20+ Great Sensory-Friendly Activities for Children With Autism


Disclaimer: Hey there! Just a heads up that some of the links on my blog are Amazon affiliate links, which means I earn a commission if you make a purchase through my links at no additional cost to you. Not only do these purchases help support my blog, but they also allow me to continue sharing the best products and services that I've personally used and loved. Thank you for your support!

The information presented on aprilnarducci.com is intended exclusively for educational purposes and should not be construed as a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. It is highly recommended that individuals with any health concerns or questions seek the guidance of a qualified health expert or physician.

Introduction

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.

Sponsored Link
20+ Great Sensory-Friendly Activities for Children With Autism, Sensory Bins
20+ Great Sensory-Friendly Activities for Children With Autism – Sensory Bins

Sensory Bins

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.)
20+ Great Sensory-Friendly Activities for Children With Autism, Sand Play
20+ Great Sensory-Friendly Activities for Children With Autism, Sand Play

Sand Play

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:


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!)
20+ Great Sensory-Friendly Activities for Children With Autism, Play Dough
20+ Great Sensory-Friendly Activities for Children With Autism, Play Dough

Play Dough

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:

Things to do with Playdough:

20+ Great Sensory-Friendly Activities for Children With Autism, Slime Time
20+ Great Sensory-Friendly Activities for Children With Autism, Slime Time

Slime

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:

20+ Great Sensory-Friendly Activities for Children With Autism, Rocks
20+ Great Sensory-Friendly Activities for Children With Autism, Rocks

Rocks

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!

Rock Activities:

  • 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:

20+ Great Sensory-Friendly Activities for Children With Autism, Bubbles
20+ Great Sensory-Friendly Activities for Children With Autism, Bubbles

Bubbles

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:

20+ Great Sensory-Friendly Activities for Children With Autism, Water
20+ Great Sensory-Friendly Activities for Children With Autism, Water

Water

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
  • Water
  • 1 Alka Seltzer Tablet

Instructions

  1. Fill your water bottle with cooking oil until it’s about 2/3 full.
  2. Use your food coloring to dye 1 cup of water.
  3. Pour the dyed water into the water bottle slowly.
  4. Break 1 Alka Seltzer tablet in half and add each half to the bottle.
  5. Put the top back on and enjoy your new lava lamp!
20+ Great Sensory-Friendly Activities for Children With Autism, Cardboard Boxes
20+ Great Sensory-Friendly Activities for Children With Autism, Cardboard Boxes

Cardboard Boxes

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.

You might also be interested in this post:

7 Best Sensory-Friendly Adaptive Clothing Brands for Anyone with Autism
7 Best Sensory-Friendly Adaptive Clothing Brands for Anyone with Autism

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! 🙂

Pin it to save for later!


Meet the Author

April shares autism parenting resources, plant-based living guides, and business tools! Learn more about April, and why she decided to start this blog.


Subscribe!

Join my email list for updates: guides for parents of autistic children, plant-based recipes, and business tools.

*

Understanding Autism

Diagnosing autism in children and adults
Understanding Autism: What Is It?
sensory processing and autism
AngelSense GPS Tracker for Special Needs Children

Leave a Comment