Sensory play helps strengthen the brain’s neural pathways, and by stimulating the senses through various sensory activities, we can help develop our children’s creativity while also encouraging social, emotional, cognitive, physical, and linguistic development.
Children on the autism spectrum, however, often have difficulty with everyday sensory stimulation, and this inability to cope with the world around them can make day-to-day experiences feel overwhelming and make it difficult for them to learn and carry out basic daily functions.
Fortunately, there are many sensory activities for kids with autism that can help change the way the brain reacts to touch, sound, sight, and movement. Engaging in sensory play offers a fun way for kids on the autism spectrum to stimulate their brains so they can become better learners, benefit from a longer attention span, and learn how to communicate with their peers.
What are sensory activities?
Simply put, sensory activities are those that stimulate the 5 senses – touch, smell, sight, taste, and sound – as well as the vestibular (responsible for our sense of balance) and proprioceptive (keeps track of and controls the different parts of our bodies) systems.
Sensory activities can benefit all children, but are of particular help to those on the autism spectrum.
What are the benefits of sensory activities for kids with autism?
Sensory play offers a natural (and fun) way for kids to discover, examine, and understand their world, which in turn helps develop their:
- Language skills. Engaging in pretend play helps develop a child’s language skills by increasing their vocabulary as they discuss their experiences.
- Fine motor skills. Manipulating small objects not only aids in hand-eye coordination, but it also helps strengthen the muscles in a child’s hands and wrists, which in turn helps develop their fine motor skills.
- Gross motor skills. Encouraging kids to practice their running, jumping, and throwing skills through pretend sensory play is an excellent way to develop their gross motor skills by strengthening their large muscles through fun body movements.
- Social skills. Engaging in pretend play with peers doesn’t just build little imaginations. It also teaches important skills like sharing and taking turns!
- Self-control. Sensory play helps develop a child’s ability to respond appropriately to sensory stimulation, which helps enhance their self-control and self-regulation.
Sensory activities can also be very calming, which can be particularly helpful to kids on the autism spectrum.
101 sensory activities for kids with autism
Whether you’re looking for sensory activities for babies, toddlers, preschoolers, kindergarteners, or school-aged kids, we’ve got you covered. We’ve collected 101 sensory activities for kids with autism to help stimulate their senses, develop their social, language, fine and gross motor, and self-control skills, increase their attention spans, and help them learn.
Tide Pool Science Experiment | Buggy and Buddy
Frozen Oobleck Sensory Play | Learning and Exploring Through Play
Edible Sludge Sensory Play | And Next Comes L
Cocoa Slime | 3 Boys and a Dog
Plastic Kite Bags | Munchkins and Moms
Messy Boats Sensory Bin | Busy Toddler
Muddy Trucks Car Wash | Busy Toddler
Jello Party | Busy Toddler
Shaving Cream and Sand Sensory Play | There’s Just One Mommy
Mud Kitchen Tuff Spot | Clare’s Little Tots
Edible Sensory Play Balls | Kids Craft Room
Taste-Safe Sensory Rainbow | Powerful Mothering
Cranberry Sauce Sensory Tub | I Can Teach My Child!
