Our favorite sensory materials that can be played with again and again.
Sensory Play with Materials that Last
We love sensory play. We engage in some sort of sensory play every single day. Most of our favorite sensory materials are homemade recipes using common household items. As much as we love oobleck, paint, shaving cream, cooked pasta and many other sensory materials, I prefer to use sensory materials that last. Even though most of the recipes for play that we enjoy are made from inexpensive materials, the cost still adds up. One of my goals as a parent is to teach my boys to be good stewards of what they have. We all know children learn best by example, so I do my best to set a good example for them and choose sensory materials that last.
We still enjoy exploring other materials, but we keep these 10 sensory recipes on hand to enjoy on a regular basis.
1. Cloud Dough
Cloud dough is made using 1 part cooking oil and 8 parts flour. Any kind of oil can be used. Our favorites include coconut oil and olive oil. Baby oil can also be used with older children who are not likely to taste the sensory material. Cloud dough can be stored for many months. We have had the same bin of cloud dough in our sensory table since last October. We add to it occasionally as some cloud dough gets spilled or dumped during play. We store it in an airtight bin when not in use.
Ideas for playing with cloud dough:
- Sensory Bins to Teach Day and Night
- Two Ingredient Colored and Scented Cloud Dough
- Cloud Dough Heart Cakes
- Easy Trick for Coloring Cloud Dough
- Candy Cane Cloud Dough
We bought a giant bag of rice from Costco, and while the initial cost was close to $20, the bag has lasted for over a year. We love to dye rice and add scent and use it in bins along with props for scooping and dumping. We store rice in ziploc bags when not in use. I have never had a single batch of rice go bad.
Ideas for playing with rice:
- How to Dye Rice
- Candy Apple Scented Rice
- Pumpkin Pie Spice Rice
- Candy Cane Rice
- Easter Egg Sensory Bins
- Valentine's Sensory Bin with Colored Rice
- Frosting Paint Recipe with Sprinkles
Like rice, we enjoy adding color and/or scent to dried pasta. It's especially fun to offer young children different types of pasta, because the different sizes and textures are fun to explore. We store dried pasta in ziploc bags when not in use, and it lasts forever. We typically use it up for an art project before too long.
Ideas for playing with pasta:
4. Silly Putty/Slime
We make our own silly putty and slime with just two ingredients, and the putty lasts for several months when stored in an air tight container. The longest we kept a batch was five months. When we pulled it out to play it was stringy and didn't have the same consistency, so we threw it out. We store homemade silly putty in ziploc bags or containers when not in use.
Recipes and Activities for silly putty/slime:
- Two Ingredient Homemade Silly Putty
- How to Make Slime
- Rainbow Sand Slime
- Glow in the Dark Slime Favors
- Rainbow Slime Recipe
- How to Make Sparkly Slime
- Color Mixing with Slime
5. Baking Soda Dough
Baking soda dough is made by combining baking soda and a small amount of water, just enough to hold it together without dissolving it. We love adding different colors and accessories to change up this simple recipe for play. It can be stored in an airtight container for many months as long as it is dry when stored. To play with the dough again, simply add a small amount of water.
Ideas for playing with baking soda dough:
- How to Make Baking Soda Dough
- Moon Dough Recipe
- Erupting Moon Rocks
- Frozen Erupting Snowballs
- Frozen Baking Soda Dough
Playdough is J-Bug's (4) favorite sensory play! Not a day goes by when he doesn't pull out a container of playdough. We make all of our own playdough and enjoy experimenting with recipes. How long homemade playdough lasts really depends on your climate. We have kept basic homemade playdough for over a year. We store playdough in small containers with lids when not in use.
- Lemon Playdough
- Fall Scented Playdough
- Candy Corn Playdough
- Chocolate Playdough Made with Real Chocolate
- Christmas Playdough Recipe
- Color Surprise Playdough
- Preschool Math Games with Playdough
- Playdough Christmas Trees
- Playdough Learning Tray with Leaves and Rocks
7. Homemade Puffy Paint
We make many different types of homemade paint, but my personal favorite is homemade puffy paint. It takes a bit of effort to mix and transfer to squeezy bottles, but a batch lasts for many months. We have stored puffy paint for four months. It might last even longer, but we have used every batch up before going past four months. We store puffy paint in squeezy bottles in the refrigerator when not in use.
Ideas for using homemade puffy paint:
- Chocolate Puffy Paint
- Candy Cane Puffy Paint
- Candy Apple Puffy Paint
- Kool Aid Puffy Paint
- Homemade Puffy Paint
- DIY Sensory Letters
8. Water Beads
Water beads are another favorite around here, although we haven't played with them in quite some time since I have twin toddlers running around. Once Tank and Peanut are a bit older and stop putting tasting everything we will play with water beads on a regular basis again. We have stored water beads for up to four months. The best way to store water beads is in an open container full of water.
Ideas for playing with water beads:
- Frozen Water Beads
- Easter Egg Water Beads Bin
- Warm and Cold Sensory Play
- Water Beads and Shaving Cream
- How to Make Scented Water Beads
- Glowing Water Beads
- Glow Sticks and Water Beads
- Frozen Water Beads in Water Balloons
9. Dyed Epsom Salts
Epsom salts are a frugal and fun sensory material. When dry they will last for months and months. For added sensory stimulation we love to dye them in a rainbow of colors.
Craft sand can be used for art and sensory play. We bought a big stash from Discount Supply a few years ago, and we still have more than half of it. It can be dumped into a bin for sensory play. It can be sprinkled on art projects like glitter. It can be poured into containers for sand art and to explore color theory.
Ideas for playing with craft sand: