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150 EYFS & SEN Sensory Learning Ideas

Free, Simple Sensory Activities For EYFS or SEN

There are many options for embedding effective sensory learning curriculums for children who cannot access worksheets and online teaching resources. Sensory learners need sensory learning ideas. Preferably simple and free ones. This list of 150 (ish) ideas should give you some ideas to try at home, EYFS settings and in classrooms. You may also like our post on Scavenger hunts for children at home.

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free creative sensory learning play ideas

Frequently Asked Questions about Sensory Learning

Before we look at the ideas here are 10 FAQs about educational sensory learning:

  1. What is sensory learning?
    Sensory learning involves using the five senses – sight, sound, smell, touch and taste – to engage students in the learning process. When multiple senses are stimulated during hands-on activities, it can enhance memory, and focus and help children understand concepts.
  2. How does it benefit students?
    Sensory learning activities have been shown to boost brain development and skill retention. Multi-sensory input allows students to make real-world connections and learn in their preferred modalities. Research also links sensory activities to improved behaviour, focus and academic achievement.
  3. What types of sensory activities are most effective?
    Activities involving movement and tactile experiences tend to be most engaging. Things like outdoor exploration, playdough, sand or water play activate vestibular and proprioceptive senses for better attention. Multi-step sensory bins require problem-solving, numbering and literacy skills.
  4. How can it be used across subjects?
    Sensory maths uses objects like paint, rice or play money to learn addition/subtraction. For science, students can touch/observe real plants/animals. Sand trays bring stories and history to life. Music encourages creativity and language development. Cooking integrates reading/following directions and collecting data.
  5. How do I get started with sensory activities?
    Begin by only selecting 1-2 activities related to your lesson to keep focus. Introduce materials one at a time. Model expected behaviours. Give concrete directions and don’t expect too much at first. Remember to make activities open-ended for various engagement levels. Start simply and expand options over time. Do not worry about having your activities look instagram-worthy.
  6. Are there safety considerations?
    Yes, supervise all activities closely at first. Avoid anything with small parts for choking hazards. Be conscious of allergies/sensitivities. Wash hands after messy play. Sanitise materials and organise areas to be clutter-free. Be inclusive of sensory needs and don’t force participation.
  7. How can I fit it into a busy schedule?
    Incorporate movement into transitions whenever possible. Use sensory activities at centres during work time. Replace less engaging tasks with sensory options. Sensory stations outside of lessons can stimulate development too. Just 5-10 minutes regularly makes a difference without disrupting routines. Finger Gym can be a brilliant filler activity and sometimes you need hands-on activities that calm the class.
  8. How do I ensure focus on learning?
    Explain how sensory activities connect to subject learning. Have students discuss the purpose and identify targets. Guide participation toward goals using specific questions/feedback. Rather than rewards, praise effort/progress in skill-building. Observe for understanding before/after doing a hands-on task.
  9. How can parents support at home?
    Suggest carrying over learning from activities by discussing takeaways from school. Recommend using common household items for sensory experiences related to current topics. Share activity ideas through newsletters and encourage caregivers to participate in school events promoting the approach.
  10. What research supports the approach?
    Studies have found that sensory-rich classrooms see increased engagement, self-regulation, literacy/numeracy skills and focus. The neural mechanisms behind multisensory learning are well-documented too (Shams & Seitz, 2008).

Proprioceptive Sensory Learning Activities

Balance walk along masking tape on the floor:

  • Straight
  • Zig Zigs

Tight hugs administered by a trusted adult.

Sensory Circuit Activities:

  • Wall pushes
  • Burpees
  • Push ups
  • Hand Squeezes
  • Superhero poses
  • Animal Walk – Based on our sensory trail
  • Bear stretch
  • Owl Swoop

Follow the light/Follow the sound – The child’s whole head/body follows the movement of a torch

Vestibular Sensory Learning Activities

Imitate head positions

Sway in time with chill out music

Back and forth rowing

Spinning (10 seconds in each direction)

Skipping

Activate

Jumping Jacks

Arm Spins

Musical statues

Hopscotch

Scooter rides

Cone spinner

Trampette

Auditory Sensory Learning Activities

Guess the sounds:

(you can link this to a “What’s in the bag” game)

Make a rain tube

Bottle blowing

Guess the song intro – Use favourite cartoon theme tunes. A CBeebies video playlist here.

Follow a drum beat – use biscuit tin or saucepan with wooden spoon

Follow a clap pattern

Discrimination Sound Game make a sound and see if the child can work out if it is:

  • Near or Far
  • Soft or Loud
  • High or Low

Visual Sensory Learning Activities

Drop & watch bouncy balls

Colour mixing

Washing up liquid and food colouring experiment

Light in a tupperware container sensory learning idea.
Light in a tupperware container sensory learning idea.

