Sensory Play Activities for Children who have Additional Needs

Sensory play is important for the development of all children, and that’s even more so for children with additional needs like autism who might have sensory integration issues. Activities like squishing play dough or blowing bubbles stimulates the senses and helps children discover and understand the world around them.

Sensory play helps to develop fine and gross motor skills, memory, spatial awareness, and problem solving skills. It helps children develop the cognitive skills for science and technology such as:

  • Observing
  • Experimenting
  • Drawing conclusions
  • Predicting
  • Incorporating new knowledge

Playing with sensory themed activities also has calming effect on many children.

Here are some affordable ideas you can create by using toys and resources from around the home.

Sensory Bins

To make a sensory bin:

  • Choose a container – Plastic tupperware, cardboard box or large baking dish
  • Decide on a filler – Dried food, shredded paper or sand
  • Add lots of small interesting objects

Sensory Bin

Busy Board

Busy board are commonly covered with keys, latches, knobs, locks, chains and other random things. Cut a board of plywood or wood and paint it or decorate the way you like. Then just attach all the stuff you have and voila! The picture below can offer some ideas for inspiration!

Sensory board

Bubble Blowing Tower

You will need:

  • Water
  • Drop of washing up liquid
  • Bowl
  • Drinking straws

Add the water and washing up liquid to a bowl and give your child the straw.  Have your child practice blowing through the straw before you begin. Then challenge your child to blow bubbles in the water and see how tall they can make a bubble tower.  You may want to do this too in a separate bowl and see who can create the tallest tower!

Blowing bubbles

Play Dough

For easy to make dough and lots of fun dough play ideas, click on our blog here!

Play dough

Sand Play

To recreate this activity, you will need a large pan or tray, sand and farm animals for hours of fun!  This activity is very versatile, you can change the farm animals with any small world toys you have in the house, for example cars or dinosaurs. Or keep it traditional with spades and sand moulds.

Toys in sand

Construction Trucks in Soil

Collect soil and twigs from outside place them in a large tub or tray and construction trucks, ready for the big build.

trucks in soil

Spaghetti Play

Boil the spaghetti as specified in the cooking instructions. Add food colouring to the water (the more food colouring you add the more vibrant the colour).  Allow to cool before placing it into a tray for your little one to explore. Add spoons and tongs for those reluctant to get too messy.

Spaghetti play

Fire Fighter Rescue

Bring your fire fighter toys to life by adding shaving foam and some powdered paint to toy buildings to create a fire.  Then have your little one put the fire out with water.

foam fire trucks

Slime Making

To make the most gruesome slime, follow these steps:

STEP 1: Measure 1/2 cup of PVA glue and pour into your bowl.

STEP 2: Add 1/2 cup of water and mix the two ingredients together.

STEP 3: Once the two are well mixed, add food color and glitter.

STEP 4: Add a 1/2 teaspoon of baking soda to the mixture and mix it in

STEP 5: Mix in 1 tbsp saline solution and stir until slime forms and pulls away from sides of the bowl.


 Sponge Painting

Sponge painting creates a fun sensory experience by exploring paint and paint filled sponges.

sponge painting

Water Beads

They’re slippery, squishy, and a surprisingly fun and addictive sensory experience.

All you have to do:

  • Pour the tiny water beads into a small container and allow your child to add to the water.
  • Now watch them grow!  This is great for teaching patience, and it’s fascinating to watch the beads absorb water.

water beads

Hand and Feet Painting            

Spread paint onto a tray, place large sheets of paper or left over wall paper on the floor for footprints or on a table for hand prints. All they then have to do is use their hands or feet to create their own personal masterpiece! Have a bowl with soapy water nearby to clean your child’s hands or feet when they have finished!

Let us know how you got on with your sensory play activities in the comments below!

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