Outdoor Window Painting | Simple Fun for Kids
Summer Sensory Play | Mama Smiles
Engineering with Mud Bricks | Munchkins and Moms
Outdoor Tea Party | Practical Mommy
DIY Mud Kitchen | Learning and Exploring Through Play
Frozen Sensory Play with Shaving Cream and Ice | There’s Just One Mommy
Sensory Play: Rainbow Cream Pie | There’s Just One Mommy
Sand and Water Ocean Sensory Bin | Mom Inspired Life
Pudding Painting | Busy Toddler
Frozen Water Beads | Busy Toddler
Sticky Shaving Cream Sensory Play | Fantastic Fun and Learning
Shaving Cream Rainbow Messy Sensory Play | And Next Comes L
Painting with Sandals | Munchkins and Moms
Water Pistol Painting | Messy Little Monsters
Chalk Paint | Simple Fun for Kids
Painting Ice Activity for Toddlers | Mommy’s Bundle
Natural Finger Painting with Blackberries | Kori at home
Edible Rainbow Sensory Bin | Sugar Spice and Glitter
DIY Scented Sidewalk Chalk | Parenting Chaos
Splatter Paint Tape Resist | Buggy and Buddy
Cotton Rounds Splatter Paint | A Crafty LIVing
Graffiti Art for Kids | Playground Parkbench
DIY Chalk Paint | Busy Toddler
Homemade Finger Paint Recipe | Powerful Mothering
Rainbow Pebbles for Letter | Apple Green Cottage
Invitation to Paint Cardboard Box Castles | Playground Parkbench
Painting with Rocks | Fantastic Fun and Learning
Spring Flower Sensory Bottle | Kids Craft Room
Painting with Cars | Munchkins and Moms
Jackson Pollock Preschool Art | Learning and Exploring Through Play
Washable Painting on a Shower Curtain | Mom Inspired Life
Fly Swatter Painting | Munchkins and Moms
DIY Sidewalk Foam Paint | The Tip Toe Fairy
Collect and Paint Rocks | Rhythms of Play
Colorful Melting Ice | Bambini Travel
Ice Bath Fun | Busy Toddler
Car Wash Sensory | My Mundane and Miraculous Life
Eyeball Sensory Bin | The Chaos and the Clutter
Guttering Painting | Adventures of Adam
Baby Doll Body Painting | A Crafty LIVing
Pouring Station | Busy Toddler
Colorful Ice Boats | Busy Toddlers
Transporting Water Play | Adventures of Adam
Making Ice Cube Necklaces | Little Worlds Big Adventures
DIY Homemade Water Wall | Little Bins for Little Hands
Ice Train Play | Play Trains
Sparkly Scented Play Dough | Aileen Cooks
Toy Surfboard Craft for Kids | Play Trains
Washing a Tricycle | Uno Zwei Tutu
Easy to Make Water Bombs | Adventures of Adam
Grab and Pull a Letter Load | Growing Book by Book
Nature Cutting Tray | Munchkins and Moms
Racing Cars with a Gutter | Teaching Mama
DIY Cardboard Car Wash | Non Toy Gifts
Make a Bubble Snake Blower | Messy Little Monsters
Sensory Exploration with Tapioca | Learners in Bloom
Painting with Cars | Aileen Cooks
Summer Lego Ice Rescue | Crafty Kids at Home
Giant Bubbles Recipe | Learning and Exploring Through Play
Hammering Tees into Watermelons | Mom Inspired Life
Rainbow Gelatin Sensory Play | No Time for Flashcards
Colored Ice in the Play Pool | Learn ~ Play ~ Imagine
Making Ice Cream in a Bag | Busy Toddler
Nature Paint Brushes | Messy Little Monsters
Rainbow Oobleck | Busy Toddler
July 4th Sensory Play with Ice | Playground Parkbench
Monster Sensory Bottle | The Chaos and the Clutter
Color Tubs Water Play for Toddlers | Twodaloo
Ice and Goop Sensory Play | Creative Playhouse
Taste-Safe Moon Sand | Powerful Mothering
Shredded Paper Sensory Tub | I Can Teach My Child!
Ocean Small World Play | Rainy Day Mum (just be sure to add large enough objects that they won’t be a choking hazard for toddlers)
Cornflake Sensory Tub | Toddler Approved
Water Bottle Fun | The Tip Toe Fairy
Dirt Box (a sandbox alternative) | Busy Toddler
Treasure Hunt Sensory Tub | I Can Teach My Child!
Monster Sensory Bin | The Chaos and the Clutter
Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs Sensory Tub | I Can Teach My Child!
Oobleck Sensory Activity | Life Over C’s
Cheerios Sensory Tub | Home Grown Families
Colored Water Transfer Play | Hands On: As We Grow
Toddler-Safe Cloud Dough | Happy Hooligans via Kids Activities Blog
Leaf Sensory Bags | Kids Craft Room
Summer Sensory Bin | The Chaos and the Clutter
Construction Sensory Bins | The Chaos and the Clutter
Rainbow Oats Sensory Tub | And Next Comes L
Shredded Coconut Sensory Tub | And Next Comes L
Being the parent or caregiver of a child with special needs isn’t easy, especially when everyday situations cause feelings of anxiety and overwhelm that interfere with daily functioning, and while this collection of sensory activities for kids with autism won’t eliminate these challenges, our hope is that they will help stimulate your child’s senses, develop their social, language, fine and gross motor, and self-control skills, increase their attention spans, and help them learn.
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