Play Ideas

Soothing Sensory Play: Sensory activities to relieve stress

November 14, 2022
Preschool kids play with building bricks in while sitting on floor in daycare

Sensory play is any sort of play that engages the senses⁠—for instance: snapping a rubber band engages the sense of hearing while playing in the sand engages the sense of touch. Young children are learning how to manage stress, fears, and overwhelming feelings – soothing sensory play can help make those feelings more manageable. By engaging a variety of their senses, children can stay in the moment and redirect their focus on what they see, hear, feel, smell or taste. Here are 7 sensory activities to help your child manage their emotions and relieve stress.

Sensory Bottles

Clear, plastic bottles with sensory play materials such as water, rice, pompoms and glitter.

Use a clear plastic bottle or container filled with toys and objects for sensory play to engage your child’s sense of sound and sight. Watching the different colours and listening to the sounds can be very calming. When deciding what to put inside your bottle/container, try to find objects that make soft and soothing sounds such as, sand, rice, lentils, small pebbles or water.

Water Play

Two photos of children playing with water. One child grabs a toy car from a sink and one child washes a doll with a sponge and soapy water.

Water play is a simple and soothing sensory activity. Add containers, toys, dish soap, or sponges to the water to expand on your child’s play.

Water play can be done indoors, outdoors, at a sink or during bath time!

Sounds in Your Home

Three photos of ways to make sounds in your home: opening and closing a chain lock, tapping a pen on a water bottle, and turning a lock on a door

What makes a sound in your home? Listen closely to some of the loud and quiet sounds you can make right at home. Try cupping your hand around your ear to enhance the quieter sounds.

Fabrics and Textures

Two photos of a texture path for babies, using bubble wrap, pillows, blankets, towels and a yoga mat

Introducing different fabrics and textures is especially great for infants. Try laying out different materials during tummy time such as towels, tissue paper or bubble wrap. Infants can explore the materials with their fingers and toes, crawl across them, or feel them on the arms, legs and tummy!

Ice Play

Ice cubes inside bowls and a large bin with spoons and scoops for soothing sensory play.

There are so many fun ways to play with ice and it can be as simple as putting some ice cubes in a bowl or on a tray. The cold ice really engages the senses and draws your child’s focus to the way the ice feels and moves.

Water Painting

Two photos of painting with water: toddler paints soapy water onto a chalkboard wall, paint brushes, water bowls and newspaper on a table for painting

Painting with water is a great way to enjoy the calming effects of both painting and water play. All you need is water ​and different tools (such as brushes, sponges, socks, hands and feet) for painting. Your child can “paint” brick walls, trees, rocks, newspaper, toys or themselves!

Sensory Bags

Toddlers reach for sensory bags filled with water and craft materials taped onto a window.

Sensory bags let children feel different materials and textures without the mess; which can sometimes be overwhelming.

To create a sensory bag, add objects of various sizes and textures to a sandwich bag or freezer bag, zip it closed and tape over the top to seal it. If you are putting liquid in your sensory bag, we recommend water for an easier cleanup.

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