From the mini-trampoline in the living room to the gym mats and exercise balls in the attic, our house has always literally been filled with sensory play. As an Early Intervention specialist and mom to a child with Asperger’s syndrome, I’ve learned that helping kids regulate their bodies helps them regulate their emotions, too.
Sensory play is important for all kids. It helps them to find news ways to explore, discover and otherwise make sense of the world around them. From homemade playdough recipes to fidgets, here are seven great sensory play ideas to try.
1. Homemade Playdough
I have a love-hate relationship with store-bought playdough. It’s a great sensory tool for strengthening fine motor skills and reducing frustration, but it smells bad and my two-year-old, like mom Dana S.’s, “think[s] all types of Play-Doh [are] cool to eat.”
Many Circle of Moms members have bypassed these issues by making edible playdough. As mom Andrea L. explains, you can play with the ingredients to “get the best consistency” for your child and it’s safe for kids whose sensory satisfaction comes from putting things in their mouths.
2. The “Kid Sandwich”
Kids who are "sensory seekers,” like Kim H.’s son, sometimes wind up “really banging or crashing into you or things” to get the stimulation their bodies crave. Circle of Moms member Ashley K. suggests the “kid sandwich” as a fun, safe, and amusing way to meet that need for more sensory input to calm their bodies.
She says to use two couch cushions to sandwich your child, then “gently push on the top cushion [to] give that weighted feeling” your child needs. Other moms recommend weighted blankets, but point out that they are expensive.
3. At-Home Ball Pit
Mom Armanda M. created a home version of a ball pit by using a kiddie pool and ball pit balls (which she says can be bought at most toy stores). Your child can bury himself, throw the balls, and — as Armanda suggests for an additional sensory experience — dig for a "small toy in the bottom of the pit” that you've hidden.
For kids like my son, who constantly have something in their hands to fiddle with, "fidgets" are a great solution. We’ve made them by filling small balloons with rice, flour, beans, and sand. Circle of Moms member Leslie T. makes similar fidgets, called “weighted lap snakes” using tube socks instead of balloons. Other mom-shared fidget ideas include Silly Putty, stress balls, and even origami.
5. Tabletop Sandboxes
Playing in sand, rice, beans, or water can all be fun and soothing sensory activities. Tabletop boxes are a smart solution for space and storage issues. Armanda M. suggests pouring your ingredient of choice into a “large pan,” while mom Sabrina H. uses coffee cans. Whatever you use, give your child spoons, plastic cups, and little toys to add to the container. Scooping, pouring, and burying is all part of the fun.
There are a number of different ways to paint that are sensory-friendly. Among them are finger painting and water painting. Finger painting is an oldie, but goodie. If you can’t abide the mess or your child can’t stand the feel of the paint, mom Anna K. suggests giving kids water and a paint brush to paint your porch or the side of the house. They’ll be delighted to see the wood darken as the “paint” works.
7. Mini Trampoline
Ten years ago, I would have thought you were crazy if you'd told me the most important piece of furniture in my living room would be a mini-trampoline. But, like moms Michelle M. and Elizabeth B., I’ve discovered it helps my son to calm his body and mind as well as to have fun. I only wish I’d figured that out two couches ago!
The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of, and should not be attributed to, POPSUGAR.