Category Archives: Sensory Play Ideas

Islands and Hurricaines

At our messy play session in DCA on Friday we were exploring Alberta Whittle’s exhibition with the parents and little ones. We made stormy seas for some sensory play and then created some buildings and trees from recycled materials to create our own Island. Here it is after the hurricaine (otherwise known as the babies!) had hit. You can find instructions on how to make these carton houses here


Halloween themed sensory play and Sensory bag craft

We went a bit Halloween crazy in our parent-infant art therapy group today. As well as making footprints into ghosts and handprints into spiders we were trying out some new textures in our sensory play. These were all very easy and would still be fun when it wasn’t Halloween just by putting them into a shallow tray for babies to feel and experiment with. With sensory play it is best to let little ones take their time and explore the textures. Some things that are new or feel cold they might not like at first so don’t force them. Usually they will take a while cautiously testing before getting interested and stuck in. Here are the 4 recipes for our sensory mixtures:


Easy peasy – just make up sugar free jelly to the instructions and set it inside your scooped out pumpkin.

Green spaghetti:

Good spaghetti till soft in boiling water and while it is still hot add a blob of food colouring (gel or paste works best) and a slug of oil then mix it all through. Leave it to cool and then you can play without the colour coming off on babies hands.


Mix a packet of cornflour with water a little at a time. It’s quite tricky to mix but try not to add too much. The texture of this is amazing. If you try to press into it quickly it feels like a solid whereas if you slowly lower your hand in it feels like a runny liquid. Bigger kids will like this too and can play at trying to keep a ball of it solid by passing it between their hands before slowing down and letting it trickley through their fingers.

Pumpkin insides:

For our last texture we decided to use the pumpkin leftovers that we’d scooped out. Put any big lumps into a blender or nutribullet to get a nice mush and then keep some of the stringly bits to add back in for texture. We took out all the seeds in case any babies tried to eat them but if you were doing this with toddlers you could leave them in for something extra to explore.

If you feel like this is just a bit too messy or you, or your little one isn’t sure, or you just want to keep the play going in a different way, try one of our sensory bags. Take any of the textures that you like and put them into a ziplock freezer bag. Squeeze all the air out and seal the bag up. We added extra tape round the edges for leak protection. Babies can then press and squeeze to feel the textures without getting covered. They can also lay it flat on the floor or a highchair tray and enjoy seeing what happens if they ‘draw’ into it with a finger.

Happy Messy Halloween!


Shaving foam marbling

Last week we were marbling with shaving foam at the Dundee International Women’s Centre so we thought we’d post some instructions so you can try it at home. This one is very easy and lots of fun – and surprisingly easy to clean up as the foam just washes away. There are lots of steps where little ones can help depending on how old they are. If they are too little to be allowed to squirt the foam then they can still help drip the paint and definitely help to stir it about and rub over the paper. It’s a nice surprise at the end when the final marbling is revealed and this is a nice thing to share together.

You need:

a baking tray

an old plastic credit card/store card

shaving foam (not gel)

water based paints

Thick, absorbent paper (thin paper will rip when you scrape off the foam)

chop stick


First squeeze the shaving foam into a shallow tray like a baking tray or the lid of a biscuit tin. Then use the credit card to spread it out nice and smooth (big people probably need to do that bit)

Now help them to drip some water based paint all over the top of the foam. You can also do this using food colouring but it’s quite stainy so I prefer to stick to washable paint. That way little ones can do it too.


Then the best bit. Give little ones a chop stick or old pencil and let them swirl around in the paint until it makes a nice pattern but before the colours all blend together (don’t do too much or it all goes a bit brown!). They can experiment with the effects of making circles or going up and down in lines.


Now press a sheet of paper on top of the foam and they can help you rub all over the top to make sure it absorbs. Then peel back to reveal…..

…a foamy mess!!! But don’t worry. Scrape off the foam using the credit card and underneath will be a beautiful swirling marble pattern – just like you’d find in the front on a fancy old book. You can let this dry and then use it to cut up and make cards, cover jotters, line drawers etc etc. Or just stick it on the wall and marvel at how cool it is! And the left over foam needn’t go to waste. Slap it all back into the tray, spread it out and start again. You can get at least 3 or 4 prints from each lot of foam before it gets too murky.

This activity is nice because it combines some sensory play using the foam with some creative play with the paint. It’s also nice that it needs some help from a big person so there are lots of opportunities for turn taking and working together. If you have left over foam you can also do as my little one does and turn your trucks into snow ploughs!



Rainbow rice sensory tray

Here is another idea for using coloured rice in a sensory tray from our summer festival fun at Belladrum. Follow our recipe for making coloured rice here . This time mix your bags of rice using different colours of food colouring in each bag and once dry lay them out in a rainbow pattern. (Yes we know this one isn’t in the right order for a rainbow! I’d like to say it was the kids that did it but it really wasn’t!)

It will ultimately end up all muddled together but that is part of the fun and the multicoloured mixture looks very pretty too. Perfect for using with ice cream scoops, or maybe try with cupcake cases to scoop it into, or hide multicoloured wooden blocks in it to seive out, or use it as the sprinkles on playdough cakes, or feed it to your unicorns….. Whatever you can think of.

The rice will keep for ages in an airtight bag or tub. As always adult supervision is required throughout to keep safe.

Sensory ocean tray with coloured rice

One of our festival activities this summer was a sensory tray filled with blue rice and lots of sea creatures and shells to go with the underwatre theme at Deershed Festival. All the children (and some of the big people) really loved the feel of this rice, playing at scooping it up and running it through their fingers. It’s great for making sensory trays if you have a little one who doesn’t really like things which feel gooey or wet.

Here is how you can make coloured rice easily at home.

You need:

white rice (the cheapest value stuff)

food colouring



Tip your rice into a ziplock bag then add in a splash of vinegar (preferably a clear kind) and a squirt of liquid food colouring or a little blob of colouring paste. You just need enough vinegar to help the colour mix through the rice and you can always add more if needed or more colour if it’s too pale.

You then need to squeeze it about in your bag till you have coated all of the rice in colour. Then you can either tip it onto a tray to air dry or, if you’re impatient like us, pop it in a really low oven. It might stick a bit as it dries but if you give it a squash around it separates out again nicely. It also doesn’t rub colour off if little ones have sticky hands which is the problem if you use paint instead of food colour. Some people add a drop of something that smells nice to take away the vinegar smell but we prefer just to leave it out for a while and a bit of a vinegary taste might stop nibblers anyway.

We did a few different combinations of blues and greens so that it looked nice when we mixed them all up together. You can store the rice in either an air tight tub or bag and it seems to last for ages. We have some that’s 6 months old and seems fine but usually we have spread it everywhere before it makes it that far. Luckily it’s easy to hoover up!

Add your rice to a big tray (like the kind you use for underbed storage) and add fish toys, shells, cups for scooping, boats, mermaids whatever you can think of. Have fun




As this is all non-toxic food stuff you don’t need to worry as much about little ones having a taste – and if they do have a nibble it tastes pretty yuck anyway so they shouldn’t do it again! As always though, this recipe is for playing together with your little one and needs to be fully supervised to keep it safe and avoid choking.