12 Fun Sensory Activities That Will Keep Your Kids Engaged

Play time that's good for you!

When kids engage multiple senses as they play, it helps them build cognitive skills. Exploring the world through hands-on play can improve their ability to discover, classify and sort objects. And sensory activities can also boost children’s fine motor, problem-solving, language and social skills.

The good news is that not only is sensory play especially enjoyable for kids, but such playtime can be super simple for parents, teachers and others to establish. Here are a dozen fun sensory activities that are easy to DIY:

1. Birthday Cake Cloud Dough

The soft feeling of this dough will delight your child’s sense of touch, but the scent of birthday cake and the colorful additions of sprinkles and candles make this an extra-sensory joy. All you need to make this cloud dough is some flour, cooking oil and vanilla extract — along with sprinkles and candles, of course. Instagrammer @craftycraftyjoyjoy posted a sensory bin of cloud dough that looks perfect for a birthday party:

2. Cereal Bin

If you’re concerned about your tot taste-testing his playthings (that birthday cake dough might be tempting!), this activity from Jamie at Hands On As We Grow may be ideal. A tub filled with Cheerios is fun for scooping with medicine spoons, threading onto pipe cleaners and, of course, sampling.


3. Mess-Free Finger Paint

Finger paint is a good old-fashioned sensory medium, but boy can it be messy. Avoid primary-colored fingerprints throughout the house with this project from Hippie Housewife that safely seals the materials inside a zip-top baggie. Instagrammer @learningwithamiyah let her toddler have a go with paints and card stock in a zip-sealed baggie, and the results are colorful and mess-free:

4. Rainbow Salt Tray

Sensory activities can help kids improve literacy skills. Writing letters, numbers or words with their fingers in a soft, smooth or gritty element makes practicing fun and engaging. Colored paper under a layer of salt is all you need for this simple yet effective project. @the_multilingual_home gave it a try on a cookie tray:

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Rainbow Salt Tray Fun!⁠ ⁠ There are many different things a child can do with a rainbow piece of paper, a cookie sheet and salt. ⁠ – They can draw pictures⁠ – Practice pre-writing lines⁠ – Practice writing their names or numbers⁠ – Practice writing sight words⁠ – Make it into a hunt for finding a certain color⁠ – Draw designs or animals⁠ All the child has to do is shake and start over again. It is an easy activity to put together and will keep most kids busy for a while.⁠ ⁠ Some benefits include encouraging creativity by letting the child create what they would like, sensory play, fine motor skills, and spatial awareness. ⁠ ⁠ For a free download version of the rainbow paper, you can click "Hands-on Multilingual Fun" in the link in my bio. ⁠ ⁠ Have you tried a rainbow salt tray with your kids?⁠ .⁠ .⁠ .⁠ .⁠ .⁠ .⁠ #rainbowsalttray #sensoryplayideas #sensoryplay #learningthroughplay #salttray #prewritingactivities #montessoribaby #montessoritoddler #writingpractice #numberpractice #tptseller #tptauthor #spatialawareness #childplay #toddlerplay #totschool #preschoolathome #earlychildhood #letthemplay #sensorywriting #writingtray #sandtray #sensorywriting #salttraywriting #prewritingskills #playtray #teachermama #homeschoolfamily #littlelearners #montessoriinspired⁠

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5. Sensory Window Bag

Gooey, squishy water beads are a sensory staple, but they can become a choking hazard in tiny hands. This activity allows little ones to explore the vivid colors and interesting texture of the beads safely, and taping it to the window lights up the pretty beads. @friendsartlab posted their version on Instagram:

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🎉Water Bead Week: Day 1! 🎉 . Every day this week I am going to share a fun idea to do with water beads! These are a MUST 👏🏼 HAVE 👏🏼 at our school and can be used in many, many, many ways. Let’s hit it! . F O R • B A B I E S One of our preschool mamas was telling me last week that it’s hard to let her four year old play with water beads at home because the one year old also wants to play but inevitably tries to eat the beads. Sooo…. . Presenting: baby water bead bag! Fill a bag about 1/4 of the way with water beads, squish out all of the air, seal, and tape to a window. You could also do this on the floor but the window makes the beads look cooler. 😉 I made one bag, but make 2! Or 3! Or 4! . For extended fun, leave them up for a few days for your little to revisit. You could also experiment by adding glitter, beads, or other small, round objects. . . Linking my favorite water beads in stories! . HAVE A FAVORITE WATER BEAD ACTIVITY?! Use the hashtag #waterbeadweek so we can all see! 🙌🏼 . . . #amomentwithfriends #waterbeads #waterbeadssensoryplay #waterbead #waterbeadsensory #sensoryplayideas #waterbeadsplay #preschoolplay #preschoolsummer #preschoolhomeschool #prekhomeschooling #prekhomeschool #prekathome #preschoolathome #babysensoryplay #sensoryplayforbabies #babyactivities #babyactivitiesathome #babyactivity #friendsartlab #rocklin #friendspreschoolrocklin

