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Sensory Play Activities for All Ages

Updated: Sep 12, 2019

Children are very different in how they all develop, but no matter the differences, the act of playing has a very important role in helping all child reach developmental milestones for their growth.

In HelloJoey’s “The Mysteries of Make Believe Play” kit, we explore several aspects of how this type of creative play is actually not random, though it may seem to be. In truth, there is a lot happening under the surface. Our kids are developing their creativity and imagination and learning essential skills, such as how to take on other people’s perspectives and how to negotiate with others.

Why Play?

We may not realize it, but we all grew up with play as a key foundation for how we respond to our surroundings and those we interact with. Free play - especially child-led free play - helps our kids develop skills like empathy, self-control, and perceptiveness.

Play is more than just running around and being wild. It's also a communication tool, especially for our littlest ones. It’s how they process their experiences and emotions, and that’s why it is so important that we make sure our kids play a lot, especially while they are still young.

Though our newest kit primarily focuses on make believe play, there are many other types of play that you can incorporate into your child’s activities. One of these is known as sensory play.

What is Sensory Play?

Sensory play is anything that engages our sense, plain and simple. According to the British Journal of Occupational Therapy, activities that engage the senses help develop components of attention, awareness, and acceptance in our little ones as they grow into adulthood.

What’s so cool about it is that sensory play is not restricted to certain types of activities. As long as you child’s play involves the senses (touch, taste, smell, sight, and sound), it’s considered sensory play. And it doesn’t have to be for our little ones alone; sensory activities can benefit grown-ups in the same ways.

If you are looking for new sensory activities that you can do with your kiddos, here are some interesting DIY alternatives to your typical slime and playdough sensory toys.

DIY Activities for Sensory Play

DIY Edible Finger Paint

Ages 1-3


  • Cold water

  • 1 cup of boiling water

  • 1/4 cup of corn flour (corn starch)

  • Liquid food coloring

  • Glass or metal saucepan


  1. In a medium saucepan, mix the corn flour with cold water until it makes a paste (not too thick).

  2. Add boiling water and stir until there are no lumps.

  3. While mixing, place on the stove and turn to medium heat. When you start see clear streaks begin to form and change in consistency, turn off the heat and stir until cool. Your mixture should have a ketchup-like consistency.

  4. Spoon equal amounts into an empty ice tray or small cups for each color, add food coloring, and mix until completely combined with the paste. If your child is old enough, allow them to be part of the process.

  5. Let the painting begin!

To store, keep it covered in the fridge weeks for up to two weeks. This edible paint recipe can expire, so it’s important to check before allowing your kid to use it.

DIY Sand Foam

Ages 4-6


  • 3-5 cups clean, dry sand (colored sand will add some fun)

  • Shaving cream

  • Large, deep tray


  1. Pour 3-4 cups of sand into the tray

  2. Start adding the shaving cream and allow your kid to mix the two ingredients with their hands until they reach the desired consistency. Then, play away.

Pro tip: If you have different colors of sand, repeat the steps with different trays, which you can allow your child to mix together later. As an option, you can also add other ingredients for a sensory experience, including marbles, glitter, and toy animals. Get creative!

DIY Color-Changing Milk

Ages 6-12


  • A large shallow dish or 3-4 saucers

  • Milk

  • Food coloring

  • Cotton buds

  • Liquid dish soap in a small saucer


  1. Pour milk into the dish(es) so that the entire surface is covered (but not overflowing) with milk.

  2. Add 4-5 drops of different colors on the edges of the plate or in each saucer, and allow your child to explore swirling this around the milk with their finger or a cotton swab.

  3. Dip a new cotton swab into liquid dish soap and once soaked, place the cotton swab at the center of one of the colors and watch what happens.

As adults, much of who we are today was established through the way we played as children. While experimenting with these activities, step into your inner child's shoes once again, and try to explore with curiosity and child-like wonder. Observe and communicate with your child through the process. You may even pick-up some new things from them.

App Tip

With play, the possibilities are endless. For many of the free play and sensory activities our kids participate in, there's no right or wrong. As they repeat certain processes and explore new ones, their little minds will continue to develop and discover what works and what doesn’t, contributing to who they will be as they grow older.

Want to learn more about “The Mysteries of Make Believe Play”? Explore the science behind creative and imaginative play, and find more fun activities you can do with your child in the HelloJoey app.

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