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Easy and Affordable Sensory Play Ideas for Toddlers

Updated: Oct 3, 2021

See our guide below showing you how to create simple, fun and affordable sensory play for your toddler!

Sensory play is a great way to get kids off their screens, and allows them to use their eyes, noses, ears, hands, and imaginations!

Many parents find sensory play overwhelming, messy, expensive and elaborate. I'm a member of several sensory play groups on Facebook, and often see parents vent their frustrations on why they believe sensory play is too hard/too expensive/too time-consuming to set up.

I'm here to tell you it doesn't have to be! Sensory play, at it's core, is simple, fun, affordable, and often created with whatever you can find around the house!

What is Sensory Play?

According to ABC Kids Listen, sensory play is any activity that stimulates a child’s five senses; touch, taste, sight, sound and smell. Sensory play can also incorporate the less frequently mentioned senses such as movement and balance.

Sensory play doesn't need to be complex. It should simply facilitate exploration of the senses as a child plays. Through sensory play children gain a deeper understanding of the world around them (ABC, 2018).

Why is Sensory Play so important?

According to Early Years Resources, from birth, children are exploring their senses and processing new information. They begin to make sense of the world around them as they grow through the exploration of new textures, materials and resources.

Sensory play is a valuable way of engaging children in activities that will heighten their senses and enrich their learning. Sensory play encourages discovery and independent thinking, as well as inspiring imagination and creativity. Research shows that there are many different ways in which sensory play can benefit a child’s development and learning (Early Years Resources, 2018).

What everyday household items can I use for Sensory Play?

There are so many, but they key here is to ensure they are safe for your child. Some ideas include:

  • plastic water bottle with the label removed

  • uncooked white rice

  • long spaghetti

  • jelly

  • food colouring

  • ziplock sandwich bags

  • protein shakers

  • pom-poms

  • pipe cleaners

  • paddlepop sticks

  • colander/pasta strainer

  • sand

  • garden rocks

  • whipped cream in a can

  • clear hair gel

  • cereal/lentils/beans

A good idea is to start slowly building up your sensory items, Kmart and dollar stores are a great place to start. Many items can be reused for years with several children, so it's good value fun!

Why do parents love Sensory Play?

In my experience, having ten or fifteen minutes to myself to prepare/cook dinner is a great reason to set up a sensory activity for my toddler.

Typically, I'll quickly prepare an easy sensory activity, sit down with our son on the living room floor and show him how to undertake the task. I can then watch him happily concentrate as he explores it, so I can make a quick dinner handsfree!

Allowing your child to explore sensory play gives you some free time to relax and enjoy a cup of tea, and gives them a break from screens. Win win!

As always, please ensure you supervise your child while they undertake sensory play, especially if the activity involves smaller pieces or items that aren't edible.

Sensory Play Ideas?

We give you ten simple and affordable ideas below, often using items we found around the house or garden. They include what you need, the simple instructions and a picture so you get the general idea!


We hope you enjoyed our blog post on how to create simple and affordable sensory activities for toddlers! ♡ Any questions or comments? We'd love to hear from you! Tag us at @thejohannessenfamily so we can re-share your creations or contact us!

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