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15 Brilliant Toddler Sensory Play Ideas (That You Won’t Have Tried Before)

From getting elbow deep in a sand pit to crawling through a fabric-filled cardboard tunnel, there are lots of fantastic ways you can stimulate your toddler’s senses at home. You’ll also help boost your little one’s learning, development and creativity, while having lots of fun together. Just get the apron at the ready as things are bound to get messy – but it’s all part of the appeal for your toddler.
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Rainbow noodles

Dye some noodles with different food colourings and put them all in a mixing bowl for your tot to play with. She’ll love feeling the squidgy and slippery texture of the noodles and the bright colours will make them much more fun to look at. [Pinterest]
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Sludge heap

Mix together some cornstarch and water to create a thick, gloopy sludge that your child can shape and feel. Add in a few drops of food dye to change the colour to one that’s more exciting for your toddler – but let her know it won’t taste anywhere near as good as it looks! [Pinterest]
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Sponges in the washing up bowl

A bowl of water and a few sponges may sound simple but it’s a great way for your little one to learn about touch and shapes (you can cut the sponges up into squares, circles and triangles. If the weather’s OK, set your tot up with this activity outside to avoid water puddles all over your house. [Pinterest]
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Boasting a unique bouncy textures that’s fun to squeeze and play with, marshmallows have a lovely sweet smell and taste, too. [Corbis]
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Paint in a zip-lock bag

A brilliant way to avoid mess, this genius idea lets your toddler draw as many pictures as she fancies while feeling the squidgy paint move around inside the plastic zip-lock bag. [Pinterest]
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Fruit bowl

From the sour taste of lemons to the sweet smell of bananas, getting up close and personal with fruits is a great way to boost your toddler’s senses. Chop up some fruits and throw them in a bowl for your toddler to have fun with. [Corbis]
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Cardboard tunnel

Craft a tunnel big enough for your tot to crawl through out of boxes and attach pieces of ribbon and pairs of tights for your little one to push her way through. She’ll have loads of fun and be fascinated by all the colours and fabrics. [Pinterest]
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Soapy sea foam

This amazing green puffy ‘sea foam’ is easy to make – and great fun to play with. Mix together liquid soap, water, cornflour and a few squirts of liquid water colours in a bowl or the bath. Throw in some toy sea creatures to up the excitement levels further. [Pinterest]
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Straw-filled colander

A brilliant way to boost your tot’s fine motor skills and hand-eye coordination, threading straws through a colander will also keep your toddler busy for quite a while! Once she’s finished, help her pour water over the top and watch and hear it leak out through the straws. [Pinterest]
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Scented play dough

Herbs are great natural ingredients for your tot to play with, plus it’s safe for her to smell and taste them. Stick a few different sprigs into a ball of play dough and encourage her to explore the combination of the pliable play dough texture with the sent of the herbs. [Pinterest]
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Sand pit play

A old favourite, sand is great fun for little children to scoop and sculpt. Arm your tot with a whisk or a fork to make patterns in the sand or encourage her to use her fingers to draw shapes. [Pinterest]
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Bubble wrap stomping

Be warned: this activity is a messy one but it’s also so much fun. Wrap your toddler’s feet in bubble wrap and let her step in paint and stomp all over big sheets of paper. She can listen out for the popping sounds, watch the colourful paint patterns appear and feel the unusual soft texture on the soles of her feet. [Pinterest]
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Sensory bottles

Fill plastic bottles with coloured water, buttons and rice to make lots of different sound makers. Your child will keep herself busy shaking the bottles and listening to the different sounds each one makes. [Pinterest]
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Shredded paper

Fill the laundry basket or the washing up bowl with lots of shredded paper for your tot to play with. She’ll love the rustley noise it makes and the texture of the paper – it’s great for encouraging her sense of sound and touch. To avoid any paper cuts, opt for tissue paper. [Pinterest]
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