Sensory Play

As a past teacher and now a mom, I understand the importance of sensory play. Some kiddos learn best by being hands on, and incorporating sensory play is a great way to allow them to do just that – learn hands on. If you’re wondering about the importance of sensory play, read on and learn!

want more information on sensory play? Check it out here with a free sensory bin activity guide!

To download the post in a printable version, please find it here!

What is Sensory Play?

Sensory play is any activity that allows your child to use any/all of his/her 7 (yes, I said 7!) senses.
What are these 7 senses? They include:

  • Sight
  • Touch
  • Taste
  • Hearing
  • Sound
  • Vestibular – Movement and balance
  • Proprioception – The knowledge of where are body parts are in relation to the rest of us and how they move.

Keep your kids busy and get some quiet time for yourself! Download my sensory play activity guide now!

Why Sensory Play?

Sensory play is important for a few reasons;

  • Emotional Regulation: Did you know that a lot of times kids who have meltdowns are craving sensory activities? It’s true! Trampoline jumping, pushing chairs, playing in sensory bins. All of these can be helpful and can help avoid tantrums if added to your daily routine.
  • Safe Exploration: Sensory bins allow for kids to explore new textures in a safe and controlled environment. You’re right there with them while they’re exploring the items and you can be there to guide their play.
  • Develop Motor Skills: Sensory bins/bags oftentimes use fine motor skills. Strengthening fine motor skills from the start is so important. It helps build muscles to assist in life skills such as writing, using eating utensils, hand eye coordination, tying shoes, etc.
  • Encourage Learning: Some children do not learn well from rote memorization (ie, flashcards, repetition, etc). When incorporating sensory play, you can teach them other skills (letters, numbers, colors, math, etc) without them even realizing they’re doing it.
  • Visual Development: This is especially important in infant sensory play. Exploring sensory items in bins or bags, you can incorporate bright colors which helps stimulate babies’ visual development.
  • Keeps them busy!: Isn’t this the most important part?!

How To Build a Sensory Bin

  • First, you need a base: 
    • This is the sensory part of your bin.
    • Please be mindful of this part! Nothing your littles can choke on your will fit in their nose if they are of the
      nose-shoving age.
    • Food is okay, but don’t pick something that will spoil if you plan on reusing the bin.
    • If you think you found something great, try to freeze it! This usually buys you some extra time.
    • Some examples of bases:
      • Water beads
      • Pom poms
      • Small pieces of tissue paper
      • Dry pasta (color them using this tutorial from Typically Simple)
      • Dry rice
      • Dry beans
      • Cut up drinking straws
  • Then, you need a learning tool:
    • What skill do you want to work on? Letters, numbers, colors, sorting., animals and their sounds, body parts. etc.
    • If it’s sorting, don’t forget some small bowls or cups to do the sorting when they fish the items out of the sensory bin.
    • This part is super easy to switch out—it’s the extra educational tool!
    • Some learning tools include:
      • Plastic animals
      • Foam letter puzzle
      • Puzzles
      • Laminated pictures of letters, animals, etc.
      • Plastic bugs
      • Plastic shapes
  • Finally, you add some tools:
    • This one isn’t necessary but can add a challenge.
    • Add tweezers, tongs, plastic spoons, etc.
    • Be creative, but safe!
    • Some examples of tools:
      • Tweezers
      • Tongs
      • Plastic spoons
      • Small bowls
      • Plastic Easter eggs
      • Scoops
      • Measuring cups
      • Measuring spoons

And of course, you’ll need something in which to put it all. You have a few options:

  • A plastic bottle: This is great for infants or toddlers that will make a mess but can still be entertained by visual toys. Make sure you remove the label and it’s a good idea to hot glue the lid to the bottle after filling it.
  • A plastic resealable bag: This is another great option for infants and toddlers. Make sure you take out all the air possible and it is a good idea to put it into another bag and tape it shut with packing tape or duct tape.
  • A box: This will get messy! But there are a ton of different options.
    • A cardboard box: Big enough to fit in is good too. If you have a child who needs even more sensory output, they can sit inside the bin and dig around.
    • A plastic bin with a lid: One that can sit on a tabletop works for just hands or you can do a large one for more exploration.
    • A baking pan: If it’s a one time activity (water, shaving cream, etc) this is a great vessel!

