Low Prep Sensory Play Ideas

Messes. Dirt. A tandem of toddler tornadoes reign in our home. But here’s the thing….about a year ago I decided to stop fighting it. All it did was stress me out and make me a crabby mom instead of a fun one. Now we embrace the mess of sensory play fun…colored rice? Shaving cream? Paint? Bring. It. On. Pro mom tip: Use a reusable aluminum pan or tray with a large side to contain the mess. Here are some of our favorite low prep sensory play ideas:

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Low Prep Sensory Play Ideas - Spin Art

SPIN ART

I truly believe that art and play can be therapeutic for everyone, not just kids. And one of the most fun ways to get out pent up energy and create something beautiful is through spin art. All you need is a few household items and you will be creating unique Spin Art masterpieces in no time.

  • Clean out a salad spinner.
  • Place a piece of paper (4 x 5 inches is the perfect size) in the spinner.
  • Put a few dots of different colors (3 colors max so they don’t bleed together) all over the paper.
  • Place the cap on the salad spinner and push down to make it spin!
  • The longer you spin it, the longer your splash design will be.
  • Take out the paper and let it dry.

BAKING SODA BOMBS

First off, let me introduce you to the heavy hitter in my sensory play arsenal: baking soda. You may think that it is only for cleaning or baking, but it is also perfect for sensory play! Since baking soda is a very basic (not avocado toast basic…scientific “basic”) product, it interacts with anything and everything acidic in a powerful and sometimes explosive way.

A simple way to play with baking soda is to slowly add drops of baking soda to it and watch the fizzy result. But if you want to kick it up a notch, try Baking Soda Bombs.

  • Place 1/4 cup of baking soda, 1-2 drops of food coloring, and 2-3 tablespoons of water into a shallow bowl and form into a ball. Let dry/harden for 5-10 minutes.
  • Arrange baking soda bombs inside a lined container (the higher the edge the cleaner your experiment will be) and then slowly pour baking soda over the bombs to make them EXPLODE!

Low Prep Sensory Play Ideas - Kinetic Sand

KINETIC SAND

Love playing in the sand but you are stuck inside during Chicago’s long and brutal winter? No worries! Simply stock up on some Kinetic Sand. This soft and therapeutic sand never dries out and is perfect for building, sculpting, etc. My boys especially love to use it as mud for their Monster Jam sessions. Again, be sure to lay down towels and blankets to contain the mess and use some of those handy aluminum trays to reign in the sand but other than that you don’t have to do anything else. How’s that for a low prep sensory play idea?!?!

SHAVING CREAM PAINTING

One of my favorite memories of being an adolescent was when my friends and I would have shaving cream fights. We love them….our parents….not so much. But since shaving cream is an interestingly soft and smooth product to play with, I let my kids experiment with the substance in a controlled way. How, you ask? We paint it! Put together a paint palette of washable paint for each of your little ones and let them use a layer of shaving cream as their canvas. They can make really neat abstract designs without making too much of a mess. Will your child put the mixture in his/her mouth? Then swap out shaving cream for whipped cream.

Low Prep Sensory Play Ideas - Water Beads

WATER BEADS

We discovered this fun sensory toy when attending the Chicago Toy and Game Fair a few years ago. My boys actually got to sit in an entire bathtub filled with water beads. It was a slippery, slimy, and fun photo op as well as a great way to showcase how versatile water beads are. Just don’t forget that it takes about two hours for them to fully absorb water so they won’t be ready to play with right away. I recommend getting this set to start out with. Also, playing with them in the bathroom is the best way to make sure the mess is contained, or in a large plastic container in the garage.

COLORFUL BATHS

Fun sensory baths are my absolute favorite way to get the boys involved in creative and imaginative play and it is so easy with bath drops. You can use blue bath colors, add some aquatic toys, and turn your bath tub into an ocean. Another option is to combine blue and red to make a murky purple color–it is the perfect backdrop for a monster truck race! Use toys you already have to help inspire the color and theme of your bath time play.

Low Prep Sensory Play Ideas - Rainbow Rice / Pasta

COLORED PASTA & RICE

Another tried-and-true low prep sensory play idea is to dye dry pasta or rice with food coloring. It’s incredibly simple but remember that the pasta/rice will need almost 24 hours to dry before it is ready for play. Check out my rainbow rice recipe here.

EDIBLE PAINTING

We go through a TON of finger paint in our house, but lucky for me I found a great idea on Pinterest to use pudding as finger paint. You don’t have to worry about it getting in someone’s mouth and the clean up can be pretty darn delicious for parents, too. Here’s my favorite Edible Finger Paint Recipe:

  • Place 3-4 scoops of vanilla pudding into separate bowls and add a drop or two of food coloring into each bowl to create different colors.
  • Tape a large piece of paper to a high chair tray or the kitchen table so the canvas doesn’t slip away while your little artist is “painting.”

Low Prep Sensory Play Ideas - Play dough

PLAY DOUGH

Who doesn’t love play dough? Just the act of molding and shaping something with your hands seems to be a great stress reliever for the young and old. But since my boys tend to ruin the expensive play dough by mixing together all of the colors and often forgetting to put the lids on the jars, we now make homemade play dough. Not only is it fun to make, they love being able to add the “extras” such as a few drops of herbs like cinnamon or lavender oil.

Low Prep Sensory Play Ideas

I feel like this post should have been sponsored by a paper towel or bath soap company, but it isn’t. Instead, it is just one mom telling another to lighten up, get a little dirty, and make some awesome memories.

Looking for other fun things to do at home? Check out our family’s favorites!

Have fun!

Amanda

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Comments

  1. Robin (Masshole Mommy) says

    Those are all awesome ideas! My little guy always loved sensory activities like these when he was little.

  2. Chanelle says

    I love this post because I’ve been looking for activities to keep my toddler occupied. I agree with you, you just have to get over the mess they’ll make. I leave play doh and WASHABLE water color paints out in her room. I like your shaving cream paint idea and will try that soon!

    • amandasimkin says

      It’s such a fun and stress-free way to play, especially with little ones who tend to put things in their mouths.

    • amandasimkin says

      We buy it in bulk since there are so many fun uses for it…my boys especially like any kind of explosion they can. Typical boys, eh?

  3. Tami says

    My little guy would enjoy the baking soda fun. I need to spend more time one-on-one with him doing more than reading books and coloring. He’s quite bored with the coloring.

  4. Rebecca Swenor says

    These are some very awesome sensory play ideas indeed. I will have to check out the play dough recipe for my niece’s kids when they come over to my house. Thanks for sharing.

  5. Yona Williams says

    Shaving cream painting sounds really fun – the foaminess probably really elevates the fun. Vinegar and baking soda is a classic – I think at least every kid has had an experience with it, don’t you think? Never gets old.

  6. Victoria says

    When I ran a daycare I use to fill gallon bags with shaving creme and a bit of food coloring and let the kids squish them. The more the squished the more the color would blend. They really enjoyed it.

  7. Chrissy Mazzocchi says

    It looks like they had such a fun time! Great idea to play with these, I’ll try it with my daughter.

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