Simple Sensory Play Ideas for the Whole Family

We have to confess, the words 'sensory play' used to fill us with dread! Images of children covered in shaving foam and rice covering the floor like a sea flashed into our heads. Then we actually gave it a go, and guess what... it's so much fun! In this blog we are going to help you out with a few basic sensory play tips, as well as sharing five of our most loved sensory play activities to enjoy as a family.




The Sensory Play Lowdown...

First of all it's important to understand that not all kids (and adults) love sensory play and that is totally ok! Don't force it if it isn't working! What you can do though is offer opportunities and inviting set-ups to encourage participation.


Here are some must-have supplies to get you started:

  • a messy mat - we love the Bumkins Baby Splat Mats as they are the perfect size and best of all they are machine washable 
  • invest in a sensory play table or container - we love the IKEA FLISAT table with TROFAST bins as it is reasonably priced ($50) and doubles up as a desk! Alternatively we simply use underbed storage containers from IKEA or Walmart. Either way just make sure you have a good way to contain the mess!
  • raid your local Dollar Store or Dollar Tree for interesting kitchen utensils and containers. Kids love to simply tip, pour, transfer and repeat! Things like funnels, measuring cups, ladles and ice cube trays are all awesome purchases!
  • have some old towels ready - just in case!


Let's get started with sharing some of our favorite simple sensory bin set-ups. You might look and this the take ages to set up, they really don't! And just go with the materials you have and what you feel comfortable using!


1. Making Potions

You literally cannot go wrong with this one! Whatever you have at home, throw it all in and get concocting together as a family!! Use water as the main base and then put out various fun materials to add - e.g. confetti, beads, pom poms, water beads, even small toys... it really doesn't matter!


Simple Sensory Play Ideas for the Whole Family


The reason we love this one so much is because you really get to share in your kids' creativity and wild imaginations. You can make up a spooky tale about who the potion is for and what it will do to them. Or you might decide to even make a love potion! We love adding Glo Pals to our potions and turning the lights off... the glowing effect is pretty cool!


Simple Sensory Play Ideas for the Whole Family


2. Foamy Cupcakes

Shaving foam has to be one of the coolest sensory materials to explore. It's light yet dense, and soft yet slimy. One of our favorite ways to use it is to make sensory cupcakes together.


Simple Sensory Play Ideas for the Whole Family


As a family we love spending time in the kitchen together, so why not change it up and get creative making a different type of cupcake! You can even add food coloring to the shaving foam to color the frosting. Sprinkles, glitter, sequins and candles are also great additions.


Simple Sensory Play Ideas for the Whole Family


3. Racing in the Dirt

Did you catch our fun blog series all about How to Get Messy with LEGOs? One of our favorite activities was the challenge to build LEGO rally cars and then race them on a 'dirt' track. The dirt is actually cloud dough which is simply flour, vegetable oil and food coloring mixed together (see more details here).


Simple Sensory Play Ideas for the Whole Family


The texture of the cloud dough is so much fun to explore. It compresses down but then when you poke it, the dough crumbles back down. It's perfect for making jumps and dirt tracks! A bonus with this one is that it is taste safe for younger kids too!


Simple Sensory Play Ideas for the Whole Family


4. Small World Explorations

Our kids love exploring small worlds and we find it a great way to indulge in their passions with them. If they love space, why not make them a play doh constellation. If they love dinosaurs, you could create an erupting volcano with baking soda and vinegar! Are mermaids more their thing? Use water and water beads to make a fun underwater paradise. The possibilities are endless and it is great way to bond over their passion and share your knowledge.


Simple Sensory Play Ideas for the Whole Family


We enjoyed making this cute little beach scene using some of our dyed rice. Dying rice takes no time at all. Add two cups of rice to a ziplock bag, 1 teaspoon of vinegar and approx. 8 drops of food coloring and give it a real good mix. Spread it out on some foil to dry over night and that's it!


Simple Sensory Play Ideas for the Whole Family


5. Sensory Science


Want to turn up the sensory fun a notch, including a simple baking soda and vinegar reaction is a great way to introduce your kids to the basics of chemistry. We followed this activity from the Steam Kids 5 Days of STEAM Color Volcanoes activity and had a blast!


Simple Sensory Play Ideas for the Whole Family


We added 1/2 cup baking soda, 3 teaspoons of water and about 5 drops of food coloring to make each colored volcano. Then we mixed vinegar with a squirt of dish soap and watched the eruptions overflow! Fun for all ages!


Simple Sensory Play Ideas for the Whole Family


Do you enjoy sensory play with your kids? What's your favorite material to use. As we said at the beginning, sensory play isn't loved by all, but it can be a great way to get family member's of all ages hands-on and learning!




Creative QT designs quality + innovative toys that declutter homes and inspire creative play. Founded by parents of five, Adam and Dana Sue Hinkle, Creative QT’s vision is to empower parents and encourage a culture of families that Make Time Together. All products are designed to enrich families’ lives through active, creative play and play based learning. Creative QT products are laboratory tested for compliance with CPSC requirements and are free of lead, cadmium and phthalates so you can play with confidence. So, go ahead … today is the day: be your kid’s hero.

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