99 Sensory Activities for Toddlers, Infants, and Kids of All Ages

Did you know a pillow fight is a great way to get proprioceptive input? Photo by Mommy Poppins
Did you know a pillow fight is a great way to get proprioceptive input? Photo by Mommy Poppins
4/7/22 - By Anna Fader

All kids can be affected by sensory processing issues, where certain situations and feelings just become overwhelming. Exposing kids to a variety of sensory activities in a calm, playful manner can alleviate some of these problems.

In that spirit, we've put together this list of 99 sensory activities for toddlers and babies up through big kids; in fact, they're even helpful for adults. My kids' school's occupational therapist once gave a seminar to parents on sensory balance and activities for maintaining a sensory-savvy schedule. I now realize my engine tends to run too low and I need to work harder at energizing myself throughout the day. I have incorporated some of these activities to keep my own energy up.

For more tips and sensory activities for kids of all ages, see our posts on Sensory Bin Ideas for Busy Toddlers, DIY Sensory Activities for Babies, and Sensory Savvy Snacks for Kids.


Movement-Based Sensory Activities 

Perhaps the most useful for self-regulation are proprioceptive input sensory activities, a fancy word for "heavy work" that engages your joints. These activities make you feel grounded and can be calming for a high-running child or invigorating for a low-running one.

1. Race 

Do wheelbarrow walking races or running races.

2. Donkey Kicks

RELATED: Our Guide to Boredom Busters for Kids

Sensory Activities for Toddlers, Infants, and Kids: Jumping
Jumping is a great activity that engages your joints. Photo by Danielle Smith

3. Jump

Try jumping on a mini-trampoline, from a chair to a sofa, or on the bed. For bigger kids, you can try these jump rope games.

4. ABC Push-ups

Push up to plank position, touch your chest with your hand and say a letter of the alphabet; repeat all the way to the letter Z and alternate the hand that touches the chest.

5. Bear Walk

6. Crab Walk

7. Slither Like a Snake

8. Hammer 

Put ice cubes in a plastic bag and crush them with a hammer (then use them for lemonade).

9. Have a Pillow Fight

10. Play Catch

For beginners, try playing with a stuffed animal.

11. Hang from a Chin-Up Bar

12. Climb a Rock Wall

13. Stage a Wrestling Match

14. Start a Tickle Fight

15. Bang on Some Drums

16. March in a Parade 

This can be a real parade you make in your neighborhood or just a family parade with stuffed animals in your living room.

RELATED: Your Guide to Backyard Camping with Kids
Sensory Activities for Toddlers, Infants, and Kids: Playing catch with Water Balloons

Play catch with water balloons on a warm day. Photo by Georgia Maciel via Pexels

Play-Based Sensory Activities 

17. Play Water Balloon Catch

This and other water games are best played outside!

18. Engage in a Tug-of-War

RELATED: 101 Conversation Starters for Kids to Help Get Them Talking

Sensory Activities for Toddlers, Infants, and Kids: Play Hopscotch

Balance is a big part of what makes hopscotch a great sensory activity.

19. Play Hopscotch

This traditional backyard game is fun for kids of all ages.

20. Play Leapfrog

21. Play Push-o-War 

Put palms against each other and push as hard as you can.

22. Play Catch with a Balloon

23. Play by Candlelight

24. Play with the Stereo Dial 

Experiment with loud and soft sounds; go slowly.

25. Play a Listening Game 

Sit quietly and guess the sounds you hear.

26. Play in a Sandbox

Time to visit your local playground.

27. Play with Flashlights

Turn off the lights and play flashlight tag.

28. Play a Smell Game 

Using a blindfold, have children guess different smells, such as peanut butter, maple syrup, and apples. 

29. Play Cotton Ball Soccer

Blow cotton balls across a table. You score if you blow it off the other person's end.

30. Race Cotton Balls 

Blow a cotton ball across the floor. The first one to reach the finish line wins! 

31. Play What’s in the Bag 

Put single items in paper bags and let kids guess what they are without using their eyes.

RELATED: Brainy Puzzle Games and Jigsaw Puzzles for Kids

Sensory Activities for Toddlers, Infants, and Kids: Make a sensory board
Have your child bang on a sensory board. Photo courtesy of Fun at Home with Kids

Sensory Activities for Toddlers and Babies

For babies, many of these sensory activities can be set up in the high chair for a stationary sensory baby activity center.

32. Clang Pots and Pans 

33. Toddlers can push their own strollers, the laundry, or the grocery cart.

34. Have your toddler or child carry a backpack full of his or her toys and books.

35. Trace your body or hands.

36. Perform tummy-time push-ups (for babies).

37. Make your own sandbox with a bowl full of dry beans.

Experiment with different materials—beans, pasta, cheerios, and more—in a variety of sensory bins for toddlers.

38. Make Play Dough 

39. Set Up A Water Table

Use ladles, cups, strainers, squirters, and funnels to manipulate the water.

40. Explore Sense of Smell 

Explore how your baby or toddler reacts to different smells. If you find some are soothing or alerting, get lotions, soaps, or candles to help regulate his or her mood.

Pretend Play Sensory Activities 

41. Make Shadow Puppets

42. Practice blowing out birthday candles on make-believe cakes.

43. Play Animal Footsteps 

Have your child lie down and choose an animal. Using your fingers or hands, make it feel as if that animal is walking over your child's back and limbs.