Some extra tips and tricks for Sensory Play

  • Exercise other skills: If you have a specific skill you want to work on with your kids (letter recognition, colors, shapes, etc), think about how you can incorporate sensory play into it to get your kids more engaged.
  • Large motor activities: Any sensory bin can incorporate large motor (ie, running, skipping, hopping, etc) activities as well. Put the bin one one side of the room and a sorting mat or cups/bowls on the other side of the room or a little farther away (if you’re playing outside). This allows a high energy kid to let off some extra energy!
  • Keep the bins as a special activity: If you’ve just had a baby and need a few minutes to nurse or get them down for a nap, take out a sensory bin for your toddler/older kid to keep them busy while you tend to the baby. Do you cook dinner every night? Tape some sensory bags to your sliding glass door for a quick activity where you can keep an eye on them and still get your stuff done.

Try out some bins and come back and comment – let me know what you’re doing and what your kids are loving! Head over to Instagram and tag me, too!

Animal Action Dice

Large motor activities are so important – especially in the winter months when you feel like you’re stuck inside all day. Grab this animal action dice printable and get to moving!

animal action dice with free download

My kiddos love large motor activities and I love easy large motor activities so this one is a win/win for us. They love acting like animals (making their movements and sounds) so I figured this activity would be perfect for us on a “stuck inside” day.

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Toddler Sorting Activity

This toddler sorting activity addresses lots of skills and is super easy to put together. I even adapted it to add my 5 year into it as well.

Toddler sorting activity

It’s cold outside. So we have been focusing on some indoor activities for the kiddos. We’ve done large motor, literacy/math for my older kiddo and now we’ve done a toddler sorting activity for my 2 year old.

This activity is so easy to put together! My 2 year old actually was able to help me put it together (this wasn’t planned. But as we all know, toddlers don’t care at all about what is planned and what isn’t planned.

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Educational Netflix Shows That Won’t Make You Feel Guilty

Netflix. The new babysitter.

I will admit – as a work from home mom, my oldest gets a lot of Netflix time. But when he started spouting off random facts about the Earth, animals, lakes and ponds, I started to feel not so guilty. That is the joy of educational Netflix shows.

I realized that it really isn’t the worst thing (except when he starts fact checking ME) and wanted to put together a list of shows you can let your kids watch on Netflix and not feel guilty about putting them in front of the TV.

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50 Household Items You Can Use To Paint

Did you know there are tons of household items you can use to paint? They can be found in the kitchen, bathroom, play room, etc. Read on to find out more!

As much as I hate to admit it, it’s going to start getting cold outside. I don’t play outside in the snow. That’s something special we save for when Daddy is home (aka, I hate it and refuse to do it, so Daddy does it).

But when we’re inside, I do “plan” stuff for the kids to do that don’t require a screen. It’s rare, but I do it.

When I taught preschool, I rarely had the kids paint with actual paintbrushes. To me, regular paintbrushes were just no fun and honestly, made the paint gloppy and took forever to dry. So I would always find other things around the classroom that they could use to paint. Since I started this blog I have been meaning to write them all down for you guys, so here you go! At the end of the post you will find the printable version.

