4 easy sensory crafts you can make at home for your toddler

You don't have to spend a fortune on sensory toys to stimulate your toddler. You can make your own at home. We show you how. By Kirsten Davids

5 benefits of sensory play

  • As your child actively uses his senses in conjunction with one another, they build pathways between nerves within the brain, which leads to your child being able to complete more complex learning tasks.
  • It supports language development, cognitive growth, fine- and gross- motor skills, problem solving skills, and social interaction. It aids in developing and enhancing memory.
  • Sensory play is great for calming an anxious or frustrated child.
  • Your child will learn sensory attributes (hot, cold, sticky, dry).

ALSO SEE: What is sensopathic play and how can it benefit your child’s development

Calm-down sensory bottles

These provide a way for your child to engage in no-mess, safe sensory play. They are useful tools for anxious children with sensory needs and sensitivities, since a sensory bottle can be used to help calm a child who has become overwhelmed. By focusing on the objects in the bottle, the child will be encouraged to focus his attention, which will help calm him.

Slow-falling sensory bottle

You will need

  • Clear hair gel
  • Food colouring
  • Warm water
  • 500ml bottle
  • Plastic character buttons
  • Fine glitter
  • Waterproof glue or tape to secure the lid (optional)

How to make it

  • Remove sticker from bottle and clean thoroughly. Combine 1 part hair gel and 6 parts warm water. Add a drop of food colouring and mix together.
  • Allow to cool completely and settle.
  • Pour mixture into the bottle.
  • Add some fine glitter and buttons. Push the buttons below the surface to remove any air bubbles.
  • Fill the bottle to the top with the remaining mixture.
  • Screw on lid, and shake vigorously to test that your bottle does not leak.
  • If the buttons fall too slowly, empty the mixture back into a bowl and add a little more warm water. Allow to cool again and re-test. If the buttons fall too quickly, mix in a little more hair gel. Let settle and re-test.
  • Once you are happy with the flow of your sensory bottle, secure the lid.

Glitter bottle

Watching the oil and water separate will fascinate your tot.

You will need

  • 2 parts water
  • 3 drops food coloring
  • 2 parts baby oil
  • 2 colours and sizes of glitter
  • Waterproof glue or tape to secure lid (optional)

How to make it

  • Remove sticker from bottle and clean thoroughly.
  • Pour in oil and water in equal parts.
  • Sprinkle in the glitter.
  • Top up with water until completely full.
  • Screw the lid on tightly.
  • Shake and test that the bottle does not leak.
  • Secure the lid with waterproof glue or wide clear packaging tape to prevent little fingers from trying to open it.

Sensory bins

These are perfect for keeping small hands busy. Your little one will love putting his hands inside and digging around to find all the hidden items.

You will need

  • Large plastic containers
  • Rolled oats
  • Small foam letters
  • Dried samp
  • Small plastic animals
  • Plastic spoon or spade

How to make it

  • Pour the oats or samp into the bin and then hide the foam letters or animals.
  • Let your child find the hidden treasures either with his hands or a plastic spoon or spade.

Jello bags

These bags will provide plenty of entertainment for your toddler as he squishes the bag, or let your baby explore them during tummy time. When your little one can stand, stick the bags onto a window – the possibilities are endless.

You will need

  • Large Ziplock freezer bag
  • Clear hair gel
  • Food colouring
  • Crystal gel balls (available from The Crazy Store)
  • Plastic buttons Googly eyes (make sure they don’t have sharp edges that could pierce the plastic)
  • Duct tape

How to make it

  • Fill the bag with hair gel so it is just covering the surface of one side.
  • Add food coloring to the hair gel. Seal the bag and rub gently to combine.
  • Place some fun things for your little one to look at and squish around in the gel.
  • Squeeze out as much air as you can before sealing the bag with duct tape.

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