiences. Possible tub fillings include:

  • Cooked spaghetti
  • Corn kernals
  • Ice cubes
  • Baby food
  • Wet newspaper
  • Tissue paper
  • Bubbles
  • Play dough
  • Dry pasta
  • Corn meal

Once you’ve filled the tub with your materials of choice, you can place the tub in front of your baby to play with. Your child will enjoy rummaging through the tub. The various textures, smells, and sounds, will provide unique sensory experiences. For non-edible items such as bubbles and play dough, you’ll want to keep an eye on your child to ensure they don’t eat any of the tub’s contents. You can mix things up by switching out the tub’s contents each time you play.

Shape Trace
Shape Trace Image

Shape tracing is a great activity for kids to develop important pre-writing skills and abilities. Tracing shapes helps babies learn to develop the ability to draw vertical, horizontal, and curved lines.

To set up the shape tracing activity, you’ll need a piece of paper with printed outlines of shapes on it, a tray or bin to put the paper in, a crayon, and a sensory tracing medium (rice, couscous, quinoa, or sand). Start by placing the paper on the tray and scattering the sensory medium over the paper. If you’d like your paper to last for more than one play occasion, you can laminate it.

With the sensory medium covering the shapes, you can then ask your baby to trace the outline of the shapes in the medium with their fingers. You may have to move some of the medium to allow your child to see a starting point for each shape. After the outlines of each shape have been revealed, you can ask your child to scoop out the middle part of each shape so that the entire shape is visible.

With the shapes visible, you can then ask your baby to color in each shape using the crayon. While performing this game, you can extend the learning activity by quizzing your child on the names of the shapes and which shapes are relatively bigger and smaller in size. Tracing shapes is a great learning activity and adding a sensory medium only multiplies the fun. However, it’s advised not to try this with children under the age of three, as they will attempt to eat the dry quinoa, couscous, rice, or sand.

Salt Painting
Salt Painting Image

There are many different mediums you can paint with. However, painting with salt provides additional texture that will excite your child’s sense of touch. For this activity, you’ll need a sheet of paper, glue, and salt. Beware, painting with salt is a very messy activity.

Start by placing your toddler in front of the sheet of paper. Allow your baby to dip his or her hands in the glue. As your baby plays with the glue, it will begin to fall onto the paper. Your child will likely have to shake the glue off, which will create unique splatter patterns. Once your baby is done playing with the glue, you can sprinkle salt onto the paper. Your toddler will begin to play with the salt, moving it around on the paper.

You’ll want to keep a close eye on your baby during this activity to ensure no salt or glue is eaten. When the glue and salt dries, you’ll have a beautiful salt painting created by your little artist. If you’d like to get even more creative, you can use food coloring to die the salt different colors.

Shaving Cream Painting
Shaving Cream Painting Image

Shaving cream creates a big gooey mess your child will love (but you may not). Be prepared to do some cleanup after this activity. All you’ll need to start painting is shaving cream and a baking sheet.

The setup is very simple. Just spray shaving cream onto the baking sheet and place it in front of your toddler. If you want to make the painting more artistic, you can add food coloring to the shaving cream. Your child will love dipping his/her fingers in the slimy shaving cream and mixing it around. For some extra sparkle, you can add glitter to your sheet.

This activity will likely be followed by a wash of clothes, but it can be extremely fun for both you and your child.

Hidden Music
Hidden Music Image

Hiding music will enhance your child’s visual and hearing senses. To play this game you’ll need a musical toy or a battery powered cassette player. Turn on the musical toy and enter your child’s playroom. Hide the toy somewhere within the playroom and ask your child to enter the room.

Your toddler will listen for the sounds of the toy to determine where it’s hidden. Keep your toddlers ability in mind when hiding the toy. You don’t want to hide it so well that it can’t be found. You also don’t want your toddler to have to climb or overturn things to be able to find the toy, as those activities can be dangerous at such a young age.

Once your toddler has found the toy, you can ask him/her to step out of the room and proceed to hide it again.

