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  • Writer's pictureEmma

Sensory Play for Babies and Toddlers

Updated: Aug 7, 2020

I emptied out the kitchen cupboards today .... not to tidy them, I was looking for "stuff"!

What "stuff"?

Well, specifically, out of date packets, boxes, tubes and bottles of things to use for sensory play and, guess what? There was so much stuff past the use-by date (I'm not talking a few days, I mean months .... lots of them!) - oh the shame!!!!

Anyway, what I lack in housekeeping skills, I fortunately make up for in 'making a mess' skills which is, as we all know, fairly close to the top on any Toddler's list of requirements for a good play experience.

So, I've had a bit of a play around and here are the sensory play set-ups I created.

Hopefully you will be able to find a few of the ingredients lurking in one of your cupboards too!

Edible Paint

This is a lovely, simple way to introduce mark-making to your baby. The yogurt gives a super soft and creamy texture and if you use a flavoured yogurt it also smells amazing!

You will need ...

  • 1 small pot of yogurt

  • food colouring

  • bowls

  • spoons/brushes

How to make and play ...

Mix a few drops of food colouring into dollops of yogurt!

This is definitely one for painting with hands and fingers. Place dollops of paint onto a surface such as table or tray and let your little one swirl and squidge away. The great thing about this is that it is all edible so this is suitable for most little ones over 6 months. You could add in 'tools'

to make marks in the paint for older babies and toddlers. Try things like combs, brushes, forks and scrunched up paper or foil.

Peas Please!

What's not to love? Texture, temperature, crunchy sounds and vibrant colours!

You will need ...

childrens activity box to inspire sensory play

  • A bag of frozen peas!

Tip the peas into a suitable container, add toys of choice, I went for farm animals but it could be anything your little one is into; cars, balls, blocks, spoons, scoops, pots ...

The sensory benefits of this are lovely; the peas look all twinkly when they are frozen and gradually become a vibrant green as they thaw. The temperature and texture, also changes during play which gives your little one loads of sensory feedback and creates immense curiosity over time.

This is so simple yet so effective - one of my favourites!

Soap Fluff

This is foam on another level! It looks and feels amazing and your little one will love exploring, swirling and splatting!

You will need ...

  • 1/4 cup baby bath

  • 1/2 cup water

  • 2 tbsp flour

  • food colouring

  • hand mixer

How to make and play ...

Put all ingredients into a large bowl and mix with a hand-mixer, starting on a low speed and building up until you have a thick, dense-looking foam.

Tip into a container which your little one can access easily ,to explore this fluffy loveliness!

Try adding different containers, spoons, sticks etc to explore mixing or straws (if your little one had learned how to blow not suck!) to watch the foam grow.

Try scooping some foam up and seeing how far it goes when you blow it or clapping foamy hands together for a bubbly explosion!

Moon Sand

Ok, so this is not a looker! But ... this stuff is super silky and smells of calm and relaxation! The 'sand' can be patted, sprinkled, squeezed into shapes or moulded into containers - every time you pick some up it seems to do something different!

You will need ...

  • 4 cups flour

  • 1/2 cup baby oil

(you can also use cooking oil if your

little one is likely to eat it)

  • Large bowl and spoon for mixing

How to make and play ...

Mix the flour and oil together in a bowl, first with a spoon and then your hands - get your little one to help so they can see and feel how the flour gradually changes.

Tip into an accessible container and explore with hands only at first. Try patting, smoothing onto the base of the container, scraping with fingertips and squeezing some into a ball.

You can then add in items to try moulding the sand - any type of container, pastry cutters and stampers will work well to see how the sand can change.

Marvellous Mud!

This really looks like the real thing but is made from edible ingredients so is completely safe; it also smells yummy! It is pretty messy though so you might want to strip your little one down to a vest & nappy for some serious muckiness!

You will need ...

  • 1 cup flour

  • 2 tbsp cocoa powder

  • 1 cup water

  • hand whisk

How to make and play ...

Mix the flour and cocoa together and then gradually whisk in the water. You may need more or less water, just keep going until you have a thick ,gloopy texture.

This mud is crying out for farm animals, so I added a couple of pigs and raided the fridge to see what other farm-related things I could find .... a few sprouting radishes and some wilted mint leaves? Perfect!

I added a few bits of breakfast ceral for hay bales (hmmm not sure if that works but hey?!).

Add whatever you fancy and let your little one get stuck in. Once they are done, take a bowl of clean soapy water and a flannel to give the animals a bath!

Shaving Foam

Fluffy, soft and slippery .... a gorgeous multi-sensory experience which can be both calming and crazy!

You will need ...

  • Sensitive/Unscented shaving foam (not shaving soap)

  • Food colouring or non-toxic paint

How to make and play ...

Give the can a good shake and squirt out a good pile of foam into a bowl, tray or on a table top. Add a few blobs/drops of food colouring or paint and hand over for your child to get stuck in.

This is a great activity just as it is; you really don't need to add anything else. Smoothing, spreading, making marks, massaging it into their hands ... all of these movements are packed full of sensory feedback for your little one.


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