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DIY Sensory Play Ideas for Toddlers

Stimulate your busy toddler's senses with these affordable DIY sensory play ideas. Combine them all for a crazy DIY sensory gym and hours of fun!

DIY Sensory Play Ideas for Toddlers

Toddlers are busy. Understatement of the century? We think so! Their curious minds and hands eagerly seek stimulation- whether in the dirt, with noisy pots and pans, or in your makeup bag (the horror!). We all know they're capable of finding their way into messes.

As a parent, you've probably heard of sensory play's value in your child's early years and may have already dabbled in its joy. Sensory play prompts your toddler's imagination and creativity. It is also known to develop their motor skills, self-expression, and understanding of their senses. 

Here are our favorite toddler-appropriate DIY sensory play ideas:

1. Eggshells

If your family eats eggs often, then rinse and dry the empty eggshells. Once you've collected a few, place them in a tub or outside surface. Your toddler can hammer, stomp and crush to their heart's content, enjoying the sound and feel of destroying the tiny shells. You can even compost the shells once they're all done!

2. Playdough

An edible DIY sensory playdough kit is fun for all ages. You can watch your toddler squish, cookie-cut, and poke, knowing it's safe when it inevitably ends up in their mouth. Here is a tasty 3-ingredient recipe:

  • Melt 12 large marshmallows with two teaspoons of coconut oil in the microwave for 30 seconds
  • Drip in some food coloring and stir well

  • Add 8 to 10 tablespoons cornstarch and knead it together until you reach the desired consistency

If you prefer a healthier version, try combining peanut butter, processed chickpeas, and honey. 

3. Rainbow oats

Sensory bins are a hit. Dye rolled oats in sections with a drop of water and food coloring. Allow them to dry in the sun, then place them in a tub for your child to mix and play, using their hands or kitchen utensils. Add a drop of lavender essential oil to stimulate their sense of smell.

Hot Tip: You can dye dried chickpeas or rice the same way.

4. Nature play

Nature offers us all sorts of sensory experiences. Create a DIY nature tub with items that provide a variety of surface textures and smells. 

  • flowers
  • herbs
  • seeds
  • sand
  • snow
  • leaves
  • sticks
  • pine cones
  • water

5. Sand and digger box

Use real dirt or crushed cereal to resemble sand for this sandbox. Throw in some plastic farm animals, a digger, and spoons for messy fun. When they lose interest, hand them some water, and ta-da, now we have mud! Follow the whole experience with a bubble bath so they can wash their tools and animals. 

6. Color baskets

While they master their first words, you can teach your toddler their colors with color baskets. Fill a basket with same-color items around the home. Look for things that can crinkle (cellophane) or have various textures like wool, silk, or contrasting feelings like hard and rough versus soft and smooth. 

Parent hack: Add some colorful food - oranges, bananas, cherry tomatoes, yellow fruit loops, or green apple slices. Snack + playtime all in one = parent points!

7. DIY sensory gym

A DIY sensory gym exerts a toddler's endless energy and stimulates their senses. Rather than feel the need to splurge on expensive equipment, use what you have at home to create space for hours of fun.

  • large pillows
  • bean bags
  • a plank for a balancing beam
  • build a fort under the dining table with books and torches
  • washing basket
  • incorporate color baskets or any other sensory tubs
  • posting stations
  • egg trays or any large recycling items
  • boxes
  • noisy items like pots and spoons or shakers
  • mirrors (make sure they're secure)

A DIY sensory gym is excellent for extended playtime during the weekend, rainy days, or school break.

8. Sticky windows

Tape self-adhesive contact paper on your windows - sticky side facing you. Give your child some cotton balls to make clouds and other items that they can stick and pull off the sticky surface. Paper, wool, small light toys, and sticks work a charm to set up this DIY sensory craft. 

We know you're a frugal mama, so keep an eye on our Save mailer for deals and coupons to your favorite stores. Shopping coupons can be used to purchase storage tubs and ingredients for plenty of fun playtime with your little one.