Saturday, 11 February 2017

Sensory Play for Toddlers


sensory play, sensory development, toddlers, child development,


Having worked in Early Years for almost 18 years, trained in Child Development and having a degree in Child Psychology, the importance of fun, educational play is at the forefront of my mind with my own children. Sensory Play is something I'm a big fan of.

What is Sensory Play?

Young children learn with all of their senses; look, feel, taste, smell and listen, to explore and learn about the world they live in. Sensory play is an activity that stimulates a child's senses, enhancing their learning and naturally encouraging them to use scientific processes whilst they play, explore, create and investigate. 

What are the benefits of Sensory Play?

Sensory play encourages language development, introducing lots of new vocabulary, it helps a child develop and enhance their memory and supports cognitive growth and of course, fine and gross motor skills. It allows them to question things and use trial and error to problem solve. Sensory play is crucial to brain development, helping to build nerve connections in the brains pathways which enhances their ability to complete more complex learning tasks.

Sensory Play is something children can do as small as babies, is super simple to do, even at home, and can be adapted for any age and ability. 

Recently, my 2 year old Taylor and I have been enjoying 'Sensory Saturdays'
Let me show you some of the things we've been exploring in our sensory trays lately...


Shaving Foam

For our sensory, or messy, activities we have a tuff spot (otherwise known as a builders tray) which can be purchased from builder supplies stores or eBay/Amazon, we got ours for about £16, and a large plastic storage tub which we picked up for £6 from the local discount store. You can use pretty much any containers you wish, we used to use small Ikea drawers when Taylor was younger, see here.

For this activity I filled the plastic tub with 2 cans of shaving foam then laid out different things around the tub for Taylor to choose what he'd like to explore with; silver spoons and utensils and small world toys; people and animals. 


sensory play, sensory development, toddlers, child development,


For any messy activities we cover the floor with an old shower curtain, it can be wiped clean or thrown straight in the washing machine and dries quickly too. And Taylor wears an apron or one of his older brothers old t-shirts which can also be thrown straight in the wash.

Taylor had lots of fun exploring the shaving foam, talking about what it looked and felt like. 'It looks like snow!' 'It feels like sloppy custard'.

He will often start off slowly... looking... trying to work out what to make of it. Sometimes I'll often model play to show him it's okay to get stuck in. But he soon gets involved and has lots of fun. It wasn't long before he was taking off his socks and giving his toes a good wiggle in the foam!

It can be adapted in any way, maybe with winter animals for a winter themed tray. Or hide letters or numbers inside the foam for children learning their letters and numerals. 


sensory play, sensory development, toddlers, child development,
sensory play, sensory development, toddlers, child development,


Crunchy Tray

Another one of our fun sensory activities was nicknamed the 'Crunchy Tray', using the tuft spot. I emptied leftover or stale crunchy foods and emptied the last of the crunchy cereal boxes. Simple things you can find in the back of your cupboards, that'll make a good crunchy sound. 

We used pasta sheets, uncooked noodles, pringles (the sour cream and chive ones left over from Christmas that I don't like, haha)  and cheerios. There are so many things you can use, and don't ever throw any out of date store foods, keep them safe for occasions like this! 


sensory play, sensory development, toddlers, child development,


Working in Early Years, I know the benefits of using real household items such as kitchen utensils, they encourage this as much as possible, some nurseries even use real wood and tools in their construction area! Obviously only allow this if you are confident to do so. Somebody commented on my instagram photo that they felt uncomfortable with the pizza cutter, in case he accidentally hurt himself. I see their concern, but I'm very confident allowing him to explore with these and have been doing this with children for years. You know your own child and what you feel is safe for them to use. Plus, this pizza cutter rarely manages to cut through pizza! ;) As long as the activity is well supervised, there should be no problem, and of course the activity should be adapted depending on the child's age and stage of development.

Taylor loved exploring the crunchy tray and loved breaking the foods with his toy hammer, crushing them with the potato masher and learning the skills to use the other utensils. It was great fun and encouraged lots of new words; crush, crunch, bash, break...


sensory play, sensory development, toddlers, child development,
sensory play, sensory development, toddlers, child development,


Porridge Oats

Bags of porridge oats are super cheap to buy. I often keep bags of out of date oats in the messy cupboard for messy activities. I set up a pile of oats with a bunch of household items to explore with; large and small spoons, colander, saucepan and weighing scales. Activities such as these are quick and easy to set up, are totally open ended and nothing a quick hoover can't tidy up.


sensory play, sensory development, toddlers, child development,


Taylor really enjoyed this sensory activity, he kept commenting how soft the oats felt and loved scooping them using his fingers or the utensils available. it wasn't long before the socks came off again and he was burying his toes in the oats and pouring them over his legs. :)


sensory play, sensory development, toddlers, child development,
sensory play, sensory development, toddlers, child development,
Sensory play doesn't have to be hard work, you can use anything you have at home and doesn't always have to be well thought out or pre-planned in advance. I often just grab whatever is available at home, or if I have time, I prepare a few things the night before. We've had a jelly tea party with different coloured jelly and the plastic tea set. Coloured rice is super easy to make in advance too. Next weekend I'm going to freeze some ice in different sized containers, colour the ice with food colouring and maybe hide a few surprises inside too! Don't forget to follow my Snapchat (Lianne.1984) to see how that goes!