Preschool & Beyond
Bubble Pop
Bubble Pop Image

Popping bubbles is a fun sensory activity that allows your child to actively play in a safe environment. To be able to blow bubbles you’ll need a bottle of bubble solution and a large space for playing. If you don’t have a bubble blower, you can make your own using pipe cleaner. Simply twist one end of the pipe into a circle.

You can begin playing by placing your baby in the center of the room. Take out your bubble solution and begin to blow bubbles. Your baby may not know how to react to the bubbles at first. If this is the case, you can demonstrate what to do, by chasing and popping the bubbles yourself.

Popping bubbles can be a great exercise in patience for some babies. It’s not uncommon for a child to get overly excited. They may pop the bubbles before you can even blow them. In these instances, you can wait a few seconds in between each blow to provide a lesson in delayed gratification.

Do not leave the bubble solution unattended. You’ll want to make sure your baby isn’t able to drink the solution. Ultimately, bubble popping can provide hours of fun.

Javelin Toss
Javelin Toss Image

Creating your own javelin throw game can make your child feel like they’re in the Olympics. However, you have no need to worry about safety. This isn’t the javelin throw from the Olympics.

To play this game, you’ll need a bucket and 4 straws. It’s best if the straws are not bendable, but you can still make the bendable straws work. Combine the straws together by squeezing the end of one straw and inserting it into the open end of the other. You may need to use tape to properly secure all of the straws together. You’ve created your javelin once all of the straws are attached.

Place the bucket several feet away from your child and ask them to try throwing the straw javelin into the bucket. As your child gets better at throwing the javelin into the bucket, you can increase the difficulty by moving the bucket further away. Straw javelin throwing is a cheap and safe way to enjoy physical activity outdoors.

Bug Hunting
Bug Hunting Image

As a preschooler, your child likely is fascinated by bugs. You can feed that fascination by going on a bug hunt together! All you’ll need is a magnifying glass, pencil and notepad, or your phone.

Head out to a local park and walk through the grass searching for bugs. Once you’ve found some insects, hold the magnifying glass out to let your child have a better look. Ask your child to draw the insect or take a picture using your phone camera. You can continue to do this until you’ve successfully hunted and documented a sizable collection of bugs.

Once you return home you can have your child analyze the drawings or photos. Lay them all out on a table and ask your child to identify features that are similar or different between each bug. This activity will help your child learn more about the insects we share this world with.

While your on a bug hunt, remember that not all bugs are friendly. Keep an eye out to ensure your child doesn’t end up near an insect that bites or stings. You’ll also want to avoid poison ivy and poison oak. Nevertheless, bug hunting can be a fun activity for both you and your child.

Squishy Bags
Squishy Bags Image

Squishy bags are a cheap, easy, and fun way for your child to play without any mess. There are several different ways to make a squishy bag. For this particular method you’ll need:

  • 1 cup of flour
  • 6 tablespoons of water
  • Food coloring
  • A zip-lock bag
  • Sticky tape
  • A small mixing bowl

Once you’ve gathered all of the ingredients, pour the flour into your mixing bowl and add food coloring. Add the water and mix until your ingredients are thoroughly blended. You can then pour your flour mixture into your zip-lock bag. Compress all of the air out of the bag before sealing and then seal the bag. Once the bag is sealed, you can permanently seal it by adding sticky tape to the opening.

Once your squishy bag is created, you can place it in front of your child. The bag is more than just a squishy sack of color. Your baby will enjoy being able to draw and write by tracing their fingers along the bag. Much like an etch-a-sketch, you can just shake the bag to start all over with your drawings. Making two squishy bags is encouraged so that you can draw and play alongside your child.

Shape Sorting
Shape Sorting Image

Shape sorting provides a great opportunity for your child to be able to learn about shapes and colors. It’s a fun game that encourages imagination, creativity, and concentration. To setup a shape sorting activity, you’ll need the following:

  • A plastic tub
  • 4 plastic cups
  • Aquarium rocks
  • A scooper
  • Assorted shape buttons

Start by pouring the aquarium rocks into the bin. Add a plastic cup in each corner of the bin and scatter the shape buttons around the bin. To make things even more challenging/fun you can bury the shapes under the rocks. Have your child dig out the shapes and sort them into a cup by color, or shape. You may want to pre-load a cup with a button so your child knows which color or shape belongs to which cup. To intensify the game, you can add a timer to see how many shapes your child can dig up and match within a specified amount of time.

