12 Fun Sensory Activities That Will Keep Your Kids Engaged

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:

https://www.instagram.com/p/B_8co_XAleY/

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.

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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:

https://www.instagram.com/p/B_z7ZZQBzn7/

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:

https://www.instagram.com/p/B7jhDMyllFH/

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:

https://www.instagram.com/p/CADtqV0A1cs/

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:

https://www.instagram.com/p/B_3QFBWp1XY/

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.

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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.

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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:

https://www.instagram.com/p/CAMdBMJAdm2/

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:

https://www.instagram.com/p/Bm0zqmcnhA5/

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:

https://www.instagram.com/p/BEL-wpgQLVz/

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:

https://www.instagram.com/p/BzLVDiQFGgZ/

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]