Sensory Play and children with ASD and SPD

Not all children find it easy to process the input they receive from their senses. I discuss this in more detail in this article.

This is why, for children with Autism and/or Sensory Processing Disorder, sensory play can be so helpful!
Research has shown that children who engaged in sensory play every day for 10 weeks needed less help in self-care and social situations than those that didn’t.
Sensory play helps children to refine their thresholds for different sensory information and this helps their brain to process and respond to sensory information. Sensory activities can help change the way the brain reacts to touch, sound, sight, and movement!

Some of the advantages of stimulating the brain with sensory play are improved attention span, language skills, fine and gross motor skills, social skills and self control.
Add all this to the fact sensory play can be calming and enjoyable and you may just be convinced it’s worth a try!
Why dont you try adding sensory play into your child’s daily routine? Set aside ten minutes a day (or longer if the child is engaged) to explore. Here are some great tried and tested ideas to start you off!

Messy Painting with no rules!

Try taping paper (wall lining paper works well but any will do) to the floor and providing trays of paint. Wear old clothes and take your child’s shoes and socks off. Let them explore the paint in any way they like. 

This activity can be adapted depending on the child. If your child likes smells then consider adding scents or spices to the paint. If they are overly likely to eat the paint maybe use edible alternatives. If they are reluctant to touch the paint then maybe try wearing gloves or socks to get them used to the idea.


Leaves, especially in fall, can provide great sensory play! They smell, they crunch, they are colourful and they are fun to play with! 

You can either play with leaves outside or collect some and take them inside to explore!

Baking Bread!

This is a great activity. The best part of baking bread is kneading and shaping the dough. Not only does it smell good and give lots of sensory feedback when you push and pull it around but you also get a tasty snack when you have finished playing!



Sand is great for sensory play. You can use dry sand, wet sand, or make your own moon sand from flour and olive oil. You can add scent or colour to sand and use it on its own or with added playthings. If a child has an obsession such as cars, try playing with these too.  Sand can be used for feeling, digging, making, destroying, pouring, filling and mark making. 



Bubbles are great! Blowing bubbles for your child to explore, catch, pop and watch can be really fun!

You can also mix up some washing up liquid bubbles and put them in a bowl or water table for your child to play with.


Shaving foam!

Try colouring shaving foam with food colouring and then putting it in a water table or bath for your child to explore. The colours will change as they mix the foam around.



Plain, simple flour can be very fun! Beware it can get everywhere!  You could have flour in your sensory area one day and then mix it with salt and water to make salt dough for the next day!


Salt dough!

Mix equal amounts of flour and salt then mix in water until you get a dough like consistency. You can add food colouring or flavouring for added sensory experience. 

Try playing with salt dough by itself or add objects to poke and press with.


Cocoa and cereals!

Yes you did hear that right! Try mixing cocoa powder, olive oil and cereals for a muddy, sandy, crunchy, delicious smelling play experience! If your child likes dinosaurs it could be dino world and if they like flowers, a garden!


Decorate biscuits!

Buy plain biscuits from the shop and provide icing to gloop and spread! Don’t worry too much about the finished product as long as it’s fun!

Water beads!

Water beads are great fun! They require a little bit of forward planning as they come dehydrated and you need to add them to water in advance. They are colourful and wonderfully textured. They feel great to run your fingers through and can be very calming. 

Soap clouds!

You can order Ivory soap online and buy it in some stores. Place a bar of it in your microwave on some baking paper and cook it for two minutes to make soap clouds! They smell amazing and are great fun to feel and crumble!


Water play!

Give the dolls a bath or the cars a wash, paint the fence with water or simply splash! Water can be scented, coloured, filled with glitter, warm or cold. The possibilities are endless! 
Mud Kitchen!
Try putting pans, plates and spoons or an old toy kitchen in the garden and encourage play with mud!


Muddy Puddles!

Become like Peppa Pig for an afternoon, don the wellies and go find some puddles to splash in, look at or sit in!



Ice is a great sensory play activity. You could try freezing a tray of ice to explore or fill a balloon or rubber glove with water and freeze for a different experience. Even a bowl of ice cubes can be interesting.

Maybe try adding bricks or some other toy to the water before freezing so you can discover them as it melts.


Cooked spaghetti!

Cook some spaghetti and let it cool before letting your child explore it! Spaghetti can be great fun!


Sensory bottles!

Make your own sensory bottles by adding food colouring and washing up liquid to bottles of water and taping the lid on. Shake to make coloured bubbles!


Mix cornflour and water for some great sensory fun! It will seem solid as you play with it in your hands and then watch it melt away in liquid form as you stop touching it!

No mess painting!

So you have looked at all my ideas and freaked out at the thought of the mess? Then this one is for you! Try putting a blob of paint between two sheets of acetate and then sealing the edges. Your child can ooze the paint around and even draw in it without making a mess!

I hope you enjoy these sensory play activities with your child and discover even more of your own! If I can’t think of anything to do, I tend to raid my kitchen cupboards for anything I can find! Remember to join in with your child and most importantly, have fun!

Thankyou for taking the time to read this post.  If you would like to read more then feel free to follow my blog or like my Facebook page which I keep up to date with new posts as they are written. You can also find me on Twitter @KidsOnTour1

Published by Autism Kids on Tour - Autism without limits

I have two kids and love to show them the world. We dont let autism limit us in our adventures! I write about our adventures and include tips on how suitable activities were for children with autism. I also write more autism specific posts.

10 thoughts on “Sensory Play and children with ASD and SPD

  1. Love it when my son does this kind of messy stuff! I can see them being so liberated. We always keep telling them to tidy up or some such things. It can be quite a change for them to get messy without us stopping them in their strides!

  2. I so much agree on the sensory play, Recently I too published a post on sensory play for kids. Personally love Kinetic sand and Water beads, is fun, imaginative and I love being messy:)

  3. These are all great suggestions for sensory play. I will have to share this with my cousin. She has a 3 year old daughter who is full of curiosity. I know she’d love playing with paint and play dough. The bottles with food color and dishwashing liquid looks fun too.

  4. Amazing suggestions! When I was in kindergarten, I was playing lots of these games that can still be super fun today as an adult haha 🙂 They’re just fun!

  5. I never knew this can be so creative and fun for children, Thanks for sharing the tips. Glad i stop by your blog.

  6. Messy stuff is always the most fun to do. Kids love the textures of different things and it’s great for their learning and development. Not sure how fun the aftermath of the mess is but it’s making memories which is the most important thing

  7. This is an impressive list of sensory play games that kids and parents can do together. Childhood is such a special time that we need to make sure all kids are fully exposed to and engaged in playing games that help them develop.

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