Shape sorting is an extremely fun way to introduce your child to mathematics and problem solving.

Mystery Box Game
Mystery Box Game Image

Kids love a mystery and it isn’t very difficult to create one. All you need is a small box (shoe box, shipping box, etc.), paper bag, tape, and a series of non-breakable items familiar to your child (shoes, toys, books).

Collect all of the familiar items you’d like to place in the mystery box and put the items in a paper bag where your child cannot see them. Have your child close his/her eyes and take one of the items out from the paper bag. Place the item into the box and tape the box shut.

You can now hand the box to your child and have your child open his/her eyes. Give your baby time to shake the box, feel the weight, and think about what could be inside. If your child is having difficulty guessing, you can provide clues. Once your child guesses the correct item, you can open the box and reveal the item.

You can continue to play the mystery game until you’ve run out of items to put into the box. If you want to make things really challenging, you can limit the number of guesses allowed for each round.

Guess The Texture
Guess The Texture Image

Preschool-age children learn better when their senses are engaged. Having your child guess textures does just that. Take 6 to 8 brown paper bags and fill each bag with a different textured item. Items could include:

  • Sponges
  • Clay
  • Sandpaper
  • Sand
  • Flowers
  • Leaves
  • Rubber Bands
  • Paper clips
  • Whipped cream
  • Pasta noodles
  • Quinoa
  • Rice
  • Shaving cream

Once the bags are filled, place them on the floor or table between you and your child. Ask your child to stick his/her hand in each bag and feel around without looking. Before guessing what the item is, you should have your child describe how the item feels with as much detail as possible. Once your baby has correctly guessed the item in the bag you can reveal the item and move on to the next bag.

When choosing items for your bags, make sure they’re items that can be handled safely. Items that are fragile, such as glass items should not be placed in the paper bags.

Spaghetti Worm Digging
Spaghetti Worm Digging Image

Digging for spaghetti worms is an activity your child is sure to love. To set up a dig zone, you’ll need a plastic tub, soil, spaghetti, and a mason jar.

Start by cooking the spaghetti and filling the tub up with soil. Bury the spaghetti in the soil, but leave some strands sticking out so that your child can visually see there is spaghetti in the soil. You can then place the mason jar beside the tub. Ask your child to dig out the worms and place them in the mason jar. If you want to make this a math exercise, you can also ask your child to count each worm as it’s placed in the jar.

Digging for spaghetti worms lets your child get all messy while handling slippery, slimy spaghetti. The best part is that no worms are harmed in the process! A dig zone only takes a couple of minutes to set up. However, it may take more than that to clean up depending on how much of a mess your child makes with the dirt.

