These sensory-friendly activities provide children with autism an opportunity to find calmness, focus, and relaxation while engaging in an activity at their own pace. Whether they are used in the home, classroom, or in occupational therapy sessions, these sensory-friendly activities can provide children with a different play experience without overwhelming them.
Sensory-Friendly Activities List
Below are 20+ Great Sensory-Friendly Activities for Children With Autism. It is strongly advised that young children be closely monitored and supervised while engaging in these activities. It is important to note that there are items on this list that may be a choking hazard, specifically if your child has the tendency to place items in their mouth.
Sensory bins are amazing for children on the autism spectrum because they’re able to learn how different things feel on their hands and sometimes face. It’s best to pair a few items with sensory bins such as measuring cups, spoons, and toys. Including items to interact with in sensory bins can assist the development of children’s hand-eye coordination, and teach them about the movement of objects and how to fill containers. I definitely recommend that you buy a small hand broom and dustpan to also show your child how to clean up messes that they’ve made while doing these activities.
What tools you’ll need to buy:
- Some small, medium, or large plastic storage containers or buy a sensory bin table. I recommend buying plastic storage bins with the lock lids. The plastic storage bins are easier to store when you want them to be hidden and they provide some peace of mind knowing that the lids for your sensory-friendly activities are locked.
- You can buy Montessori sensory bin tools here or head to a dollar store and buy some medium-large spoons, cups, tongs, and bowls. While you’re there, grab some small toys that can be hidden in the sensory bin. This will help make the bins feel like a treasure hunt!
What to buy and use as the bin filling:
I advise that young children be closely monitored and supervised with these fillings. I also recommend laying a sheet down for easy cleanup! You can fill a bin with 1 or as many of these fillings as you’d like. I recommend sticking to 1 filling. Below are the types of bins you can create:
- Mixed Marbles Bin (If you buy these from amazon make sure you go through the marbles before dumping the marbles into your bin because some marbles can break during shipping.)
- Mixed Buttons Bin (I got buttons of all shapes, colors, and sizes. I also included animal buttons and buttons with designs. My son loves looking at all of the buttons!)
- Mixed Beads Bin (I get a variety of glass beads because they come in many cool shapes and designs! My son loves to look at all the different types of beads. These are also great for hand-eye coordination! I show him how to put pipe cleaners and straws through the bead holes.)
- Dry Pasta Bin (I use macaroni pasta! You can also use spiral pasta or any other type of pasta.)
- Shredded Paper Bin (Dollar tree also sells shredded paper.)
- Dry Lentils Bin (Walmart sells cheap bags of lentils.)
- Dry Beans Bin (I use Chickpeas aka Garbanzo Beans.)
- Water Bin (I put water toys into water bins.)
- Dry Rice Bin (I use white rice.)
Sand play is a beneficial tool, especially for autistic children who have touch sensitivities. It helps them explore their tactile sensitivities in a familiar and enjoyable way, while also aiding them in becoming more flexible and adaptable in their everyday activities. Ultimately, sand play can be an incredibly useful resource for helping autistic individuals develop better coping skills and become more comfortable with the world around them.
What you’ll need to buy:
- Some small, medium, or large plastic storage containers or buy a sensory bin table or a kiddie pool! I recommend buying plastic storage bins with the lock lids. The plastic storage bins are easier to store when you want them to be hidden and they provide some peace of mind knowing that the lids for your sensory-friendly activities are locked.
- Sand toys such as sand molding tools, 1 bag of sandbox shovels, rakes, and castle molds, 82 assorted mini animals to hide in the sand, pirates’ treasure, and a mini treasure chest!
What to create for sand play:
When creating these sandboxes, you’ll want to pick a theme using the assorted animals and molds listed above. My sons’ favorite theme is the pirate one because he’s able to relax and look at all of the colorful gems while searching for them. 🙂 I advise that young children be closely monitored and supervised with the sand so that they don’t ingest it or rub it in their eyes.
- Treasure Hunting Sandbox (You can purchase sand or create your own edible safe sand by finely grinding up plain cheerios! For this box, you’ll want to hide miniature animals or even get a small treasure chest to hide!)
- Kinetic Sandbox (I definitely recommend this brand because I haven’t had any issues with it drying out. The kinetic sand stretches really well and is available in many colors!)
- Beach Sandbox (I recommend using all-natural brown kinetic sand for this one so that sand castles can easily be built and water won’t be needed!)
