Sensory Play Ideas: 10 Easy Activities for Children – Busy Toddler

Sensory Play Ideas: 10 Easy Activities for Children - Busy Toddler


Inside: The best sensory play activities for children from Busy Toddler (aka: the lady on the Internet who’s always championing sensory bins).

Sensory play is all the rage in the kids activity space, and for good reason.

Sensory activities are not a fad. They are not the latest trend and they’re not doing choreographed dances on TikTok. Sensory bins, activities, and play have been a backbone of early childhood for generations – but only recently have they received the mainstream hubbub and fancy accolades that they deserve.

While it may seem like sensory is popping up all over your social media feeds, these little gems of childhood didn’t just suddenly come onto the scene. They’ve been in day cares, preschools, and rec centers for decades.

But now it’s time for us to harness their power and magical learning capabilities into the home setting.

Looking for more structure each day?

Check out Playing Preschool: Busy Toddler’s 190-day at-home activities program

What is sensory play?!

Sensory play is about a child having the chance to explore, engage, and manipulate with real world items. This may be outside or inside – what’s important is children interacting with their environment.

In the home setting, we can encourage sensory play using sensory bins. Sensory bins are created using a container, tub, or bin and filling it with a tactile material that children can interact with.

While the concept is simple, sensory bins are anything but basic and support so much of the need for sensory play.

Sensory bins have a way of grabbing and holding little attention spans for longer than most other activities.

But even with the plethora of sensory activity ideas abounding online, finding the right sensory ideas for your child, your home, and your level of messy play tolerance is crucial. This won’t be the same for everyone – although there are some absolute stand outs in the sensory category that may just be perfection for your family.

Why is sensory play important?

I have a WHOLE post on why sensory is so important that I would love for you to check out, but briefly: sensory play is not just messy play for the sake of messy play. You can read my post “Why is Sensory Play Important” here.

Sensory activities are serious and significant learning in childhood. This is an opportunity like no other for a child to learn science, math, problem solving, critical thinking, fine motor, imaginary play, and communication skills (just to name a few).

The best sensory activities for children: a go-to list

Today, let’s break down some of the indoor best sensory play ideas for children. These are the best of the best, the 10/10, the constant repeat winners.

The joy of sensory bins is that they span the ages: bins that work for toddlers will also work for 3rd graders. I call sensory play “the great equalizer” because only with a sensory bin can a 12 month old and a 12 year old truly play side by side.

The activities listed here are my absolute go-tos.

These are the sensory activities I turn to over and over again. We don’t need to reinvent the wheel constantly on sensory ideas: a few good tricks in our back parenting pockets can make a huge difference.

RAINBOW RICE SENSORY BIN ACTIVITY: A toddler playing with rainbow rice in a quick and easy sensory bin activity from Busy Toddler using colored rice, funnels, and scoops for a simple life skills activity

Rainbow Rice Sensory Bin

Nothing makes a more beautiful sensory experience than rainbow rice. It’s shockingly easy to make and lasts 3-5 years when stored tight. How many other toys last YEARS of play?

Read the instruction here

Kids playing with wet pom pom balls in a sensory bin

Pom Pom Soup

Love pom pom balls? Try adding water. I’m not kidding! This is a unique spin on a sensory classic – but don’t worry, the pom pom balls dry up perfectly at the end.

Read the instructions here

TOY WASHING STATION: What a quick and easy sensory bin! A great indoor activity; a great oudoor activity; quick and easy summer activity for kids; taby activity; preschool activity; toddler activity from Busy Toddler

Toy Washing Station

YES, water is a sensory moment! Seems almost too easy, am I right? Have your kids wash their toys in water and bubbles for one of the simplest (and cleanest) sensory bins around.

Read the instructions here

Bubble Foam Sensory

This is what happens when you mix bath soap and water in a blender or with a mixer. I’m not kidding: this is life changing stuff. You only need soap and water (coloring optional).

Read the instructions here

Muddy Trucks

Mud is sensory (is your mind blown?). Sensory experiences occur in nature, but in case Mother Nature didn’t leave you any mud to work, just add hose to a kiddie pool full of dirt. This is EPIC.

Read the instructions here

POURING SKILLS: How do you introduce pouring skills to toddlers? A quick and easy toddler sensory bin activity; a life skills activity for toddlers; pouring station activity; easy indoor activity; montessori activity from Busy Toddler

Water Pouring Station

I know we’ve gone over this, but let’s review. WATER IS SENSORY. And nothing is more engaging for kids than learning to pour in this A+ activity.

Read the instructions here

Toddler doing a taste-safe sensory bin filled with oatmeal

Oatmeal Sensory Bin

Uncooked oatmeal is mesmerizing to play with, and it stores for years of play. This simple bin is reminiscent of one I played with in a church basement as a kid.

Read the instructions here

OOBLECK PARTY: Ready to have some messy fun; messy sensory activity; sensory play for kids; kids sensory activity; sensory; oobleck; preschool activity; indoor activity from Busy Toddler


You can’t talk sensory activities without oobleck. This mix of cornstarch and water creates an epic non-Newtownian fluid. It’s not a liquid. It’s not a solid. It’s just plain awesome.

Read the instructions here

BIG KID SENSORY BINS: An after school activity idea for big kids. Try a sensory bin with kindergarteners - a quick and easy activity for kids to do after school. A screen free activity for kids from Busy Toddler

Kinetic Sand

This is my kids’ favorite material: kinetic sand. It’s fluffy sand that doesn’t get in eyes or spread all over the place. It’s store bought – I’m not fancy enough to make this!

Read more here

Colorful Ice Cubes

While some people have frozen meals in their freezers to divert disaster, I keep colorful ice cubes. It makes my life so much better knowing I can pull together some epic sensory fun in seconds.

Read the instructions here

Sensory bins provide epic play for kids

While these ideas may seem simplistic, remember that kids don’t need fancy to have fun.

They don’t require over the top, gorgeous, or thematic set ups like those that may grace your Pinterest feed. Remember, these activities are for a group of people who can be entertained for hours from a cardboard box. Always keeps that in mind when prepping an activity…

Finally: How do you keep sensory play from being a disaster?

That (again) is another blog post: but it’s an important one. People often think kids should just intuitively understand how to work with sensory bins and if they don’t – never do them again.


Very very wrong.

Kids need to be taught how to successfully use sensory bins, keep them tidy(ish), and stay within the boundaries of the activity. This doesn’t just happen. It happens from teaching, reteaching, enforcing boundaries, and setting kids up for success.

Read my entire process for sensory bin training and how to teach kids to keep it clean here.

Remember, sensory play is magical

What’s your favorite sensory activity for kids? Comment below to give other ideas of sensory bins that have worked well at your home.

Image: two kids playing with a sensory bin. What are the best Sensory Play Activities for Kids?

Susie Allison, M. Ed

Owner, Creator

Susie Allison is the creator of Busy Toddler and has more than 1.9 million followers on Instagram. A former teacher and early childhood education advocate, Susie’s parenting book “Busy Toddler’s Guide to Actual Parenting” is available on Amazon.


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