Sensory Play in Different Ways

We all know and love sensory tubs!  From filling them up to sifting through them, they provide hours of language development, fine motor play, and just plain FUN.  M and G love sensory-based activities and I’m always trying to find ways to switch it up.  We usually do our sensory bins in plastic shoeboxes, but here are some different ways to dig in and play!

Play on a Tray

One of my favorite crafting-learning-play item that I’ve ever bought is the plastic tray set from Oriental Trading.  They are super versatile, sturdy, and we use them daily.  For this sensory activity, I sprayed shaving cream all over and M squeezed dots of food coloring (just don’t use the gel-based kind; it stains!) on top.  She mixed and stirred and spread until she had a tray of gorgeous colors.  You could even extend this by laying a piece of card stock on top of the finished colors and make prints!

Ice in a Drawer

I think we all have plastic storage containers, right?  Well, dump one out and fill it with ice.  Hide animals or toys and dig, scoop, and play your way through an icy landscape!

Beads in a Bowl

Water beads are the new sensory thing, so pour some in a bowl and watch them grow!  Stir, pour, and squeeze to your heart’s delight!

Sensory Feet

Got a little one that wants in on the action?  Tape some paper on an exersaucer and squeeze some washable paint on it.  Let your tot mix and mash with their feet!

Magnet Magic

Add a new element to your sensory bin by throwing in some themed magnets and a magnet wand.  Your tot will love swooshing the magnet wand through the filler (beans, rice, ect.) and “fishing” out the items that “magically” stick!

Water Table

Toss some tiny objects in a water table and let your little one explore, catch, splash, and swish!  For an extra challenge, provide a big pair of tongs, measuring cups, or a slotted spoon.
We just love integrating sensory experiences into our daily play and hope we’ve inspired you to do some, too!
Written by Jill
Cotton Ball Sensory Play

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  1. Anonymous says

    Where did you get the magnet wand? Have been looking for a magnet they can hold. Thanks Jean

  2. says

    Jill-Love your daughter’s face in the first pic. Great ideas. I’ll have to do the catching items in water with little man. He loves water play- with the nice weather- we were able to get outside and have fun with his water bin. Last night he experiences the water beads for the first time.


  3. Stephanie says

    Just a heads up, the water beads are not allowed at most preschools or daycares because i a child swallows one, it continues to expand in the stomach and can cause serious issues.

    • Cheryl says

      I had a toddler somehow eat one bead, I knew it had fallen out of the sensory box but couldn’t find it. I told parents, researched to make sure it was non toxic. Next day it “returned”, dried out and shrunk. I have been scared of these sense though. My reading made me think that they would be harmful if several were to be eaten at the same time. But they stop growing at a certain point and the stomach acid will not absorb like water will. And the intestines will absorb the moisture. The moisture will not harm. And the gel is what is in diaper material. I will only use them with the older children in my daycare now though. And everytime I have them out, I am reminded of what happened to the point that I don’t bring them out very often.

      • Nicole says

        I’m so glad you shared this experience! Yes, it totally needs to be a supervised activity for children that are preschool aged or older toddlers that don’t tend to put things in their mouth.

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