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7 Sensory Play Activities Using Common Household Items

Sensory play activities engage children’s senses through play. Such activities encourage exploration, creativity, and investigation. They introduce math and scientific theories and strengthen language. Sensory play is also great for soothing anxious, agitated, overtired, or hyperactive children.

Here are some ideas for activities using household items.

Sensory Baby oil:

Fill a strong Ziplock bag about halfway with baby oil plus a few drops of food coloring and a bit of water. Get us much air out of the bag as possible before sealing it. Use clear shipping tape over the whole bag for extra security. The food coloring will create colorful blobs and bubbles as kids squish, shake, and touch the bag.

Sensory Pudding:

This is a great sensory activity for babies and toddlers. First, make colored ice cubes by adding food coloring to the water in an ice cube tray before freezing. Make several colors of ice cubes.

Once the cubes are frozen, spread tapioca pudding on a rimmed cookie/biscuit sheet. Put the cubes on top of the pudding and allow little ones to dig in. The ice cubes will melt and release their colors, dying the pudding.

Sensory Cornstarch:

Mix two cups of cornstarch and one cup of water in a large bowl. Add a few drops of food coloring if desired. Let kids dig in. This stuff, known as “ooblick,” feels solid when inside the bowl, but turns to liquid when you bring a handful out of the bowl. It feels solid when you give it a quick smack, but liquid when you move your hands through it slowly. There is a lot of science at work here, but most of all, it is just really cool!

Ivory soap:

Take the wrapper off a bar of Ivory soap (must be this particular brand). Put the soap on a microwave safe plate. Gather the kids around the microwave – bring in some stools so they can see the action. Microwave the soap for two minutes. It will expand up to ten times its original size.

After the soap cools, give the kids bowls, water, and plastic butter knives. They can chip off pieces of the soap and float it in the water.

Shaving cream:

Shaving cream is soft, cool, wet and fluffy. Spray it on your kitchen table and let kids spread it all over the surface with their hands. Give them wet rags to wipe it up at the end of the play session. As a bonus, your table will be sparkling clean.

For color, add Kool-aid. Besides engaging the sense of smell, it will also temporarily dye your children’s hands rainbow colors.

Sensory Paper:

Save different types of paper in a clear plastic storage bin.  Let children crinkle, fold and rip to their hearts are content.  Throw in wrapping paper, tissue paper, magazine pages and anything else you have on hand.


Sensory bins:

Create sensory bins for children to touch with everyday household items. Provide measuring cups, sifters, and other tools to encourage exploration. Good choices include:

  • Dry beans
  • Rice
  • Cotton balls
  • Dry pasta
  • Shredded pieces of paper

Don’t just sit back and watch.  Get in there and explore with your child, even if you get messy.  You’ll enjoy these sensory activities, too!

Why not try gardening with your little ones? A fabulous sensory activities that brings the rewards of flowers, fruit and vegetables… get some ideas for gardening on our Gardening with Kids pages.

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Janine Mergler

Janine Mergler is a veteran Queensland teacher, graduating from QUT with a BEd majoring in Social Sciences. After many years in the classroom, Janine moved on to academia. She has proudly trained new generations of teachers in her role as a lecturer at Queensland University of Technology Faculty of Education. She has also worked in the Queensland Government as an education specialist, developing education resources and delivering community awareness programs to help families conserve water. Currently she is the owner and editor of Families Magazine, a publication specifically targeted at parents who value a quality education for children.  Janine leads a team of professionals who write about family lifestyle, early childhood, schools and education information and family-friendly events.

3 thoughts on “7 Sensory Play Activities Using Common Household Items”

  1. Wow! This is such a cool list of activities for sensory play. I never would have thought of the Ivory soap trick. I’m definitely going to give these a try. Thanks for putting these ideas together!


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