These simple sensory activities are sure to give the kids hours and hours of playful learning. They’re perfect activities for preschoolers at home, and they’re just right for engaging children in the classroom.
The focus here is on SIMPLE sensory play, so I’ve tried to choose ideas without too many materials.
These activities should be relatively easy to setup, too.
Keep in mind, you might not have every single item for all of the ideas below. That’s okay! Use what you have on-hand, making little adjustments as needed.
What is Sensory Play?
Before we jump into all of the simple sensory activities, let’s talk a bit about sensory play.
Sensory play refers to any kind of playful activity that allows children to explore with their senses.
It’s preferable if more than one sense is engaged in an activity. And even better if the activity uses most or all of the senses.
Sensory play activities can be setup by adults as invitations to play. But kids can (and do!) come up with their own sensory ideas.
Why is Sensory Play Important?
There are SO MANY reasons that sensory play is important!
I’m going to touch on a few, but keep in mind this isn’t an exhaustive list.
Sensory play is important because it:
- is FUN!
- teaches problem solving skills.
- teaches children how to use their senses to explore materials.
- encourages language development.
- is open-ended and allows children to make their own decisions (within basic parameters, of course).
- is calming and helps children when they’re stressed or need to regulate their behavior.
- usually incorporates life skills (like pouring or scooping).
- allows for a lot of fine motor and gross motor practice.
- gives the children the chance to practice rules and self-regulation.
- explores early math and science skills.
Okay, I’m going to stop there for now. Now let’s take a look at some fun and easy sensory ideas for the kids.
Simple Sensory Activities
As I mentioned above, the point here is easy.
Most of the sensory activities below have five materials or less. AND you can usually leave some things out or substitute other things as needed.
Don’t feel like you have to run out and buy anything new unless you really want to.
I’ve broken the ideas down into categories as best I can – wet ingredients, dry ingredients, sensory small worlds, sensory writing trays, and simple sensory recipes.
Easy Sensory Ideas with Wet Ingredients
First, let’s take a look at simple sensory activities that incorporate some kind of wet material.
Jell-O Soap Foam – Grab some water, dish soap, and Jell-O powder for this scented sensory experience.
Glowing Galaxy Water Space Activity – Adding glow sticks makes sensory play even more fun!
Pond Sensory Play Idea – Use the items you already have and let the kids put together their own pond-themed small world sensory bin.
Scented Water Sensory Bin for Spring – Perfect for use in a water table or even the bathtub!
Apple Sensory Table – Make apple-scented water for the kids to play in.
Pet Frog Sensory Bin – The different textures in this sensory bin make for a lot of exploring and fun.
Coconut-Scented Water Beads Sensory Play – Break out the water beads and make them scented!
Simple Ocean Sensory Bin – We just used two items for this bin, and the children played with it for so long!
Winter Sensory Activities with Water Beads – Add water beads to cold sensory materials for some interesting sense of touch exploration.
Simple Sensory Activities with Dry Ingredients
Next up are dry sensory ideas for the kids.
Carrot Garden Sensory Bin – If you don’t have everything for this bin, use your favorite green sensory materials and add the free printable carrots.
Rainbow Sensory Bin for “Bear Sees Colors” – You can pair this with the children’s book or just have fun exploring the colors of the rainbow.
Scarecrow Sensory Play – We love making this sensory bin in the fall or during a farm theme. You can make it super simple by choosing just two materials if that’s easier.
Sensory Pumpkin Sorting Activity – Work on fine motor skills and color identification with sensory play.
Sensory Bin with Printable Ladybug Letter Puzzles – Pair the printable ladybugs with your favorite red sensory materials.
Chicken Sensory Bin – Love the base of shredded paper!
Homemade Matching Game with Seeds – Use containers, tinfoil, and seeds to make your own auditory matching game for the kids.
Sensory Play with Oats – Incredibly simple, but super engaging.
Jell-O Scented Rice – Add color and scent to rice with Jell-O!
Musical Sensory Bin – You can use so many different items to make homemade shakers with the kids.