Torch/Light Activities:

  • Shadow Puppet Play
  • Make numbers with your fingers
  • Guess animals from silhouette
  • Tray and guess shapes from silhouette
  • Guess book characters from silhouette (Gruffalo etc)
  • Put into tupperware and retrieve/Watch
  • Create a light table.
Create a home made light table free sensory home learning

Find items of interest in a picture/Find self in pictures

Sensory bottles

Sort boxes shape/size

Pile and knock down boxes/tower building

Pull colourful fabric slowly from a bag

Taste and Mouth Sensory Learning Activities

Blowing:

  • Bubbles
  • Boats with straws
  • Cotton Balls
  • Maltesers
  • Paint
  • Feathers
  • Ball Maze
  • Whistles
  • Sequins
  • Glitter
  • Confetti

Food Fun:

This can help with limited diets and support food chaining.

  • Crunchy/Chewy Items – Alternate
  • Smooth, rough foods (smooth and crunchy peanut butter)
  • Milkshakes
  • Frozen Fruits
  • Drink through a straw
  • Cut vegetables into strips
  • Smoothies – blend and taste
  • Ask questions like, “Which food here tastes salty? Which ones are sweet?
  • Colour cubes (cut food into cubes and sort by colour i.e cucumbers, apples.)
  • Mashing foods, ripe pears, potatoes, grapes
Making milkshakes accessible sensory play

Tactile Sensory Learning Activities

This can include essential hygiene routines such as hand washing etc. Here are more tactile sensory learning ideas that use your outdoor areas.

Sensory Ball Games:

  • Squeeze
  • Throw/roll into bucket
  • Different textured balls – Wrap in paper, cling film, tin foil
  • Roll from head to toe and back
  • Bounce
  • Roll in playdough to make patterns
  • Splat into paint and roll/throw onto paper

Touch and Texture Sensory Learning Ideas

Put objects in a box and feel/guess

Sandpaper shape cut-outs

Tearing paper (either to glue onto something or just to tear up)

Crumpling newspaper

Sponges- Get out bowls and a sponge to transfer water from one bowl to the other.

Play-dough

Bubble wrap popping

Tin foil sculpting or squishing

Salt painting

Shaving foam art

Sand art – glue and sand and glitter

Fizzy water play (bath bombs)

Water play – using bottles, sprays and tubes.

Stress balls

Goop/slime manipulation

Earth, sand and water trays – Classic “We’re going on a bear hunt” sensory activity

Hay play – hide items in hay or straw (allergies allowing)

Slime and goop sensory home learning play free

Fine Motor Sensory Learning Activities

AAC games – Especially Shark Bite!

Use rubber gloves to make dots

Cotton buds to make dots

Use a stick to trace letters/mark making

Cutting with scissors paper, straws

Ten Tweezer games

Ice Excavations (freeze objects in ice)

Retrieve items from shaving foam

Hole punch coloured paper then use to blow/for art

Trace numbers in sand

Use a pipette to drop liquid watercolours/food colouring onto toilet paper

Clothespin Number Match

Use clothes pegs and sort by colour to a “line” of wool

Core Strength Activities

Circuit Training

  • Sit ups
  • squats
  • crunches
  • Bicycle kicks
  • Plank
  • Stand on one leg
  • Hop, skip, jump

Cosmic yoga

Body Awareness Sensory Activities

Sensory Ball throw/roll

Which hand is hiding the object?

Obstacle Course

Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes

Self-Regulation Sensory Ideas For Anxious Children

Breathing activities for anxiety. Find other self-regulation home learning ideas here.

  • Blow out the candle
  • Blow the windmill
  • Smelling a flower
  • Open a window
  • What can you smell game
  • Blow up a balloon

Make faces in the mirror

  • Monkey
  • Monster
  • Martian
  • Tense all face muscles
  • Relax all face muscles

Count backwards

Count to 5 with a deep breath

Put beans/dried peas/rice in a balloon

Fiddle toys

Follow simple lego instructions

Make a Calm Down Jar

Create a Daisy chain or flower Bouquet

Blow up balloons

Guess the smell:

  • Spices (mix with water to avoid sneezing)
  • Fruit
  • Vegetables

Scavenger Hunts

garden scavenger hunt sensory play learning activities eyfs SEND

A sensory garden is great for embedding sensory learning ideas. The suggestions below should be findable in any garden.

Garden:

  • Snails
  • Grass
  • Leaves
  • Long Stick
  • Short Stick
  • Thick Stick
  • Thin Stick
  • Shiny Stone
  • A flower

Kitchen:

  • Big Spoon
  • Little spoon
  • Fork
  • A frying pan
  • A saucepan
150 Sensory Learning Activities for EYFS

References and Further Reading About Sensory Learning

Shams, L., & Seitz, A. R. (2008). Benefits of multisensory learningTrends in cognitive sciences12(11), 411–417. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.tics.2008.07.006

We would love to hear your suggestions for simple free sensory learning ideas and activities that you have used. If you have a site that has a demo or resources linked to these ideas let me know and I will add a link to it.

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