What is Sensory Play and why it is great for toddlers and preschoolers?

Let’s ignite babies imagination, spark curiosity in the early stage of their development. 

Common questions asked by new parents are; Is sensory play beneficial for babies are they allowed to touch messy resources? 

 ‘Of course is our first response,  it is great to expose your babies to many experiences as possible at a young age in order to stimulate their senses.’ 

Remember we all learn in different ways, it’s important to understand this. As caregivers, we can give our children all these experiences and opportunities.

Introducing sensory play early helps develop the brains nerve connections assisting in learning differences and similarities. The use of tactile materials creates hands-on, self-directed and self-centred play, and it encourages discovery and development. 

In the early years, babies develop the following key skills through play in diagram A. Babies imaginations are stimulated when they have the opportunity to play with tactile materials like pasta, rice, sand, water, chalk, paint, play dough or paste. Concentration levels are high while engaging in messy play.

Children learn to make their own discoveries and subsequently, this stimulates their curiosity and develops knowledge too.  With such little hands and mouths, caregivers need to make it safe for babies to play. Minimise hazards such as choking or being exposed to materials that are not safe for the mouth.     

We all know everything ends up in the mouth of babies.   

Sensory play doesn’t always need to be messy for babies.  It will still stimulate the senses of babies and toddlers.  Let’s look at some ideas you can do at home with your babies, toddlers even older children. Please remember to test all ingredients with babies before use and to supervise all activities.

3 ideas for sensory play activities not necessarily messy

Sensory bottles 


To stimulate babies brain connections by providing a sensory experience.


Clear bottles, Water, Clear Glue, Food Colouring, Glitter or beads, Duct Tape or Heavy Duty Tape.  


Fill the empty clear water bottle halfway with warm water (glass is not recommended in case it is used when babies are in a high chair)

Fill the remainder with clear glue

Squeeze 3-4 drops of food colouring to make the bottle whatever colour you wish

Add some glitter or beads


When your baby is doing tummy time or sitting up place the bottle in front of the baby on the playmat. Your baby can reach, move, push the bottle. Watch their expression as the colour/glitter goes changes as the bottle moves.

Sensory bags


To make 3 Sensory bags to introduce babies to different tactile materials.


6 ziplock bags, clear hair gel, beads, flour, water, food colouring, baby oil, duct tape (Ziplock bags – double bags in order to prevent breakages, here are 3 examples)


Sensory bag 1 – Place 3 tablespoons of Hair gel + a few Beads put 3 in a ziplock bag 

Sensory bag 2 – Place ½ cup flour, ½ cup water and food colouring place in a ziplock bag

Sensory bag 3 – 4 tablespoons baby oil, ½ cup water, food colouring place in a ziplock bag

We suggest a double bag for each of the sensory bags in case they split and seal with strong tape we use duct tape over the sides to seal it. 


When your baby is sitting upon a high chair tape the sensory bags in front of the baby on the table/high chair. Watch their expression as they touch the sensory bag and move the shapes, glitter or colours. They will be delighted, confused and maybe even frustrated when playing with the sensory bag.

Paper shredding 


For you babies to have a safe, fun and engaging tactile experience.


Different types of paper, scissors, play mat 


Cut up a paper of all colours into strips of tissue paper, wrapping paper all works and place it on a mat. 


This is less messy option babies can be placed in front of the paper when doing tummy time or sitting up. Babies will love to touch, they will listen to the sound the paper makes when they scrunch it, seeing how it changes shape and so much more. 


Edx Education has been creating educational toys for schools in 90 countries for over 25 years.  The extensive product range has been designed and developed with educational experts and focuses on the philosophy of ‘learning through play’, which has been proven to be a highly effective method of teaching in the early years. 

We provide expert advice on their play blog, podcast with advice from educational experts and downloadable resources for the extension of their educational toys and activities for parents, caregivers and teachers. Head over to edxeducation.com and sign up for the monthly newsletter for all the latest news, advice and educational toys. 

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