“Lights on the Tree” Preschool Christmas Activity – This can easily be turned into an anytime-of-year activity! Kids love exploring the combination of sticky paper and sensory materials.
Pumpkin Pie Sensory Play – This one smells so good! Often, the kids like to pretend they’re running a pumpkin bakery as they play.
Easy Halloween Sensory Activities for Kids – Use a few different materials for Halloween sensory fun. Adjust the materials for other holidays and themes.
“Haunted” Pumpkin Patch Halloween Sensory Activity – Use those fun little Halloween toys as part of this simple sensory small world play.
Sensory Small Worlds
When we’re talking about simple sensory activities for kids, we can’t forget small worlds!
Sensory small worlds are basically sensory bins that have an element of pretend play or storytelling.
Some of the other sensory ideas in other categories could definitely be used as small worlds too.
The Story of the Little Red Hen Sensory Bin – Use the toys and sensory materials you have on-hand to retell favorite stories!
Pumpkin Patch Small World Play – Rocks and toy pumpkins are all you need for this! Toy trucks and tractors make it even more fun.
Dragon Sensory Fairy Tale Activity – Little dragon lovers will have a blast with this one!
Arctic Small World Sensory Play – Fake snow and Arctic animals make for such fun any time of year.
Autumn Woods Sensory Small World – This idea from The Imagination Tree is so inviting. I love what she created it in.
Beach Sensory Small World – Fantastic Fun and Learning turned a shell collection into some fun play for the kids.
Alligator Swamp Small World – Love the combination of alligator toys and bubbling science in And Next Comes L’s small world fun.
Simple Sensory Activities with Writing Trays
Now we’re going to look at sensory writing trays for kids.
These are sensory trays or bins that encourage kids to work on their mark-making and writing practice.
Rainbow Sensory Writing Activity – If you don’t have barley, use whatever works.
Arctic Animal Sensory Writing Tray – I’m amazed at how long the children explored this super easy sensory writing tray. We gave it an Arctic theme, but you can adjust that based on what you already have.
Robot Sensory Writing Tray – Use nuts and bolts you have around the house to add to this easy sensory activity. Love the free printable number cards, too.
Vanilla Spice Sensory Writing – Spice up the traditional salt writing tray.
Space Sensory Writing Tray – Gift of Curiosity’s space tray is sweet and simple and just right for little astronauts.
Rocks Writing Tray – Play dough and rocks make for an easy and engaging writing tray from Frugal Fun for Boys and Girls.
Madeline Sensory Tray – Love this super easy book-inspired sensory tray from Growing Book by Book.
Easy Sensory Recipes
Finally, here are some fun recipes to add to your list of simple sensory activities!
Toddler-Safe Play Sand – We have been making this for years and years. The “sand” can be used so many ways.
How to Make Fake Snow – A few household ingredients are all you need for this “snow” you can make no matter the season!
Taste-Safe Coconut Cloud Dough – This smells and feels divine! And don’t stress if you don’t have a real coconut to include – there are alternatives you can substitute.
Scented Oobleck – Take oobleck up a notch by adding scent!
Cool Whip Sensory Activities – These are perfect for toddlers or preschoolers who still put things in their mouths!
Easy Play Dough Recipe – NurtureStore’s basic play dough recipe is the perfect stepping step stone for all the play dough fun.
How to Make Slime with Kids – If you’re looking for slime ideas, you need to check this one out!
What are some of YOUR favorite simple sensory activities? The ones your students or children ask for over and over again? Leave me a comment and tell me about them.
Done-For-You Teacher Resources
Looking for a way to save time planning for preschool? Preschool Teacher 101 has got your back with tons of preschool themes all mapped out for you (each of which contains multiple sensory activities).
You’ll also find a variety of STEM, literacy, math, and song activities too.
Be sure to check out the membership options while you’re there.
Sensory Materials for Preschoolers
I hope you feel encouraged to use what you have on-hand for some of these simple sensory activities!
But if you’re looking for some basic sensory play materials, I thought I’d put together this little list. Don’t feel like you have to run out and buy them all though!