Children with autism have dysfunctional sensory system and struggle with processing sensory stimuli. This can be related to variety of sensitivities. Some kids are easily overstimulated by lights and sounds, others by taste textures and touch.
Sensory play is essential for autistic children and can help improve sensory processing. Certain types of sensory play are even being used in occupational therapy. In this article, we are going to look at 15 sensory play activities for kids with autism. Many of these sensory play activities are easy enough to do at home. You can adapt them to meet your child’s structured play needs.
15 Sensory Play Activities For Kids With Autism
This post contains affiliate links. I’m a teacher, I have to overcompensate somehow! But let’s be honest, I’ll probably blow it all on a coconut milk latte anyway.
1. Shaving Cream
A simple (and inexpensive!) thing to do is to spray a bottle of shaving cream on a table and let your child play with it. For this, you will want to purchase unscented shaving cream. To add a bit more to the experience, you can add a few drops of paint to color the shaving cream.
2. Sensory Box
Another common option is to make a sensory box for your child to play in. These usually include boxes full of something for the child to play in like kinetic sand or water beads. You can even find how to make one of these sensory boxes with light to make a more dynamic experience.
3. Bubble Wrap Painting
You could also wrap your child’s feet in bubble wrap and allow them to stomp around in paint on poster board or banner paper. If your child is bothered by the sound of bubble wrap popping, you could always use a quieter option like paper towels.
Oobleck is a creation that can be traced back to Dr. Seuss, making it perfect for kids. It’s an interesting substance because it changes between liquid and solid forms rather quickly.
Much like oobleck, slime is a fun substance to play with and you only need a few ingredients to make it. With this recipe, you can even take regular slime up a notch by adding in “polka dots” to change the texture up a bit.
You can also enjoy a sensory activity on a day in the sun with the use of a kite. If you don’t have a kite sitting around the house, don’t worry! You can even make your own kite which not only works in a pinch but this craft can be a fun experience of its own.
7. Colorful Water
If you want to try something new, you could always fill the bathtub with glowing water. There are a lot of options for fluorescent water but the list narrows when you look for something that is kid-safe and won’t leave a sticky mess. One idea is the use of a couple crushed B-50 vitamins or something similar.
8. Zipper Board
You can make an easy sensory board of your own. All you need is a set of zippers, a sheet of cardboard, and a hot glue gun. The idea is simply to create a board on which your child can play. In this case, you can use zippers to give them something to zip and unzip.
9. Colored Noodles
As we already mentioned, materials like kinetic sand can be great for sensory play. However, for young kids who put everything in their mouth, it doesn’t always work out. For a safer option, you could always use dyed noodles to give kids something to play with.
10. Sandpaper Drawings
If you are looking to help your child work on their fine motor skills, you can give them crayons and a piece of sandpaper. This helps their motor skills because they have to apply the right amount of pressure to get results – it isn’t as easy as drawing on paper. It also provides a new texture for them.
11. Musical Play
You can include sound in your sensory play with musical instruments. If you don’t have any lying around, you can make some of your own. One of the easiest ways to do this is to put something like beans or paperclips in a plastic Easter egg for your child to shake around like a maraca.
12. Felt Planter Box
A unique way to shake up an average sensory box is to turn it into an interactive felt garden. All you need to do is to create a felt field in a box for your child and make them some felt vegetables or flowers to “plant”. If you can make the ground so that plants can be stuck into it, that’s even better!
13. Frozen Hands
This is a great choice for children that fell for Disney’s Frozen craze, this is a great idea! Even if your child isn’t interested in the movie, they will be interested in the melting hands that reveal the odds and ends inside. This idea consists of filling up a latex glove with water and some beads, buttons, ribbons, etc. Secure each glove tightly with a twist tie and put them in the freezer. After they freeze, cut away the latex. Then the kids can start with the melting and digging away the frozen treasures. This is a great activity to build stability and muscle coordination.
14. “Melting” Snowman
An interesting novelty sensory toy are the snowmen that melt over time. However, you don’t have to buy one to have one! Instead of a store-bought novelty item, you can make your own melting snowman out of baking soda and vinegar.
15. Rainbow Foam
There isn’t much kids love more than a bubble bath. You can turn this into a sensory activity, though, with the help of some rainbow foam. All you really need to make this sensory activity happen is some soap and food coloring.
Which one of these activities do you think you’ll try first?
Annabelle Short is the contributing writer of this article. Annabelle is a homeschooling mom of a son with autism. There were several factors that came into play when she decided to homeschool her child: control over the environment, personalized curriculum, socialization, and control over the pacing. She has attended several workshops and homeschool autism programs.