Sensory crafts are incredibly fun — for kids with disabilities, kids with sensory processing disorders or autism or other mental differences, and for kids, period. The problem is that “sensory” often means messy, and as anyone who has ever made slime knows: That shit gets everywhere. But giving your kids the chance to work with sensory activities (“sensory” includes any activity that stimulates your young child’s senses: touch, smell, taste, movement, balance, sight and hearing) is really beneficial for your child’s growth and development.
According to the Child Mind Institute, sensory processing struggles can be calmed by textures and weights that help kids feel comfortable. Sensory play can also help with language development, cognitive growth, fine and gross motor skills, problem-solving skills, and social interactions. Plus, it can help zen out an anxious or stressed child, and what parent couldn’t use some help calming their kid down? (No parent. “No parent” is the answer.)
But before you start googling “sensory crafts” and “carpet replacements” (because believe me, that will be your next search) take a look at these stickiness-free, gorgeous crafts that use all of your child’s senses to create colorful masterpieces. No slime in sight.
This rainbow play rice DIY is not only gorgeous; it’s ridiculously easy to make, and so fun for little hands to explore. If your kiddo is little enough, sensory bins (bins filled with items of different textures that are fun to mess around with, like rice, uncooked beans, water, pom poms, etc.) are so great: Just add a couple scoops, or cups, and let them go nuts. You can also add essential oils to bump up the sensory factor and make everything smell extra delicious. Head over to A Beautiful Mess for the full (only five-minute) tutorial.
Strapped for supplies, but want to give your kids the sensory crafting experience? This bubble painting DIY from Martha Stewart requires only paint, soap, water and a straw to create some truly gorgeous art. Just remind your kiddos to blow OUT the straw, not suck in, or they’ll get a mouthful of painty soapy water. Yuck. But look at the gorgeous circular patterns they make!
Glow-in-the-dark anything is a surefire success with kids, and these glow-in-the-dark pasta fireflies are no exception. Perfect for summer nights, these mini bugs glow like the real deal once you charge them up under a lamp. The only supplies you need are pasta, glow-in-the-dark paint, wooden skewers and googly eyes. If you want to speed up the process, an adult can help assemble the finished critter with a hot glue gun. Check out Handmade Charlotte for the step-by-step instructions.
Finger painting is the epitome of toddler-dom, and this edible toddler finger paint from Say Yes is just the thing for their tiny fingers to smear, smudge and splatter. And yes, we said it’s edible, as in, it’s made from two ingredients: yogurt and food coloring. Yep, that’s it. This recipe makes an entire rainbow of pastel paints for your little ones, and hey, you can even toss some granola on the leftovers for a snack. Roll out a big roll of white paper on the floor, and you can feel good about your toddler putting their craft supplies in their mouth for once.
How beautiful is this rainbow ribbon wall hanging from the sister dream team behind A Beautiful Mess? This awesome craft is easy enough for almost any age, and it’s so customizable. Using different colors and textures of ribbon and huge pom poms, you can create a rainbow fit for your tiny royalty’s room. Use different thicknesses and fabric of ribbons for the full sensory effect.
There is quite possibly nothing better than bubbles, and this scented rainbow bubble station adds some bright, bold additions to your run-of-the-mill soap bubbles. Bonus: Your kids will learn about color mixing and different scents. To make the different bubble wands, use armature wire or pipe cleaners, bend them into whatever shapes you’d like, and go nuts with the bubble-making creations! Handmade Charlotte has the scoop on the how-to.
Most sand activities wind up with — you guessed it — sand in your carpet, in your kids’ hair, grit in your sandwich days later…the list goes on. But this DIY kinetic sand from Alice and Lois sticks together like play dough, so as far as sand crafts go, it’s (relatively) mess-free. The sand’s texture and bright colors make this a craft your kids will be dying to get their hands on, and you can add essential oils to bump up the appeal. This is one craft your kids will request to make again, and again, and again.
Ask your kids to squish paper pulp through their fingers and I’m willing to bet you won’t get farther than “Hey, do you want to squish this—?” before they’re elbow-deep in the project. This DIY seed paper adds a lesson on growing things into an already awesome project. What more could you ask for? Blend colored paper in a blender with some water, add some seeds of your kids’ choosing, and mix it all together with their hands. Head to Handmade Charlotte for the full tutorial.