Sensory Station Ideas for Childcare

Baby Toddler plays with cereals, sorts toy figures by color. Child plays with tweezers
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Setting up a sensory activity station in-home or in a classroom could be a fun and engaging way to help children work on their sensory development.

Sensory play activities could be as much fun for young kids who are diagnosed with a sensory processing disorder, as they could be for older kids.

Kids of all ages love to play in many different ways and what could be more fun than playing with colors, foods, slime, playdough station, sandpits, etc.

In this article, we will provide you with a comprehensive list of sensory station ideas which are extremely easy to set up and quite fun to engage in with your children.

What are Sensory Stations?

Colorful anti-stress fidget push pop tube sensory toys for children. Toddler playing with toys

Sensory stations are designated areas that are set up with the sole purpose of engaging kids with games and fun activities that will help them stimulate their senses.

These sensory play activities are critical for the development of any young child. All these activities will help in stimulating your children’s senses of touch, sight, sound, smell, and taste.

However, sensory play can also be highly beneficial for children if they have been diagnosed either with sensory processing disorder or autism.

What is Sensory Play or Sensory Activity?

Sensory play includes all activities that help in stimulating the senses of your child. These activities naturally facilitate young children in using their fine and gross motor skills to imagine, create, play, investigate, and also explore the world around them.

Through these activities, children can refine their individual threshold of retaining different sensory information which in turn helps them to connect, communicate, process and respond to sensory information better.

List of Sensory Station Ideas

Now let us look at some of the interesting sensory station ideas that you could try in childcare. We have separated them into indoor and outdoor activities, and whether they are messy or not messy.

Indoor Non-Messy Sensory Stations

Beads Threading

beads for needlework on thread or fishing line

This is a great activity to improve the fine motor skills of your child.

You will need some colorful beads, string, and a board with holes. Help your child thread the beads through the string and see their creations come to life.

This activity will also help in stimulating the sense of sight and touch in your child, especially if you use different beads and a pipe cleaner instead of the string.

Playing with Sound

This activity is perfect for kids who love music.

You will need some musical instruments, like a xylophone, drums, or cymbals. Help your child make some beautiful music together and enjoy the fun.

This activity will help in stimulating the sense of sound in your child.

Take note of children who are sensitive to loud sounds and children who might avoid this activity. It is important to practice quiet sounds good for these children who are more sensitive to sounds.

Taste Types

This activity is perfect for kids who are learning about different tastes.

You will need some food items, like fruits, vegetables, sweets, etc. Help your child identify the different tastes of these food items and learn something new.

To make it more challenging, you can blindfold the child or get them to close their eyes, and guess what the food item is.

This activity will help in stimulating the sense of taste in your child.

Classical Corner

This activity is perfect for kids who love music.

You will need some classical music, a blanket, and some pillows. Help your child relax and enjoy the soothing sounds of classical music.

This activity will help in stimulating the sense of sound in your child.

Matching Cards

Two blond kids putting cards with letters on the table

This activity is perfect for kids who love to learn.

You will need some matching cards. Help your child match different pairs of cards together and see the magic happen.

This activity will help in stimulating the sense of sight and touch in your child.

Light Table

This activity is perfect for kids who love to explore.

You will need a light table and some objects. Help your child explore the different shadows that these objects make on the light table.

You can also use colored blocks and transparent magnetic tiles on the light table.

This activity will help in stimulating the sense of sight in your child.

Scented Markers

This activity is perfect for kids who love to smell everything.

You will need some scented markers and pieces of paper. Help your child identify the different smells of the markers and get them to draw creations with these scented markers.

A perfect activity for stimulating the sense of smell in your child while also developing creativity and fine motor skills.

Feely Bags

This activity is perfect for kids who love to touch and feel.

You will need some plastic ziplock bags, translucent hair gel, food coloring and some small objects (like beads or small buttons). Mix the food coloring with the hair gel and put that into the ziplock bag. Add the small objects into the bag.

Help your child touch and feel the different objects in the bags. Make sure you zip the bag. You might also want to add sticky tape to keep the sensory materials inside!

This type of activity will help in stimulating the sense of touch in your child and also help children who have tactile sensitivity.

Indoor Messy Sensory Stations

Sensory Bottles

This activity is perfect for kids who love to watch things move and might need a calming tool.

You will need some water, food coloring, and some bottles. You can also add glittery or small floating objects inside the bottles. Help your child mix different colors of water together and see the magic happen.

Let them watch the different objects float as they turn the bottle upside-down. This activity will help in stimulating the sense of sight in your child.

