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Your Exclusive Guide to Sensory Activities for Young Children

March 3, 2020, Author: Tamra Cater

Babies and young children learn about their world through their senses, so that’s why sensory activities for young children are great for development! Thus, they learn by smelling, hearing, seeing, tasting, and feeling. Of course, as adults, we also learn about our world and retain information through our senses. Thus, our memories are often linked to our senses. For example, when I think about my childhood trips to the lakes, I can visualize the house and deck, as well as “hear” the sounds of the boats speeding by.

Sensory play is important for child development, in that it builds nerve connections in their brains. Thus, this brain development supports cognitive growth, language development, and the ability to solve more complex problems. For instance, when children engage in sensory play, they are using the scientific method. Children develop hypotheses and then test them. Finally, they arrive at a conclusion. For example, when presented with a bin full of rice and measuring cups, children may predict what will happen if they fill the cup up with rice and then turn it over (the rice will fall back into the bin).

Also, sensory play enhances memory functioning and is good for calming anxious children. Consequently, sensory play provides a host of benefits to a child’s development. In this post, I wanted to offer a variety of sensory play ideas for you to choose from. First, I’ll suggest some sensory bin ideas, then some sensory art activities, as well as sensory toys. I hope these sensory activities for young children provide spur some fun as well as new discoveries!

Sensory Bin Ideas for Young Children

1.Ice Cream Sensory Bin

A sensory bin is one type of sensory play. In this case, a plastic bin or tub is used and is filled with different items. The possibilities for these are endless! However, I will give you some suggestions.

sensory activities for young children

From A Flourishing Rose

For more information on this bin and instructions, click on the link above. This one has a fun addition- foam marshmallows!

2. Construction Zone Sensory Bin

sensory activities for young children

From Modern Preschool

This sensory bin is great for encouraging pretend play, as children can engage in imaginary conversations that may be occurring among the workers.

3. Feed the Ducks Sensory Bin

sensory activities for young children

From Toots Mom is Tired

Kids can have fun “feeding the ducks” with this sensory bin. Wine corks were used as pretend food.

4. Ocean Sensory Bin

sensory activities for young children

From Living Life and Learning

The author of this blog post mentions that you can also add magnetic plastic letters and ask kids to find items that begin with that letter (f is for fish).

5. A Christmas Sensory Bin

sensory activities for young children

From Nurturing Tamra

This is one I did. My daughter enjoyed the jingle bells the most! We also saved some of the materials for other Christmas crafts.

6. Halloween Sensory Bin

sensory activities for young children

From The Play Based Mom

This uses a plastic cauldron, spooky ingredients (such as spiders and frogs) and foam as a base. I love how the author of this post also included literacy and numerical activities that can go along with this sensory bin!

7. Several More Sensory Bin Ideas

If you’d like several simple sensory bin ideas, check out this blog post: Sensory Bins for Toddlers

Art Sensory Activities for Young Children

1. A Process Art Activity

sensory activities for young children

From Mosswood Connections

This one is a very interesting idea, as this activity involves textured paint! For instance, rice, orzo, rock salt, flour, and bread crumbs were added to different colored paints. The author of this blog post mentioned how her children became interested in the textures and began touching them. Eventually, they smooshed and rolled the different paints.

2. Shaving Cream Sensory Art

sensory activities for young children

From Hands on as We Grow

This one seems simple to do as you just use shaving cream and food coloring. You can choose to hand your kids some tools (such as a plastic knife or fork), or your kids can stick their hands in it and go to it!

3. Mess-free Rainbow Activity

sensory activities for young children

From The Keeper of the Memories

I thought I’d add this one if you wanted something a little less mess (as compared to above lol). All you do is squeeze different colors of paint into clear zip bags and then let your little ones explore with mixing and spreading the paints. This is great for one’s sense of touch, as well as our visual sense.

4. Baby Bubble Wrap Art

sensory activities for young children

From Arty Crafty Kids

For this activity, you create a bubble wrap packet that has paint inside it. Babies can touch and smash it, but you can also pick your baby up and let their feet touch it. You can also create actual art with it by attaching a sheet of bubble wrap to a thick sheet of paper with paint in between.

5. Edible Painting for Babies and Toddlers

sensory activities for young children

From Tales of a Messy Mom

So, here, we get to the sense of taste! Yogurt and food coloring are used to create these paints. And as with some of the other art activities, kids can have a blast making a royal mess!

6. Homemade paint recipe with spices

sensory activities for young children

From Nurture Store

Now to the sense of smell! Each paint color was matched with the color of a spice. For example, the white paint went with vanilla.

Sensory Toys for Young Children

1. Sensory Blocks for Babies

sensory activities for young children

From Mama Papa Bubba

These are super cool! The author of this blog post uses little clear storage containers, and she added little items to each storage container. The lids were tight enough (and she also glued the lids on) that the baby couldn’t get to any of the small items that may pose a choking hazard. She used items such as buttons, googly eyes, jingle bells, and pebbles. These containers stimulate the visual, touch, and hearing senses.

Your baby can also build towers out these and then knock them down!

2. Touchy Feely Frames for Babies

sensory activities for young children

From Little Lifelong Learners

You can get some cheap frames and grab all kinds of interesting materials that you can glue to the backboard of each frame. These are great for babies to learn about different textures and develop their sense of touch!!

3. Other Sensory Toys

sensory activities for young children

From She Often Blogs

This is a great guide for all kinds of sensory toys that will enhance your child’s brain and cognitive development!

Sensory Books for Young Children

There are a lot of “touch and feel” books out there that can help stimulate one’s sense of touch. We used a lot of these, and my daughter was very interested in all of the different textures! Here are my recommendations (click the image for more information):

Final Thoughts on Sensory Activities for Young Children

These activities are great for developing all of the different senses, as well as the associated areas in the brain. As mentioned, babies and toddlers learn so much about their world through their senses. So, this is a crucial process for helping enhance their development. I hope these ideas give you a place to start!

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(2016). Why sensory play is important. Retrieved from

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comments (1)

  • avatar image
    All these are well thought out ideas

    Rakhi Jayashankar

    March 7, 2020 Reply