We’ve all heard that play is a child’s work, and it’s true. Play in general and sensory play specifically have been shown to have many benefits for kids. Plus, play is a great way for adoptive families (and all families) to bond, and it is just plain fun. Both of my children love sensory play, and it focuses their attention for extended periods of time. Here are ten of our favorite sensory play experiences. Choose one and share it with your family today!


Probably the easiest sensory activity of all is to go outside and take advantage of whatever nature gives you. Let the kids tumble in the snow, jump in puddles, make mud pies, and scoop and pour sand. Bonus: no mess inside your house!


This is super easy and cheap: buy a few boxes of pasta and dump them into a sensory table or large plastic bin. Add a few scoops, measuring spoons and cups, (or whatever your child wants!) and enjoy.


This has long been a favorite of my kindergarten students. Buy a few bags of dried beans (try several different kinds for a fun mix) and use them for sensory play. My four-year-old loves to add his digger toys and pretend that he is on a construction site.


Another easy option (though trickier to clean up than pasta or beans if you have a little one who likes to spread it around) is plain white rice. This winter, we also tried coloring the rice using this method. Dyeing the rice was fun and then mixing all the colors together into a rainbow was very satisfying for both of my kids.

Colored ice

Definitely more of an outside activity, but one that is fun for a hot, summer day is to color water with a drop or two of food coloring and freeze it overnight in small containers (I reuse old yogurt cups). Then take it outside and let your kids explore. I added a few cups of water to our sensory table with the colored ice, and both of my kids were busily engaged for a long time.


The store-bought kind is fun but making your own is even better. You can find tons of different recipes online, but this one is my favorite. Add some utensils and cookie-cutters and your kids will be set for a while!

Cloud dough

This cloud dough has a wonderful texture. It’s one of my favorite DIY sensory materials (and I have tried a LOT of them!). Be warned, it can get messy, so you might want to take it outside.


This one is self-explanatory. We’ve had good success with this recipe.

Water beads

This is definitely an option for kids past the “put everything in your mouth” stage, but watching water beads grow and then playing with them is great fun. We have these ones.

Kinetic sand

Kinetic sand is an investment, so if you’re on a budget, you might want to try out some of the other options first. I got one package of this sand for each of my kids at Christmas, and they have spent many hours playing with it since then.

How many of these sensory play experiences have you shared with your kids? What great materials am I missing? Leave a comment and let me know!