A Practical Look at Sensory Play

Sensory play is spoken about a lot in specialist settings such as childcare and preschool and is important for learning, language and motor skills development. Sensory play naturally encourages children to investigate and experience their environment using different parts of their brain. It can sometimes be referred to as “theme play” however it’s important we don’t generalise sensory experiences only to specific themes. Sensory play can happen ANY TIME!
Sensory play allows children to experience their direct environment using the 5 senses in a heightened and specific way. It allows for self-directed and child led learning and is completely adaptable! This type of play is generally developmentally appropriate for children aged 2 ½ and above.





Below are some ideas of how you can use sensory play to enhance the 5 senses…


  • Fun with Slime! You can buy slime from your local hot $ shop or it is easily made using borax, PVA glue, water and food dye! Put slime in a bowl and hide some marbles or toys for your child to “dig” and find (for example).
  • Make playdoh with your child – easily made using flour, Cream of Tartar, oil and water. A great messy language activity for encouraging verbs in sequence play “mixing” “holding spoon” “it’s my turn” “pouring it in” “round we go”
  • Rice in a bucket! Add some glitter, marbles, sequins and cups and spoons to stimulate hours of sensory touch play! Encourage your child to add their favourite toys
  • DIY snow – use conditioner and baking soda for pretend snow, add some carrots and make a snowman!
  • Sand play… of course!


  • Collect “smells” from the garden or your local park. Bring them home and put them in plastic Tupperware with a lid! Blind fold each child and get them to sniff each object from the container. Can they guess? Great activity for an older sibling to lead!
  • Pour a fragrant conditioner/shampoo or washing detergent on a plate and draw a picture. Simple and accidental cleaning! 😉


  • Activating senses of the tongue using bitter, sweet, sour and rough textured food.
  • Blind fold and see if your child can guess what they are eating?!
  • Food play – especially for fussy eaters! Start with a bowl and spoon and don’t be afraid to get messy.


  • Water paints! Watch the paints mix and separate from each other
  • Skittles experiment – make a circle of skittles on a plate and VERY slowly* add some hot water to the centre watch the rainbow form! (YouTube the Skittles experiment for ideas)
  • Glow sticks in the dark! Cheap and very effective for colour and shape recognition.
  • “I spy… something green, it falls off trees and it’s tickly!” what else can you see?


  • Got some old drums or percussion instruments lying around? Make a musical box! Op shops or garage sales are great for this!
  • DIY musical instruments – rice in a toilet roll, cardboard boxes for drums, an empty eclipse mint tin with a ball!