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6. Bubble Bags

You know that oil and water don’t mix, but this concept is new to your child. Make a colorful sensory bag that will occupy your wee one for hours with nothing more than baby oil, water and food coloring in a baggie. @littlelearnandplay posted a photo of her kiddo playing, along with instructions:

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BABY SCIENCE 🧪 OIL + WATER SENSORY BAG 🧡💛 * Big sis used some of her extra colored water (from my previous post) to make a quick sensory bag for her little brother. * * Supplies: Large ziplock bag, oil, water, food coloring, dropper or small measuring spoon, and painter’s tape. * * To Learn + Play: – Pour some cooking oil into a large ziplock bag. You don’t need much. I did a 4 second pour. Sorry, that’s not very exact. 😆 – Mix water & food coloring & use a dropper or small measuring spoon to add it to your oil. Use as many, or as few colors as you’d like. We had extra from big sister’s experiment, so we just added that. If I was only making this bag, or doing it again, I would have added more colored water than I did here. The baby still liked it though! – When you zip the bag closed, let out any air. Then tape the top of the bag to reinforce the closure. – Tape it down to the floor & let baby explore! I taped it to something white, so the colors would stand out more, since our floors are dark. My 9 month old loved trying to “chase” the colored water around. He seemed to like this more than when I do sensory bags with paint, so we will do it again soon! 💛 . . . . #babyactivities #babyplayideas #babyplay #babyscience #sensorybag #sensoryplay #babyactivitiesathome #learnthroughplay #littleslearnandplay

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7. Shaving Cream Bath Paint

Making a mess can be good, clean, sensory fun when the activity takes place in the tub. Kids can coat the sides of the bathtub and themselves with this fluffy, foamy shaving-cream paint. All you need is food coloring and shaving cream. Place six separate colors in a muffin tin to give your kids a bathtime artist’s palette.


8. Edible Finger Paint

That shaving cream paint might look like colored whipped cream, but it certainly doesn’t taste like it. For those littles who like to put everything in their mouths, you can make this edible paint using items from the pantry.


9. Sift And Find ABCs

A bin filled with cornmeal, some alphabet magnets and adorably small colanders is all you need to create this literacy-boosting sensory activity that will keep kids busy for hours. But you can use whatever you have on hand. Instagrammer @littledoll23 created one with chickpeas instead of cornmeal for her daughter:

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LYDIA 💗 . . Simple name recognition tray. My main aim was for her to visually see her name, and to have fun scooping the chickpeas. I also kept repeating the sounds of each letter – mainly 'L for Lydia' or 'L for….' I love how she responds. L for chair or some random object 😂 so cute! . . Chickpeas are possibly my favourite sensory base, what's yours??! . . #namerecognition #nameboard #namerecognitionactivity #myeasyplay #simpleplaywithletters #simpleplay #Creative_little_hands #trayfortheday #sensorytray #trayplayideas #trayplay #playandexplore #playmatters #learnandplay #homelearninglockdown #playpromptschallenge #littleacornslotto #shareyourplaywithme #playandlearn #loosepartsplay #sensorybin #finemotorskills #invitationtoplay

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10. Sensory Bottle

Don’t forget the auditory senses when looking for entertaining and educational activities for your kids. Rice falling between twigs in this sensory bottle creates the soothing sound of rain, but there are many ways to put together a sensory bottle. The sensory bottles @marty_messyplay_and_me posted use rice, beans, dried corn, beads, straws and pom poms — all great ideas:

11. Sand Foam

Combining textures is a wonderful way to encourage a child to look, touch and discover. This two-ingredient recipe for sand foam creates a gritty, creamy, totally touchable mixture. This video from @jugandoaprendiendo shows just how easy and fun it is:

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Crema de arena!!! Esta actividad se las debía hace unos días. Utilizamos 4 tazas de arena y un pote de crema de afeitar. Nosotros utilizamos carritos, pero pueden utilizar letras, figuras geométricas y/o animales. Esta actividad sensorial ayuda a sus pequeñines en el desarrollo de la creatividad, nuevo lenguaje y desarrollo del tacto. Espero tengan un lindo día. #jugandoaprendiendo #aprendiendoencasa #37meses #3años #actividadsensorial #actividadesparaniños #arena #cremadeafeitar #soymama #mama #mamadedos #mamadevarones #learningthroughplay #learningathome #37months #3years #sensoryplay #sandfoam #sand #shavingcream #iamamom #mom #momoftwo #momofboys #homeschoolmom #homeschooling #homeschool

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12. Bubble Foam

Even grownups find it hard to resist touching rich, frothy lather. This activity is so stress-free, it might amaze you. It’s only bubble bath and water, whipped into thick foam with a hand mixer. Drops of food coloring add another element of sensory fun. @thatmomcynthia notes you can use dish soap, too:

Finding a sensory activity that is amusing, edifying and easy to make is surprisingly simple. Why not get down on the floor and join your child in some hands-on playtime today?

[h/t: Planning Playtime]