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10 Sensory Activities You Can Do at Home

Donna Chambers

If your child has sensory processing disorder, your doctor or therapist may have recommended a sensory diet. Just as your body needs food to function properly, your senses need stimulation.

This is why health professionals often recommend adding certain ingredients to a child's sensory diet. Here are 10 things you can do at home to make sure your child is getting the stimulation he or she needs.

photo of a boy walking outside during autumn.

What Is a Sensory Diet?

While the phrase sensory diet has the word “diet” in it, it has nothing to do with food. Instead, it’s a set of physical activities or strategies designed to help children with sensory processing disorder interact with the world around them in an appropriate way.

It’s important to note that not every sensory diet will look the same. For example, some children with sensory processing disorder may become overwhelmed by external stimuli like loud noises or firm hugs. By contrast, other kids crave extra stimuli, and might even seek it out by intentionally bumping into objects or people.

A carefully planned sensory diet can help children with sensory processing disorder get the right balance of sensory stimulation so they can interact with the world around them.

Before embarking on any kind of sensory diet or trying any sensory diet activities, it’s important to clear them with your child’s doctor or therapist.

5 Sensory Diet Activities for Indoors

Because the weather doesn’t always cooperate — or just because you feel like staying in — it’s a good idea to have a list of indoor sensory diet examples to draw from. Here are five to get you started.

Primary Colors in Baggies

This is an indoor sensory activity that can provide both tactile and visual stimulation. As a bonus, it’s also very easy to set up with items you probably already have around the house.

You’ll need three storage baggies, some primary color paint and tape. Fill the three baggies with primary colors — blue and yellow, blue and red, and yellow and red — and place the colors in opposing corners of the baggies so they remain separated.

Then, close the baggies and tape them to a hard surface. From there, let your child mix the colors from outside of the baggies. The idea is to blend the colors to see what new colors the mixtures produce. The squishy feeling of the baggies is also great for sensory seekers.

close up image of buttons.

Sorting Buttons

Small children and toddlers tend to love buttons. They like the various sizes, shapes and colors, and they’re likely to enjoy the feel of running their hands through the plastic shapes. For some sensory exploration, make a large pile of various buttons and then have your child sort them into muffin tins. You can sort by color, shape or whatever variation you wish.

Identifying Scents

Many sensory diet activities focus on tactile sensations, so it’s always nice to introduce an activity that stimulates other senses. For this activity, ask your child to cover their eyes while you wave scented items under their nose. If your child is comfortable, you can even use a blindfold and turn it into a game.

Some ideas for fun scents include lemon, strawberry, evergreen and toothpaste. Ask your child to think of a corresponding color for the scent, as well as the names of some objects that match the scent. For example, red for a strawberry.

Star Box

Blogger Lisette at Where Imagination Grows suggests making a star box to stimulate little ones’ visual sense. To make one, find a cardboard box that’s large enough to accommodate your child’s size while lying prone.

From there, poke holes in the top of the box and then insert holiday lights into the holes. The idea is to create a star or constellation pattern. According to Lisette, babies are especially fond of the lights, but it’s important to ensure they’re not too bright. You should also check the lights to be certain they don’t get hot.

Sticky Paper Art

Jamie at Hands on as We Grow recommends a fun and simple sensory activity that kids of all ages will enjoy. To set up, simply tape down a large section of sticky resealing paper you can buy at the grocery store (make sure you place it sticky side up).

Children will enjoy simply running across the paper and feeling how it sticks to the bottoms of their feet. For added fun, you can give them some art supplies like poms poms, buttons and sequins to create their own sticky art project.   

5 Sensory Diet Activities for Outdoors

Of course, sometimes it’s fun to head outdoors for some fresh air and sunshine — or even a brisk day of fun in the snow. Here are five sensory diet activities that are perfect for outdoor play.

Digging for Fossils

For this activity, you can use a sandbox or a simple plastic storage bin. Fill it with sand and then “hide” plastic dinosaurs in various spots. You can also substitute cars or other small toys your child enjoys. Encourage your child to dig for the dinosaurs while experiencing the feeling of the sand.

Collecting Fall Leaves

What could be more fun than looking for colorful fall leaves? As the weather cools down, take your child on walks through a local park or even your own backyard. Ask them to identify the colors of the leaves. You can even gather a big pile and have fun jumping in.

Washing Dirty Farm Animals

Anna Ranson at The Imagination Tree suggests a fun activity for little ones. How many times has your child asked to help you wash the car or clean up the house? Many children mimic adults, and this activity can be a great way to make them feel like a helper while exploring their senses.

You’ll need a plastic tub or bin, some plastic farm animal toys, sponges and water, and chocolate pudding. “Muddy up” the animals with the chocolate pudding and then let your child go to work cleaning them up. Best of all, it doesn’t matter if any of the “mud” finds its way into your child’s mouth.

Food Colored Snow

Just about every child loves playing in the snow, so why not use it as an opportunity for sensory exploration? Place some compact snowballs on the ground or inside a plastic tub and then add food coloring. You can mix and match colors to create wacky combinations. Ask your child to watch how long it takes the colors to trickle through the snow.

Art Painting with Your Feet

Arts and crafts time can get messy, so this sensory activity is a great one to take outdoors. Grab a large sheet of craft or art paper and anchor it to your driveway or sidewalk. Fill some small plastic containers with various shades of paint and then let your child dip their toes in and get busy painting. Kids will love the feel of the paint on their feet, as well as the amazing art they create — all with their toes!  

SensaCalm Weighted Blankets

Weighted blankets have been shown to ease insomnia, reduce anxiety and help children (and adults!) get more restful sleep.

They’re also heavy — and can be satisfying for children with sensory processing disorder.
Order your custom weighted blanket today, or choose from our wide selection of ready-to-ship finished weighted blankets.

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Disclaimer: The content on this website is not intended as a substitute for medical advice. Talk to your doctor or healthcare provider before undertaking any type of therapy or treatment.