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Creative ideas for sensory play

Lisa Steinke, with Liz Fenton, is the co-author of the debut chick lit novel l'll Have Who She's Having and the popular Chick Lit blog chicklitisnotdead.com.

Household items that heighten the senses

Sensory play is important for your child's development. With basic household items, your child can use his five senses to engage in fun and spirited play that will keep him occupied for a few minutes or hopefully much longer. From shaving cream to spaghetti, read on for squishy, sticky, bumpy, wet, colorful and flavorful creative ideas for sensory play. Just be prepared to get messy!

preschool sensory finger paint play

Warning: Neat freak moms need not apply!

Shaving cream

Let your child finger paint with shaving cream. Spread the shaving cream out on a flat surface so he can put his hands in and play. Add washable paint or food coloring to make it colorful. Add cornstarch to make it moldable.

Beans

Put dried beans in a plastic bag or clear container and let your child shake away. Or pour the beans into a bin and let your child walk on them. You can also give your him a scooper and some cups and let him scoop the beans out of one container and into another.

Balloons

Fill balloons with water, hair gel, beans, sand, the sky's the limit — and let your child squeeze, toss and feel.

Bubble wrap

Who doesn't love popping bubble wrap? The kids will love walking on it and pressing on it. You can even put shaving cream or paint on it to enhance the experience.

Spaghetti

Cook a couple of batches of spaghetti, rinse it with cold water and put some olive oil on it to keep it from getting too sticky. (Although the stickiness of it can be fun too.) Dye it with food coloring and hide some toys in the noodles to make it even more fun.

Cotton Balls

Dip cotton balls in scents such as lavender or vanilla and let your child breath in the different smells.

Jello

It's squishy, it's colorful and it tastes good too. This will no doubt be a fan favorite (for the kids anyway). Mom might spend a lot of time cleaning it out of nooks and crannies.

Paper

Don't underestimate how much fun your child can have by simply ripping paper. Give him colorful construction paper or tissue paper and let him go to town.

Kiddie pool

Take your sensory play outdoors. Fill the kiddie pool with any type of sensory materials. Try confetti, tinsel, balls of yarn, Easter grass — anything you think your little one will love "swimming" in.

Make a ball pit

Put balls into the kiddie pool or even the bathtub and let your child "dive" in!

Important things to remember

The point of sensory play is not just for your child to learn, but for him to have fun. And that might mean making a mess. Also keep in mind that your child may not like every sensory experience (many kids don't like the texture of certain things at first). If so, don't push. Just move on and try another idea.

Sensory disorder — When play isn't fun >>

Life vs. Fiction

Close Your Eyes

Want more on the benefits of utilizing your senses? Check out a great read in the new SheKnows Book Lounge: Close Your Eyes by bestselling author Iris Johansen, a new book about a once-blind woman who uses audio and tactile cues to solve crimes. Head to our SheKnows Book Lounge now.

Read more about child development

Play developmental games with your baby
Top educational toys for toddlers
Ways to incorporate learning into play

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