Painting with Food

This activity is perfect for kids who love food and painting.

You will need some food (fruits are easy), different colored paints, paper, and maybe some paintbrushes. Help your child paint the foods with the different colors. Get them to stamp this food onto a piece of paper.

This kind of activity will help in stimulating the sense of sight and touch in your child.

Playdough with Tools

Child plays with colourful playdough and cries

This is a simple activity that is perfect for kids who love to explore.

You will need some playdough, a container, and some tools. Playdough gives an endless amount of opportunities.

Help your child explore the different textures of the playdough with their hands and using different tools.

Playdough is best for stimulating the sense of touch in your child. You can even add essential oils to help those who enjoy smells.

Primary Color Mixing

This activity is great for kids who are trying to learn their colors.

All you need is three bowls, water, and some food colorings. Help your child mix different colors together and see the magic happen.

This activity will help in stimulating the sense of sight in your child. This can also be a good learning activity for a science or art lesson.

Sensory Bins

This activity is perfect for kids who love to touch and feel.

You will need a bin, dry materials (e.g. sand, dry rice, dry pasta), and small objects to hide (e.g. plastic animals, characters). Hide these small objects in the sensory bins and get your child to use their hands to find it. Help your child touch and feel the different objects in the bin and see the magic happen.

This activity will help in stimulating the sense of touch in your child.

Playing with Slime

This activity is perfect for kids who love to get messy.

All you need is some glue, water, and food colorings. Help your child make different colors of slime and have a blast playing with it.

This activity will help in stimulating the sense of touch and sight in your child.

Colored Rice

This activity is perfect for kids who love to play with food and touching different textures.

You will need some rice, water, and food coloring. Help your child mix different colors of rice together and see the magic happen. You can mix the different colors together to make rainbow-colored rice.

Hide toys inside the colored rice and see if the children can find all the hidden toys. Alternatively, you can get them to practice their fine motor skills by scooping rice into different containers.

This activity will help in stimulating the sense of touch, sight and maybe even sound, in your child.

Kinetic Sand

This activity is perfect for kids who love to play with sand. Kinetic sand is relatively less messy compared to normal sand.

You will need some kinetic sand, a container, and some small objects. Hind small objects in the kinetic sand and encourage the child to find all the small objects.

This activity will help in stimulating the sense of touch in your child.

Outdoor Non-Messy Sensory Stations

Nature Exploration

This activity is perfect for kids who love to explore nature.

This requires very little preparation as you can take the children out to the garden or park, anywhere that there are trees, dirt, sand, or grass.

Encourage them to touch different things, including things that are wet and dry, or hard and soft. You might even use an I-Spy checklist to make it even more fun.

This activity will help in stimulating the sense of touch in your child.

Blindfolded Block Play

This activity is perfect for kids who love to touch and feel.

You will need some blocks, a blindfold, and some patience. Help your child build a block tower while blindfolded and see the magic happen.

This activity will help in stimulating the sense of touch in your child.

Sight Station

This activity is perfect for kids who love to look.

You will need some pictures, a camera, and a printer. Help your child take pictures of different objects and print them out for later viewing.

This activity will help in stimulating the sense of sight in your child.

Outdoor Messy Sensory Stations

Sand Play

This is one of the most popular and loved sensory activities for kids.

All you need is a sandpit, some colored sands, some toys, and your station is all set up. This activity will help in stimulating the sense of touch in your child as they play with the sand.

If you do not have a lot of space, you can use a small tub to add some sand instead of using a big sandpit.

Sprinkler Fun

This activity is perfect for kids who love water play. This is such a simple activity to set up and great for summer hot days!

You will need some water and a sprinkler. Just turn on the sprinkler and see your child jump in without hesitation.

Sprinkler fun games are great in stimulating the sense of sight and touch in your child.

Water Play

This is another great activity that is perfect for kids who love water play.

You will need a container, some water, and some objects. Add the small objects, whether they are plastic spin wheels, buckets, toy animals or other plastic toys.

Children will have endless amounts of fun playing with these objects in the water.

This activity helps stimulate the sense of sight and touch in your child.

Conclusion

Sensory station ideas are great for encouraging sensory activities among children who require language development, sensory integration, and social skills.

It’s a fun way of learning for toddlers and children alike as these sensory stations inspire their imagination, increase their focus, and ultimately learn through play.

There are endless amounts of indoor and outdoor stations that you can easily set up. So, implement these sensory station ideas as they are fun activities that kids love to do.

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