By: Laura Petix, MS OTR/L


I bet if you went to Pinterest or instagram right this very second and typed in: “sensory play ideas”,  you’d get an entire screen FULL of sensory bins, home-made finger paint, or playdough recipes.


Super cool, LOVE those things, and if you’re just starting with sensory play, it’s the perfect place to start. But… there’s WAY more to sensory play than getting hands messy and playing with sensory bins. If you’re ready to step up your sensory play game, keep reading.

Tactile Sensory Bins

Sensory bins typically target the tactile (touch) system, and usually only involve touch to the hands, but did you know, we actually have EIGHT sensory systems (yep, I said it- eight. Click here to learn all about them)

No, you don’t need to go overboard and try to target them ALL in one activity, but if you aim to alternate your activities and add more variety of sensory inputs to your sensory play, you’ll be doing amazing things for your child’s sensory development.

“But Laura, I LOVE sensory bins, they’re easy, they’re what I know.”

Okay, no problem. You can still do sensory bins, but try these ideas to add variety to sensory bin play:

  1. Change the texture each time: take a break from the water bins, shaving cream and water beads, offer some out of the box ideas like: pinecones, leaves, vegetable scraps, coffee grounds or egg shells. Novelty can provide so much benefit for sensory development.
  2. Add some music while doing sensory play
  3. Encourage putting feet in the sensory bin instead of hands
  4. Add movement or offer different positions to play with sensory bins: while standing, while sitting on a yoga ball, while laying on their tummy.

Multi-Sensory Play Ideas

If you’re ready to expand your sensory play and move on from sensory bins, try these multi-sensory play ideas:

1. Do log rolls across a grassy lawn- knock down a tower as you roll into it, or collect pine cones on one side of the lawn and roll to the other side to put them in a basket.

Senses targeted: Full body tactile input, vestibular and proprioception, visual and perhaps olfactory (smell of grass) 

*Don’t have an outdoor lawn or don’t want to go outside? Do this on carpet!

2. Fill tiny tupperware with different objects (dried rice, beans, lentils, pasta or paper clips, crayons). Shake up the tupperware and ask the child to guess what’s in it, or have them compare sounds. 

Senses targeted: Auditory

3. Tape bubble wrap on their feet and have them stomp or jump around to music or act like animals as the bubble wrap pops

Senses targeted: Tactile input (to their feet), auditory input, proprioceptive input, vestibular input.

4. Take old shoe boxes (big enough for one foot to step into) and fill them with different textures- grass, cotton balls, dried sponges, bubble wrap, sand paper, sand, lay them out across the ground and use it as a walking path for your child. Have them carry blocks or legos from one side of the path to the other.

Senses targeted: Tactile input to their feet, proprioceptive input

Ready to take your sensory play to the next level? Let me know how these goes, take pictures and share them to instagram and tag me @TheOTButterfly!


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Laura Petix, MS OTR/L

I’m an enneagram 6, so my brain is constantly moving. My OT lenses never turn off and I can’t “un-see” the sensory and other developmental skills that go in to literally every activity. I love taking what I see and breaking it down into simple terms so parents can understand what goes into their child’s behavior and skills.

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