Sensory Play Activities for Children with Special Needs

This blog has been written with the help of our industry expert, Georgina Durrant, a former teacher/Special Educational Needs Coordinator and founder of The SEN Resources Blog. She shares with us her favourite sensory play activities for children with special needs which are guaranteed to stimulate the senses, keep children engaged and ignite their creativity and imagination.

What is Sensory Play and Why is it Important?

Sensory play is wonderful and a firm favourite activity for many children! It’s not only enjoyable for lots of children but it can also be really beneficial to their development. Sensory play is simply an activity that enables children to use their senses. This could be their sense of touch, smell, taste (safely), sight or hearing. It could be playing with sand, splashing water, finger painting, experimenting with reflective surfaces or listening to musical instruments. The possibilities are almost endless. Sensory play is often calming and fun. It can also help with communication skills, creativity and fine motor skills.

Sensory play activities are important for all young children but especially so for some children with Special Educational Needs, for whom sensory play can help them to develop key skills and sometimes regulate their emotions. I’m a former teacher SENDCO and now tutor for children with Special Educational Needs and in my book, ‘100 Ways Your Child Can Learn Through Play (fun activities for children with SEN)’, I’ve dedicated a whole chapter to sensory play activities- for this very reason.

7 Sensory Play Activities to Try at Home or in Your Setting

My Favourite Sensory Play Activities:

Play Dough/Soft Dough

A firm favourite of mine! Cutting, squishing and kneading play dough/soft dough is wonderful for stimulating a child’s sense of touch. Children can also develop a range of other skills including creativity and fine motor skills whilst manipulating the dough.

Water Play

Whether it be pouring, scooping, splashing or playing with bubbles – water play is an exciting and well-loved sensory play activity. It’s low cost and easy to set up and you can keep enriching a child’s water play by adding new equipment (containers, scoops, spoons etc) or changing the colour of the water.

Home Made Pretend Snow

We don’t get enough snow days in the U.K so why not let your child have a snow day, whenever they want by creating your very own fake snow. All you need is 8 cups of cornflour and 1 cup of vegetable oil. Mix them together and ta dar! Children will love the soft crunch of their fake snow in their hands…and they’ll be even happier when they discover it’s not as cold as real snow!

Mud Pies

Rustle up some fabulous muddy treats together and enjoy the sensory experience of the range of different textures of mud from sticky and gloopy to dry and hard. Add to their fun by providing various different containers and equipment.

Kinetic Sand

I adore this resource. It’s honestly like magic. One minute you can roll it into a ball, the next it’s falling from your hand like sand… incredible and very well loved by children. It’s a great sensory play activity if you’re (like many of us!) wary of making too much mess. It’s amazing seeing how mesmerised children can become whilst playing with kinetic sand.

Light Table Play

Light tables are a really popular resource and fantastic for sensory play that stimulates the sight sense. Children can use them to do a range of activities on, from counting, drawing, sorting or even sand play.

Make a sensory Den

Sensory dens and tunnels are fantastic for so many children. They can even help some children relax when feeling overstimulated. There are wonderful ones you can buy but you can also have a go at making your own together with your child. You could add mirrors, lights, bubble tubes, soft blankets and cushions. All to add to the sensory experience.

Woman holding book with 100 fun activities for children
Georgina Durrant

For more activities visit The SEN Resources Blog and preorder my book: 100 Ways Your Child Can Learn Through Play – Fun Activities for Young Children with SEN.

We have an amazing collection of sensory play resources and toys for you to choose from – including mesmerising sensory lights, fidgets toys to sensory building blocks and sound balls. Shop our top sensory play resources below!

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