Sensory Play! It’s okay…We can Wash our Hands!

Are you afraid of sensory play because you think it is to messy.  Well, I am here to tell you; there is more in a child’s world to explore with their hands than just sand and water.

A sensory box or discovery box can be easily made of  a plastic box designed for storage under the bed.  I have a couple that stack on top of each other so I can trade out types of sensory boxes every couple of days. This type of box is large and shallow enough that it is easy for children to reach and has less spillage over the sides. I also recommend using an old tablecloth or shower curtain underneath for fast and easy clean up. You can help your child use their senses during play by providing a variety of “sensory materials.” Let us explore some everyday items from around the house.

Potting Soil

Be sure to use soil that has no chemicals added to it or is sterilized. You can find this type of soil at your local hardware store. You can do a garden theme with child size garden tools, small pots and artificial flowers. Or, a farm theme is also fun, with tractors, trucks and a farm play set.


Sand is a very popular for sensory play, try adding shells, sand molds, shovels, sifter, funnels, small buckets or bowls, and small construction vehicles to get some variety with your sand.


Snow is also an excellent and exciting for sensory play when it is too cold to go outside. Have the children wear mittens and build snowmen and castles.

Ice Cubes

Using scoops, large tongs, plastic glasses and bowls is a great sensory idea.


This is last-minute activity that kids love. Have plastic pitchers, and cups for practice pouring. Also, if you have toys that need washing add soapsuds, wash clothes, and enjoy the clean toys and fun. Water has many sensory activities that you can do.


Leaves are great for rustling and make crunching sounds. You can also bring in twigs, flower peddles, stones and rocks. In the fall, a variety of colored leaves is great for seasonal lessons.

Shaving Cream

Be sure to use the classic type of shaving cream that is not methylated. Use foam blocks for the children to pretend building houses, roads and cities. Cars are also great for making roads and paths or just use it alone for a fun experience.

Bird Seed

Provide scooping and pouring toys. Bury small toys for treasure hunts.

Dried beans, rice and oatmeal

Use the beans, rice and oatmeal material in the same way that you would sand or the birdseed.

Play dough

Is great for pretending just about anything. They can use many molds, scissors, plastic knives, etc.

Here is a great recipe for homemade play dough.

1 cup of flour

1/2 cup salt

1 cup of water

1 tablespoon cooking oil

2 teaspoon cream of tartar

1 teaspoon powdered alum

2 packages unsweetened drink mix

Combine first six ingredients. Add the drink mix with water. Cook over medium heat and stir until mixture forms a soft ball. Put dough on wax paper until cool enough to handle. Knead until smooth and store material in tightly covered container.

Twenty More Great Ideas for Sensory Play

1.  Colored rice or noodles.

2.  Packing peanuts.

3.  Shredded paper.

4.  Crumbled Paper

5.  Straws of different sizes and shapes

6.  Colored pom, poms.

7.   Feed corn and wheat.

8.   Small roll of sod grass.

9.  Unwanted scrap construction paper and scissors.

10.  Rocks of various shapes and sizes.

11.  Coffee and Cornmeal mix.

12.  Cooked spaghetti.

13.  Buttons.

14.  Colored curling ribbons of various sizes.

15.  Home made silly puddy

Add equal parts of white glue and liquid starch to a small bowl. 1/2 a cup of each is good to start with. Liquid starch can be found at your local grocery store . Mix with hands or a plastic spoon and let sit over night, Doesn’t have to be thoroughly mixed. Mix again the next day to desired consistency.

16.  Easter grass.

17.  Mardi Gras beads.

18.  Clean Mud

mix 1 roll white toilet paper, 1 bar grated Dove Soap (grate with a cheese grater), and warm water (make the water warm enough to melt the soap). Let the kids tear up the toilet paper into small pieces. Put into big bowl or large container with grated soap. Pour in water in small amounts while mixing paper and soap with hands. Enough water has been added when the mixture is the consistency of thick cool whip.

19.  Feathers.

20.  Styrofoam packing pieces of various sizes and water.

Not only is sensory play fun it is a learning experience.  When children use their senses, to explore different materials they gain important communication skills, reasoning, problem-solving, motor skills. All these skills get your child ready for preschool and kindergarten.

More Fun Activities:

20 Playdough Recipes

Cars and Trucks and Things that Go

Earth Science for Preschool,

Teddy Bear Picnic

6 thoughts on “Sensory Play! It’s okay…We can Wash our Hands!

  1. I use a shallow tote with a lid (like a lot of us do!) placed on a lego table. It works perfectly and sure does save some $$$!! Today in my sensory box, I placed some green Easter grass, bugs, magnifying glasses, and little bug catcher boxes (from Dollar Tree). The kids are loving it!


  2. I love sensory play. When my daughter was little she hated to get dirty so I used to make a sensory box to help her get over it. When she used to come up with a good guess of what it was and didn’t scream if it was mud she would get an M&M.

    I am in your blogging buddies group.


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