There is so much fun to be had and 
learning to be made with sensory play.

Do you create sensory activities at home?



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60 comments:

  1. We inherited a massive rice table - it put me right over the edge though and we had to give it to the daycare center.

    #thatfridaylinky

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  2. I used to love doing things like with my girls when they were younger. We had a tuff spot, and I used to make gloop, which was fun, and other things. Thanks for linking up to #ThatFridayLinky

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  3. When the girls were little this was a fantastic activity and I loved watching them great post Thanks for linking to the #THAT FRIDAY LINKY come back next week please

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  4. I used to take my children to sensory play at the Children's Centre although I have done the odd bits at home. I always wished I had bought a tough spot, they look perfect but I hadn't considered just using a plastic tub. I think my littlest man would love the shaving foam idea so I might have to give it a whirl.

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  5. Looks like he's having a fabulous time. Not sure this existed when I was a child but I keep hearing all about sensory play and messy play now! Great way to introduce ids to different experiences!

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  6. I've never heard of sensory play before now, but it looks like something I would have loved as a child!

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  7. I hear of friends with kids taking them to sensory play, but wouldn't have thought of it at home x

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  8. This really looks like so much fun, and the child in me wants to join in the playing. I can just imagine how fantastic all of these textures feel and this must keep him occupied for hours x

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  9. Ooh these are some good ideas! I do a lot of crafty stuff with Lily but we haven't done too much sensory play - just some glittery jelly once. I've heard a lot about tuff spots but haven't gotten around to buying one yet but will do, I like how you've spoken about how to keep everything clean and tidy too as I know a lot of parents get worried about that sort of thing xx

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  10. oh mine used to love sensory play we used to do it will allsorts of material and they just loved it some great ideas here

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  11. I've never heard of this before. It does sound great x

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  12. We did a lot of sensory play with my little sister who has sensory issues and it helped her overcome her fear of certain textures. x

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  13. This looks so fun for kids and also such a great learning experience! I bet watching his reaction was very enjoyable!

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  14. Sensory play sounds like such an awesome idea, this wasn't really anything I'd heard of when I was younger but seems like a good way to engage kids x

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    1. You probably did stuff like this but seems different when it's labelled.

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  15. What a fab idea, I'm sure my niece and nephew would love to try this out at their house x

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  16. Messy but nessesary! Love all your ideas and I bet kids would too.

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  17. It does look like great fun. My little man gs to do quite a bit of sensory play at nursery which is great.

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  18. This looks like so much fun. And the kid seem to be enjoyings

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  19. What a fabulous idea! I would never have thought of using shaving foam or left over crunchy food, but it obviously works! x

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  20. I think we definitely need to get a tuff spot, my two year old would love so many of those activities but we don't really have anywhere we could do them right now. Thanks for the ideas :)

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  21. My Mum works with autistic children and this actually sounds like such a good idea.. I'm going to show this to her and perhaps she could do something like this with the children she works with!

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  22. This is such a good idea and actually sounds like fun! xo

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  23. We love sensory play - my little one's favourite is cloud dough and coloured rice. I do need to get a Tuff spot though, as I feel like I'm permanently hoovering up rice!

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    1. Ooh theres still lots of hoovering even with a tuff spot haha

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  24. This looks like so much fun and very beneficial for children!

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  25. My friend is a room leader in a nursery and was telling me about kids playing with shaving foam- I almost didnt believe her! So great and beneficial for kids as they have to work out what to do with it rather than just play with cars on a mat etc xxx

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  26. We've got a tuff spot and love filling it with coloured rice and foam. We need to really use it more! xx

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  27. I love how he gets his feet in everything!!!

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  28. Love doing sensory play with my little man and he enjoys it so much. These are some fantastic ideas, thanks for sharing

    Laura x

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  29. omg look at his little face, he looks like he's having the BEST time!!!

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  30. Yes we used to when my son was younger. We also enjoyed making the jars with glitter water and the lego people in as a calm down jar when he got stressed out.

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