50 Different Household Items Your Kids Can Use to Paint

1. Spatula
2. Fork
3. Pastry brush
4. Potato masher
5. Bottom of a peanut butter jar
6. Lid of a peanut butter jar
7. Pieces of pasta (wet or dry)
8. Plastic cups
9. Tin foil crumpled up
10. Straw (blow into it onto wet paint)
11. Q-tips
12. Apple (cut in half or the bottom)
13. Cotton balls (use clothespins if your kiddo doesn’t like getting super messy)
14. Toy cars
15. Golf ball (place your paper in a box and drop the golf ball onto wet paint on the paper and roll around the golf ball)
16. Pencil Eraser
17. Dice
18. Marker cap
19. Pipe cleaners
20. Crumpled up plastic wrap
21. Sponge
22. Wooden skewer
23. Fingers
24. Yarn
25. Leaves
26. Loofa
27. Cosmetic sponge
28. Dental floss
29. Nail brush
30. Wine corks
31. Bubble wrap
32. Toothbrush
33. Toothpick
34. Cut up pool noodle
35. Cupcake liner clipped on a clothespin
36. Ice cubes
37. Icing knife
38. Credit card
39. Crumpled paper towels
40. Dry beans
41. Rice wrapped in panty hose
42. Hair brush
43. Comb
44. Rubber stamps
45. Paper towel/toilet paper roll
46. Dish sponge
47. Alphabet blocks
48. Legos
49. Shaped magnets
50. Dryer sheets (held by a clothespin)

I am willing to bet you have most (if not all) of these things already in your house. Ok, maybe not the panty hose (if you’re anything like me) but you can find something similar for sure!

Enjoy making messes! 😉



NEW Subscription Box COMING SOON

Hey there moms!

Does Pinterest totally overwhelm you?

Do you see an awesome at home activity for your little one but then cringe at the idea of having to go to a separate store to buy all the supplies?

And what are you going to do with all that extra baby oil? You have zero use for baby oil.

I am here to save you.

I am launching a subscription box this winter. you choose the age of your child (birth – kindergarten) and I send you a box each month with 2-3 activities that you can do together at home. You will also get access to an exclusive group where parents and caregivers chat about activities that they’re doing at home, tips and tricks about keeping your kiddos engaged and suggestions for games/activities.

I also will include an activity guide with your box. It will explain in depth HOW to do the activity and WHY you are doing the activity. It will also give you suggestions on how to differentiate it if your child isn’t feeling the intended purpose. Abandoning is not always necessary!

To keep up with my progress (including information on a local to Naperville, Illinois focus group), please enter your email here. Keep a look out for your confirmation email in your junk or promotions tab!

I couldn’t be more excited about this launch!

Sensory Balloons

Sensory balloons – otherwise known as stress balls – are a great addition to sensory play. You can mold, squish and manipulate them. I love when my kids bust them out because they’re a great stress reliever for me, too!

dollar store sensory balloons with close up of child's hand

(This post contains affiliate links)

We’ve done sensory bins and we’ve done sensory bottles. I love sensory activities (obviously) so I wanted to keep going.

If you search on Pinterest, these can be called “sensory balls.” I couldn’t bring myself to call them that – because I’m 10 years old.

Anywho, I bring you Sensory Balloons.

Like most of my activities, you can find these contents at the dollar store (The Dollar Tree, to be exact.)

latex balloons used for sensory balloons

If you check out my other post about sensory bin filler ideas, a lot of those little things can be put into balloons for sensory balloons. Here’s what we chose:

*Black beans
*Cloud dough
*Play doh
*Water beads

You also should grab a funnel because it will help you a lot – trying to do this without one is pretty frustrating. Just make sure you grab a funnel with a big enough hole for the beans.

child's hand filling a balloon with beans for sensory balloons

The beans, cloud dough and rice went in best in small amounts. The play doh we just rolled into “snakes” (or, if you’re 10 years old like me, poop) and dropped them into the balloon. When they start  to reach the top, blow up the balloon a little and then let the air out. Smush all the play-doh together at the bottom of the balloon. Then keep adding.

Keep your kids busy and get some quiet time for yourself! Download my sensory play activity guide now!

The water bead one was done one by one, but that’s only because I didn’t have a funnel near me and I’m lazy 😉

Dylan also wanted to make faces on his and who am I to tell him no? Go to town, bud.

green sensory balloon with a face drawn on it

I think I might actually make a few to sit at my desk – they are good stress relievers.

This little lady ran off with them while I was trying to snap some pictures. Trouble written all over her face. Don’t let her fool you.

smiling child running off with sensory balloons

If you try these out, please let me know in the comments!

And as always with my activities, please be smart 🙂 After I filled the balloon, I put it inside another balloon to be extra safe.