6 Sensory play ideas for kids to do indoors
Play is important to develop a child’s early learning skills and sensory play helps in concentration, and to develop coordination. Playing in groups can also teach children how to work together and develop their imagination. By exploring different ideas and textures, creative thinking can build the ability to problem solve and experiment.
Some benefits of sensory play:
- Sensory play helps to calm an anxious child
- This type of play helps to actually build nerve connections in the brain’s pathways; this can help a child to attempt more complex learning tasks as they grow up.
- Helps to enhance the development of your child’s memory
- Sensory play can help to improve social interaction, develop fine and gross motor skills.
- Playing can help with body awareness and balance
Some of these ideas can possibly get a bit messy, but that is more than half the fun. Most of these sensory play ideas are more suitable for the older little ones or toddlers. Just remember to supervise the little ones who tend to still put things in their mouths as some of the play activities might present a choking hazard.
Here are some sensory play ideas that you might like to try.
1. Shredded paper
I have, along with my two nieces, have been going to a yearly Christmas function at a farm where the kids are allowed to play and throw each other with hay. They seem to enjoy this immensely, so when I came across this idea for shredded paper, I thought it would be a great substitute for the hay and can be done indoors.
This is a very simple sensory play idea, take some shredded paper and place into a big box or container for the kids to play with. I guarantee that the paper will not stay in the box, but will be thrown everywhere so if you don’t mind a bit of cleaning up afterwards, this is a fun way to entertain the kids indoors. The activity helps kids to enjoy some messy fun without getting dirty. Just make sure to recycle the paper when you are finished.
2. Rainbow dyed noodles
This is a fun squishy activity with spaghetti that explores textures and colours.
You will need:
- Cooked and rinsed pasta, can be spaghetti or any other pasta
- Plastic sealable bags
- Food colouring
- Vegetable oil
- Container to place the pasta in.
Place portions of pasta into 2 or 3 different bags if you want to create various colours. Add up to seven drops of food colouring into the bag with a drop of the vegetable oil. The oil just helps to coat all the pasta.
Shake and squish the bag around to make sure all the pasta is coated. Leave the pasta in the bags for a few minutes to allow the colours to saturate the pasta more completely.
After this, you can rinse the pasta off to get rid of any excess colour. Playing with the pasta will leave the hands slightly stained but this will come off by washing your hands a few times.
Lastly place the pasta into your container and let the kids have at it. You can make it even more interesting by adding some plastic toys into the mix. The pasta can be kept in a sealed container in the fridge for no more than a week.
3. Salt tray with rocks sensory play idea
This is a simple play activity for a child. A child can create imaginative designs and you can use this activity to help practice writing and letters.
You will need:
- A tray or fairly large flat plastic container. A container with a lid is a good idea so you can store and use later again.
- Depending on the size of your container, about one or two cups of salt.
- Rocks or marbles
Pour the salt into your tray or container and add the rocks. Let the kids draw, play and have fun.
4. Sticker line up
My sister’s two little ones love sticker books, this idea is a great way to keep the kids busy and quiet for a short time.
This activity can help with fine motor skills, concentration and hand-eye co-ordination.
You will need:
- I just took some A4 pieces of paper and stuck them together to form a long stretch of paper.
- Stickers, any stickers as long as they are not too big. Simple colour dot stickers will do.
Draw a pattern like a zig-zag line or twirls onto the length of the paper. Start off by showing your child how it’s done and let them complete the length of paper themselves. I didn't have any colour stickers so Chloe enjoyed colouring in her own white stickers.
5. Water beads or crystal soil
Image credit: The In Thing
The water bead is a water absorbent polymer, which is able to absorb and hold water for an extended period of time. It is bio- degradable and non-toxic. When using it as a play activity, ensure that you supervise as the beads should not be swallowed and can pose a choking hazard.
Ways to use Water beads:
- Sensory bin: Place the beads into a container or bucket and add some toys, rocks or other items. Let the kids play and fell the different textures.
- Play and learn: Get a variety of colours and let the kids sort them out into their different colours.
- Birthdays: Add some beads to a birthday party packet instead of sweets.
6. DIY Kinetic sand
This is a great sensory play idea and activity to do with kids.
You will need:
- 1 Cup dry fine sand
- ½ Tablespoon of corn starch
- 1 teaspoon of dishwashing liquid
- Water if needed
- Food colouring is optional
Mix the sand and cornstarch together. Add the dishwashing liquid and combine well. You can add some food colouring if you want to and then let dry for at least 2 hours. Try not to add too much water, it will turn out very muddy.
Have fun and play!