How To Make Your Own Sensory and Motor Activities For Toddlers

Homemade sensory and motor activities are brilliant for development, the family budget, for the environment and for the relationship between adults and children.

“There is nothing better than developing sensory and motor activities in an environment for young children, showing it to them, watching their faces and their discoveries, through sensing and manipulating it…”


“an adult needs to learn to collect, collect everyday for materials that can instigate sensory and motor activity – from nature, from the supermarket and hardware store, from what comes in the post…”(Barker, 2014).

Here is a collection of materials and ideas for sensory and motor activities to make at home or childcare:

water, sticks, bark, leaves, shells, shell grit, stones, feathers, seed pods, gum nuts, dirt, mud, snow, dried leaves, dried petals, ice, flour, corn flour, bi carbonate of soda, cream of tartar, vinegar, vegetable oil, food colouring, essences, polenta, icing sugar, coffee beans, egg shells, variety of pastas and beans, rice, oats, sunflower seeds, barley, buckwheat, lentils, rock salt, patty pans, straws, pots with lids that screw, pots without lids, funnels, a ladle, a masher, a tenderizer, a rolling pin, a garlic press, dough cutters, plastic knives, a muffin tin, metal trays, measuring cups, measuring spoons, a sieve or colander, beaters, sponges, baby shampoo and conditioner, isopropyl alcohol, shaving cream, Epsom salt, cotton wool or balls, cotton buds, foam pieces, packing foam, bubble wrap, cardboard pieces and rolls, old cards and calendars, magazines, cellophane, tinsel, lace, sandpaper of different grades, egg cartons, paper plates, paddle sticks, match sticks, glitter, pompoms, felt pieces, foam shapes, buttons, beads, plastic tubing, wool, ribbon, string, aquarium materials, fishing line, golf tees, pieces of balsa wood or thin wood, tacks, nuts and bolts, locks and keys, hooks and rings, washers, dowels, wood shavings.

A collection of realistic animals (farm, wild, ocean, bugs) and transport figures (land, sea and air) are a wonderful addition. Any of these should be realistic, for example, a lion should not be something from a cartoon or movie but a close depiction of what is seen in the wild.

Sensory troughs are amazing! They offer children both sensory and motor activity in one exercise. They also influence the attention and concentration span of children in a positive way. There are so many options from the materials above, that it’s a matter of exploration! It’s fun for adults as well as children!

Here are some examples, most of which are used with pots, ladles, funnels, measuring cups, measuring spoons or muffin tins. Animal and transport figures can be a welcome addition:

  1. a water play trough, with ladles and pots, shampoo for bubbles and sponges for squeezing; the water may be coloured with food dye
  2. coloured rice, pasta or navy beans with pots, spoons and a funnel
  3. oats, large or small beans, pasta, barley ,buckwheat, bird seed or sunflower seeds
  4. polenta or rock salt with pots, funnels, paint brushes and ladles
  5. a shaving cream trough
  6. a goop or finger paint trough
  7. a cloud or foam dough trough
  8. sand, mud or kinetic sand with spades, moulds and buckets
  9. rocks, pebbles, aquarium pebbles, shell grit in a tub – these can be used as a base for ‘animal habitats’ or to simply, fill and pour
  10. potpourri – rose petals are best
  11. water beads of single or mixed colours
  12. ice cubes or large ice cup moulds; these are wonderful coloured or with items frozen inside, use a small pick to remove the items as the ice melts
  13. gelatine moulds that are coloured or with items inside for the children to discover


Look out for 10 Great Recipes for Sensory Motor Play coming up on Mum Central. For more information and beautiful imagery consult the Parenting 5 Series.

This is an extract from the new book The Parenting 5 – Sensory Motor Play for Little People written by Ruth Barker of Toddler Education Services. This book is the second of The Parenting 5 series and follows the successful The Parenting 5 – Practical and Independent Little People that was released in October 2013.

For more information on Ruth Barker or to purchase a copy of either book for yourself visit: Both books are available in paperback or e book.

Avatar of Ruth Barker

Ruth Barker is a passionate advocate for early childhood development. After studying Child and Family Studies at University, Ruth went on to complete a Diploma of Montessori (Pre-school). She is a Director/Consultant/Author/Columnist and an Educator at her business Toddler Education Services Pty Ltd / Montessori 1:1

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