20 Best Ideas for Sensory Play for Toddlers

Looking for ideas for sensory play for toddlers? Today we have a super fun list of twenty ideas for you!

The possibilities for sensory play are endless, and not only bucket loads of fun for little people, but really beneficial for their early development. Young children love to touch, see, listen and explore when they play, and some of the ideas below encourage them to engage their sense of taste and smell too! Today we bring you a super duper collection of sensory activities perfect for toddlers. And don’t worry – sensory play doesn’t always mean ‘messy play’!

Best ideas for sensory play for toddlers

20 Best Ideas for Sensory Play for Toddlers

These first three ideas offer a great place to start with sensory play for toddlers at home;

1. One of the easiest tools for sensory play has to be homemade playdough recipe and our best ever scented playdough is the perfect place to start. Everything in the recipe can most likely already be found in your kitchen and this makes soft, supple dough that is delightful to roll, mold and shape.

2. You can add an extra textural element to sensory play with playdough by adding uncooked rice. We show you how in our super fun Funfetti Playdough Recipe.

RELATED: For even more playdough-spiration, check out our popular collection of 12 homemade playdough recipes.

Ideas for sensory play for toddlers

3. For another fantastic sensory experience with rice – try simply adding the herb rosemary to your rice. You rice will be transformed with a beautiful scent! What a feast for the senses – touch, hear, smell and see! One great thing about sensory rice is that it can be easily stored to be used time and again, and if you are looking for tips for containing the mess with your toddler’s sensory play, the rosemary rice link above has some great tips.

Ideas for Outdoor Sensory Play with Toddlers

Sensory play with toddlers is also super fun outdoors (helps with the mess too!), here are some ideas for getting started;

4. Water play is a super calming sensory play experience for children of all ages. Click through to see our post that offer suggestions for getting started with water play for babies and younger toddlers. You can then move on to offering different water play experiences as your toddler grows, here are 10 Ways to Extend Water Play and I promise you number 9 is an absolute hit with toddlers! Supervision is obviously essential with any water play so be sure to stay within eye and earshot while your child is playing.

5. A treasure hunt is a great way to explore with the senses in nature and our simple Nature Hunt Paper Bag Book has been purposely designed with toddlers and preschoolers in mind. It is perfect for all of the little collections they like to make when they are out and about!

Outdoor sensory play ideas for toddlers

6. Another fun idea for an outdoor scavenger hunt is our Rainbow Outdoor Scavenger Hunt. It cleverly uses paint color cards from the hardware store to guide your toddler’s search. I suggest using cards that include just one primary color to begin with.

7. Another fun way to get young children moving and exploring outdoors is with a simple obstacle course. Our Don’t Ring the Bell! Obstacle Course encourages toddlers to move their bodies in new ways and cleverly also engages the sense of hearing as they try not to ring the bell as they traverse the course.

8. For those with older toddlers and preschoolers who are feeling especially brave, why not try be adventurous and try some mud play! Our post Awesome Ideas for Mud Play shares fifteen different play ideas for children of all different ages.

Ideas for Toddler Sensory Play with Art Supplies

9. Have you ever heard of glitter finger paint that is also edible? Sounds too good to be true doesn’t it! This recipe is perfect for sensory play with little ones who are still putting everything in their mouths!

10. Moving on to some sensory fun with art supplies, the ingenious combination of paint and bubble wrap for some finger painting is the perfect way to engage the sense of touch. You can always use the finger paint paint recipe above if your toddler is still mouthing objects.

Creative slay ideas for toddlers

11. Ice cube painting is a super sensory play activity for toddlers and preschoolers on a warm, sunny day. It’s cold. colorful and completely taste-safe too!

12. So this one is for older toddlers and preschoolers who are well beyond the stage of mouthing objects, and it is such a great multi-sensory experience that it is too good not too include here. What might this be I hear you ask? Making and drawing with DIY Soap Crayons. They can be used for drawing on paper, or in the bath or shower! 

RELATED: Looking for sensory ideas for older children, check out Kaleidoscope: Hands On Explorations in Colour (and Color!) for Kids.

Quiet Sensory Play with Toddlers

Quiet sensory play ideas are perfect as calm down tools when your toddler is recovering from an episode of big emotions, or when they are tired, feeling poorly or overwhelmed.

13. In our collection of 5 Games to Develop the Sense of Touch we share a gently Tickly Rain. It is a beautiful bonding exercise of gentle touch to do with a child. Click through via the link above for the full details.

14. A discovery box or basket offers a wonderful way for toddlers to explore a simple, open-ended collection of materials in any way that they like. Each collection is loosely based around the way that the items will most probably be used, for example, “rolling and stacking,” “pouring and scooping” or “sorting and matching” and they are perfect for inviting extended periods of sensory exploration.

15. Kinetic sand is a truly magical sensory product. It’s difficult to explain how amazing it is – so if you get the chance, be sure to have a feel for yourself. The sand is softer than regular sand and holds it shape magically when formed. It’s also super fun to stamp kinetic sand (thanks for this fun idea, Kate at Picklebums). Use larger scale, giant stampers for toddlers, like these on Amazon.

And if you are new to kinetic sand, check out our choice of the best brand here at Amazon.

16. Sensory bottles are simply captivating when it comes to soothing a toddler, especially our slow motion Calm Down Sensory Bottle.

Ideas Combining Sensory Play With Imaginative Play

17. Combine Lego DUPLO or your child’s favorite plastic figurines in a shallow tub of bubbles (whisking dishwashing liquid works a treat) for some bubbliciously sensory fun! Set it on a table outdoors or indoors with some bath towels handy for splashes.

18. Kate from Picklebums shares an awesome idea for playing with dinosaur figurines and a simple to make slime in a bowl! Lots of fun for sensory play and building imaginative play too.

Toddler Sensory Play

19. Kate also shares a fun beach inspired imaginary/sensory play world in a tray, created with colored salt.

20. Combine sensory rice play with a fabulous picture book with this fun Brown Bear, Brown Bear Sensory Bin. Such a great way to encourage language skills alongside sensory skills.

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