44. Play with Face Paints

45. Build a Fort or Tent

46. Make Extreme Faces

47. Wear Sunglasses

RELATED: Exercise Games and Indoor Fun to Get Kids Moving

Sensory Activities for Toddlers, Infants, and Kids: Swing or Spin
Swinging and spinning both provide long-lasting sensory input. Photo by Mommy Poppins

Movement-Based Sensory Activities 

Vestibular input (swinging and spinning) is intense and provides long-lasting sensory input. Parents should monitor their children's sensitivities to these activities and offer vestibular input activities in doses. Some of these other movement-based sensory activities are much more gentle.

48. Go Swing

Try different types of swinging to see which feels best (on a tire swing, rope, monkey bars).

49. Spin

50. Rock in a Rocking Chair

51. Pull 

Pull your child around on a sheet or blanket.

52. Lounge 

Lounge around in a beanbag chair or a pile of pillows.

53. Make a Kid Sandwich 

Press down on him or her between two pillows or couch cushions.

54. Make a Kid Burrito 

Roll him or her tightly in a blanket.

55. Make a Kid Cookie 

Roll a big ball firmly over the back and limbs.

Touch-Based Sensory Activities 

56. Sensory Salt

Pour salt on a cookie sheet and paint with your fingers.

57. Sensory Baking Tray 

Spread rice and beans out in a baking tray or pan and make a construction site for trucks. Bury small toys in rice and have your child do an archeological dig.

58. Sensory Bath 

Some sensory-defensive kids hate getting wet, but sometimes bathing activities make bathtime more bearable. Rub bodies with different textures while in the bath: a smooth or nubby washcloth, a loofah, a nail brush.

RELATED: 25 Science Experiments for Toddlers

Sensory Activities for Toddlers, Infants, and Kids: Play with shaving cream

Mix a little color into shaving cream to delight visual and physical senses.

59. Shaving Cream 

Put shaving cream on a placemat to squish around.

60. Touch Book 

Make a touch book of different textures from your home.

61. Use a Vibrating Toothbrush

62. Trace Fingers Lightly Over the Skin

63. Put on Lotion

64. Pet the Cat or Dog

65. Butterfly Kisses 

Brush your eyelashes over someone’s cheek. 

66. Massage 

Give each other massages

67. Mix it Up 

Mix cookie dough or cake batter with hands. Find great, hands-on recipes for kids in our Guide to Easy Recipes for Kids.

Sensory Activities for Toddlers, Infants, and Kids: Use straws to sip a smoothie
Kids never outgrow their love of straws. Photo by Jody Mercier

Taste-Based Sensory Activities 

Some kids need extra oral-motor activities, but these tend to be calming for everyone.

68. Sip Seltzer

69. Lick Lemons

70. Crunch Ice

71. Use Chewelry

72. Suck a Smoothie 

Make smoothies and suck through a straw.

73. Chew Gum

Practice chewing gum and blowing bubbles.

74. Use Gum To Try a New Food

Give a child a strong-flavored candy or gum before trying a new food at dinner.

75. Eat Sensory-Savvy Snacks

Outdoor Sensory Activities 

76. Hang Upside Down 

Turn the world upside down by hanging from a tree or monkey bars 

77. Have a Texture Scavenger Hunt

We've got a great create your own scavenger hunt card template.

78. Run in Circles

79. Sit Quietly 

Listen to nature or a nature sounds recording.

80. Go on a Texture Walk

Collect things that are smooth, things that are bumpy, things that are soft, and so on.

Sensory Activities for Toddlers, Infants, and Kids: Folding launrdy is a great sensory activity that gets your chores done!
Folding socks has more benefits than just getting laundry out of the way. Photo by Sara Marentette

Sensory Activities Around the House 

These activities aren't just chores that help you get things done; they're actually hands-on sensory activities in and of themselves. Chores can be great learning activities.

81. Wipe the Counters

82. Sweep

83. Swiffer

84. Break out the Dust-Buster

85. Do Laundry

Unload the washing machine and the dryer.

86. Take out the Trash

87. Repot the Plants

RELATED: Boredom-Busting Craft Activities for Kids

Sensory Activities for Toddlers, Infants, and Kids: Bath crayons and soaps make bathtime fun.
Bath crayons can help distract a water-fearful kid. Photo by Rose Gordon Sala.

More Fun Sensory Activities for Kids of All Ages

88. Add Food Coloring to Water

Or add food coloring to milk, for even brighter colors.

89. Create A Sensory Spot

Create a sensory savvy spot by placing a beanbag chair or pile

90. Use Bath Crayons or Paints

Use soap crayons or bath paints to make a masterpiece. Check our list of favorite bath toys to discover which bath crayons are our favorites.

91. Use Crazy Straws

92. Blow Whistles

No need to buy one, you can make your own straw whistles.

93. Make and Blow Pinwheels

We've got instructions on our roundup of easy paper crafts for kids.

94. Blow Feathers Off Your Hand

95. Create a Bubble Mountain 

Make bubble mountains in a bowl with a straw and soapy water.

96. Blow gently on each other's faces. See who can blow the longest.

97. Hide 

Hide under a blanket and read by flashlight.

98. Mazes or Dot-to-Dots

99. Squish Paint 

Put dollops of different-colored paints in a baggie and squish around to mix the paints.

Many of these activities are inspired by the 2009 book Raising a Sensory Smart Child: The Definitive Handbook for Helping Your Child with Sensory Integration Issues by Lindsey Biel and Nancy Penske. This is the best book I have found for parents on children's sensory issues. In fact, it's a valuable book for any parent.

This article was first published in April 2008 but has since been updated.

Top photo via Bigstock.