Playdough can be a beneficial activity for children with autism due to its ability to foster the development of fine motor skills and strengthen hand muscles. You can also create your own homemade playdough with your little one and show them how it’s made! Playdough toys can also be a great addition to strengthening hand muscles.
Buying or making playdough:
- Homemade Playdough Recipe by Erika from Living Well Mom (Her blog tells you all about homemade playdough including how to store it and keep it from drying out!)
- You can purchase playdough from Amazon or from other stores like Walmart, Target, and Dollar General!
Things to do with Playdough:
- Create playdough hand shapes using playdough tools to trace hands.
- Roll playdough balls and put beads and tooth pics inside to take them out.
- Use the playdough tool set to cut shapes and letters.
- Make playdough faces with playdough hair!
Slime can be used as an excellent tool for children with autism, helping to increase their fine motor skills and strengthen their hand muscles. You can even make your own slime with the help of your child, creating a positive learning experience. With this activity, you can also add different components to increase tactile sensory stimulation.
Buying or making slime:
- Check out this slime recipe list by Special Learning House!
- You can purchase DIY slime kits or slime on Amazon,
- You can also purchase slime on Etsy or at stores like Target, Walmart, and Dollar General!
Playing with rocks can be a very simple and fun activity for children on the autism spectrum. Rocks can be stacked, dropped, thrown, crushed, and even painted!
- By engaging in activities such as stacking, dropping, and throwing rocks, children can learn more about the laws of motion. These physical activities help to foster an understanding of how objects interact in a range of environments and speeds.
- Crushing rocks requires hand strength and helps with hand-eye coordination.
- Painting rocks offers children a creative outlet that can provide relaxation.
What you can buy for rock activities:
- NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC Mega Gemstone Dig Kit – Dig Up 15 Real Gems, STEM Science & Educational
- NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC Rocks & Fossils Kit – 200+ Piece Set Includes Geodes, Real Fossils, Rose Quartz, Jasper, Aventurine & Many More Rocks, Crystals & Gemstones
- Balancing Stacking Rocks (Wooden Stacking Toy)
- Glow in the Dark Rock Painting Kit
Bubbles are a fun and effective tool to work on eye-tracking and finger-pointing skills for children with autism. My son absolutely loves bubbles!
What to get:
- Save yourself some breath and get this Octopus bubble machine!!
- Check out this giant bubble recipe created by learning and exploring through play!
- Have a fun bubble bath and add 5+1 Dinosaur Bath Bombs for Kids or Colorful Animal Bubble Bath Fizz Balls for a cute bathtime surprise!
Water-related activities can provide stimulating and enjoyable experiences for those with autism. There are many engaging possibilities that involve water, such as splashing in a pool, playing games in the bathtub, and painting with watercolors. These activities can help foster learning in a safe and enjoyable way.
Water activities to try:
- Water Table or Sensory Bin with Cups
- Watercolor painting on coloring book pages or regular watercolor paper.
- Colored Water Transfer (Have one cup of plain water and 2 cups of colored water and mix them together!)
- Sensory water bottles (Fill water bottles up with water, some colored glue, sparkles, and tiny fluffy craft balls!)
- Bottled Water Lava Lamp (Instructions and supplies listed below.)
Supplies and Instructions to Create The Bottled Water Lava Lamp:
- Water bottle
- Cooking Oil
- Food Coloring
- 1 Alka Seltzer Tablet
- Fill your water bottle with cooking oil until it’s about 2/3 full.
- Use your food coloring to dye 1 cup of water.
- Pour the dyed water into the water bottle slowly.
- Break 1 Alka Seltzer tablet in half and add each half to the bottle.
- Put the top back on and enjoy your new lava lamp!
Cardboard boxes can be used to create an environment for autistic children to escape from overstimulation. This allows the children to let their creativity flow as they draw on the walls and interior of their own enclosed space. The boxes serve as a safe hideaway, providing the children with a place to retreat for when external stimuli becomes too overwhelming.
Cardboard box ideas:
- Cardboard box castle (Draw bricks outside, add castle-like windows, and maybe even add a draw bridge!)
- Cardboard box house (Create windows, draw decorations, and draw tables inside.)
- Cardboard box hideout with sheet curtains for doors and windows.
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Thank you for taking the time to read this blog post! I hope you found it informative and helpful. If you have any questions or feedback, please feel free to leave a comment below. I appreciate your input and will do my best to respond to all comments. If you know someone who could benefit from this information, please share this post with them! 🙂