Sensory Play for Toddlers & Preschoolers

Little girl playing in a sensory bin filled with rice and wooden toys

Sensory Play Ideas & Activities by FLAT SOCKS® Kids

Sticky hands, spaghetti faces, and scribbles on walls. Kids make messes. While those messes might not be so great for your vacuum cleaner, they do benefit your child’s growth when managed appropriately. Playtime is important. Through play, toddlers and kids learn more about their world, exploring, discovering, and building essential skills.

Sensory play lets kids learn from their senses and it can be even more beneficial for kids on the spectrum. Doing sensory activities every day can help encourage healthy behavior and development in your little one. Try these sensory activities by FLAT SOCKS Kids, the best sensory friendly socks for kids!

Little boy sitting on park bench playing with toy and kid’s shoe insert

What is Sensory Play?

Sensory play is any activity that stimulates one or more of the five senses: touch, taste, smell, sight, and sound. It also involves a child’s sense of balance and movement, or body awareness. This type of play can occur naturally when kids eat with their hands, swing on a swing set, or play with musical toys.

Play is how kids learn how to communicate their feelings, process thoughts, and understand emotions. Because active toddlers and young children mostly interact with the world through their senses, incorporating sensory play into their daily routine can build confidence and the skills they need to thrive among peers.

Benefits of Sensory Play for Toddlers

Infants and toddlers experience rapid growth and development within the first three years of their life. They crawl or walk around, taking in a ton of information with their senses while trying to navigate their world. Sensory play helps keep them engaged, creating more neural pathways and connections in the brain for increased learning potential.

Child playing with blue colored sand

From learning how to talk and play with other children to practicing observation skills, some of the core benefits of sensory play for toddlers and kids are:

  • Builds motor development skills by manipulating objects with their hands and exploring movement with activities like reaching, grabbing, walking, throwing, and climbing.
  • Promotes cognitive thinking by creating sensory memories to help kids solve problems, understand new experiences, and form new ideas.
  • Regulates emotions by teaching kids to be mindful, focus on their senses, self soothe, and develop healthy ways to cope in stressful situations like temper tantrums.
  • Teaches self-control as they learn to manage their own behavior in a safe environment, making them feel more independent.
  • Builds social skills by playing with peers, adults or siblings and learning how best to communicate and problem solve together.

Some children have a hard time with sensory tasks because they may feel overstimulated. When teaching your child how to put on socks, the sudden stimulation of the nerves of their feet can result in a confused tantrum. FLAT SOCKS Kids are hassle-free socks that go in your child’s shoes and not on their feet so they can play and explore comfortably.

Girl’s pink rain boot with rainbow no show sock inside

Sensory Play for Kids with Autism

Sensory play is especially important for kids on the spectrum. Autistic children can feel overwhelmed by specific sounds, textures, or other senses. Sensory sensitivities can make daily tasks difficult, which is one reason why some kids hate wearing socks and require sensory friendly clothing like seamless, no-show socks.

The right sensory activities may help their brains react more positively so they can become better learners, communicate their needs, and learn how to self soothe when overwhelmed. They can help improve an autistic child’s concentration skills and cognitive development as well. Discuss sensory play ideas with your child’s occupational therapist or plan activities based on what you know they like.

23 Sensory Activities for Toddlers & Preschoolers

Sensory play is easy, budget-friendly, and fun for all ages. Before any activity, ensure your child’s safety by eliminating choking hazards, ensuring all materials are non-toxic, keeping surfaces clean, and supervising their play at all times.

Collage of children engaging in sensory activities

From summer activities like playing in water sprinklers to carving pumpkins with plastic tools in the fall, here are some simple and cheap sensory play ideas for toddlers and preschoolers:

  • Playing with playdough by squishing it, pulling it apart, and building it into shapes.
  • Sculpting kinetic sand or playing in a sand box.
  • Finger painting with non-toxic and water-based paints.
  • Exploring how different clothing items feel when getting dressed or while shopping for clothes.
  • Playing with food, as it could make them more likely to try different kinds.
  • Playing in a ball pit preferably at home.
  • Using pots and pans to play music.
  • Playing with shadow puppets on a blank wall.
  • Doing a scavenger hunt outside to look for sights and sounds of nature.
  • Painting with shaving cream on a smooth surface like a window or shower door.
  • Playing a game of I-Spy when traveling with kids.
  • Playing hide-and-seek indoors while counting down from ten.
  • Playing a game of freeze tag with friends or family.
  • Blowing bubbles or bubble painting by adding food coloring to the solution.
  • Making a sensory bottle out of water, some clear glue, a few drops of food coloring, and glitter to shake when feeling overwhelmed.
  • Crafting sensory bins by filling a tub with uncooked rice or beans and hiding small toys inside to bury and uncover.
  • Sorting out toy bricks by size, color, or shape.
  • Cooking or baking with your child and letting them help you with smaller tasks like mixing or pouring.
  • Making stress balls by filling a balloon with flour and tying it off.
  • Filling an empty paper towel roll with uncooked rice or beans and securing the sides with duct tape to make a sound tube.
  • Coloring in a coloring book using scented markers.
  • Playing with sensory toys like fidget spinners, pop-its, stress balls, etc.
  • Placing a line of tape on the floor and pretending it is a balance beam.
  • Wrapping your kid in blankets or a sensory body sock to increase sensory stimulation.

FLAT SOCKS Kids: The Best Sensory Friendly Socks for Kids

FLAT SOCKS Kids are the best kids and toddler no show socks that are great for wearing during sensory play. Their cushy shoe insert design also helps curb problems with overstimulation. You’re little one will love the way FLAT SOCKS feel underfoot with no slipping or rolling down. Plus, they come in different patterns like Outerspace, Rainbow Explosion, Dinosaur, and Paint Splatter. Engage in play every day with sensory activities and FLAT SOCKS for Kids.


Pelly, J. (2020, June 15). Sensory Play: 20 Great Activities for Your Toddler or Preschooler. Healthline.

Vance, A. (2023, August 18) Sensory Play Ideas for Your Toddler or Preschooler.