Infant
Disappearing Act Image
Disappearing Act
As an infant, your child will spend most of his/her time trying to figure out and understand the world. Creating a disappearing act is a great way to help. To make toys disappear, you’ll need a collection of colorful toys and something... Read More
Tunnel Crawl Image
Tunnel Crawl
Crawling is an important development skill and tunnels can help to encourage crawling. To create a tunnel crawl game, you’ll need a tunnel, a collection of toys (balls, duplo bricks, etc.), a bowl, and an empty baby wipes container.... Read More
Touch
Touch 'N Tell
There’s nothing more fun for an infant than being able to explore the world via their hands and mouth. Playing touch ‘n tell lets your baby do just that. To be able to play this game, you simply need a variety of different foo... Read More
Baby Massage Image
Baby Massage
Your baby will begin to respond to touch immediately after birth. You can delight your child with the comfort of a soothing hand by providing your baby with a massage. All you’ll need to provide a massage is a blanket or towel and baby... Read More
Sock Puppet Show Image
Sock Puppet Show
Your baby’s vision will develop over time so that objects become clearer at greater distances. You can help your baby improve visual focus and tracking skills by putting on a sock puppet show! To create your puppet, you’ll nee... Read More
Stuffed Animal Safari Image
Stuffed Animal Safari
Bringing a safari to your baby is a great way to introduce your infant to the animal kingdom. Your baby likely loves to make sounds and as your infant gets closer to talking, he/she will be able to imitate sounds. Being asked to imitate ... Read More
Toddler
Babble Talk Image
Babble Talk
It won’t be long before your baby can talk, but you should take time to capture all of the incoherent babble while you still can. This play activity only requires a tablet or smartphone. To begin, seat your baby down in an infan... Read More
Sensory Tubs Image
Sensory Tubs
Creating a sensory tub is a cheap an easy way to entertain a child for hours on end. To make a sensory tub, you’ll need a large plastic container and a tub filling of your choice. You can fill the tub with a number of different ... Read More
Shape Trace Image
Shape Trace
Shape tracing is a great activity for kids to develop important pre-writing skills and abilities. Tracing shapes helps babies learn to develop the ability to draw vertical, horizontal, and curved lines. To set up the shape tracing... Read More
Salt Painting Image
Salt Painting
There are many different mediums you can paint with. However, painting with salt provides additional texture that will excite your child’s sense of touch. For this activity, you’ll need a sheet of paper, glue, and salt. Beware, paint... Read More
Shaving Cream Painting Image
Shaving Cream Painting
Shaving cream creates a big gooey mess your child will love (but you may not). Be prepared to do some cleanup after this activity. All you’ll need to start painting is shaving cream and a baking sheet. The setup is very simple. ... Read More
Hidden Music Image
Hidden Music
Hiding music will enhance your child’s visual and hearing senses. To play this game you’ll need a musical toy or a battery powered cassette player. Turn on the musical toy and enter your child’s playroom. Hide the toy somewhere wit... Read More
Preschool & Beyond
Bubble Pop Image
Bubble Pop
Popping bubbles is a fun sensory activity that allows your child to actively play in a safe environment. To be able to blow bubbles you’ll need a bottle of bubble solution and a large space for playing. If you don’t have a bubble blo... Read More
Javelin Toss Image
Javelin Toss
Creating your own javelin throw game can make your child feel like they’re in the Olympics. However, you have no need to worry about safety. This isn’t the javelin throw from the Olympics. To play this game, you’ll need a bu... Read More
Bug Hunting Image
Bug Hunting
As a preschooler, your child likely is fascinated by bugs. You can feed that fascination by going on a bug hunt together! All you’ll need is a magnifying glass, pencil and notepad, or your phone. Head out to a local park and wal... Read More
Squishy Bags Image
Squishy Bags
Squishy bags are a cheap, easy, and fun way for your child to play without any mess. There are several different ways to make a squishy bag. For this particular method you’ll need: 1 cup of flour 6 tablespoons of ... Read More
Shape Sorting Image
Shape Sorting
Shape sorting provides a great opportunity for your child to be able to learn about shapes and colors. It’s a fun game that encourages imagination, creativity, and concentration. To setup a shape sorting activity, you’ll need the fol... Read More
Mystery Box Game Image
Mystery Box Game
Kids love a mystery and it isn’t very difficult to create one. All you need is a small box (shoe box, shipping box, etc.), paper bag, tape, and a series of non-breakable items familiar to your child (shoes, toys, books). Collect... Read More
Guess The Texture Image
Guess The Texture
Preschool-age children learn better when their senses are engaged. Having your child guess textures does just that. Take 6 to 8 brown paper bags and fill each bag with a different textured item. Items could include: Sponges... Read More
Spaghetti Worm Digging Image
Spaghetti Worm Digging
Digging for spaghetti worms is an activity your child is sure to love. To set up a dig zone, you’ll need a plastic tub, soil, spaghetti, and a mason jar. Start by cooking the spaghetti and filling the tub up with soil. Bury the ... Read More