How to Create Sensory Based Arts and Crafts

Just like toddlers, preschoolers learn by experiencing life hands on. If they unroll the toilet paper, they learn that it can go on and on seemingly forever — much like Mommy’s lecturing when she discovers that there is not a single square left in the bathroom. Capitalize on your child’s desire to touch, feel and smell everything. Sensory-based arts and crafts will not only help your child gain a grasp of his five senses, it also helps give him a focus — a mind-body connection — to what he’s doing. This might explain why this age group is so fond of finger painting. Here are some much less messy sensory alternatives to try.


Take the empty toilet roll in the bathroom and put it to use as a kaleidoscope.  Tape black construction paper over one end of the roll and poke a hole in the center. This will be the viewing hole. You will need a sheet of aluminum foil the same length of the roll and wide enough that you can fold it to look like a long triangle. Tape the long foil triangle together and slip it into the empty roll. Take some plastic wrap and cover the open end, then push on the center of the plastic until it resembles a bowl hovering over the middle of the aluminum triangle.  Let your artist put little sequins, shakes of glitter, and buttons into the makeshift bowl.  Finally, place a circle of waxed paper tightly over the plastic side to hold the treasures in. A rubber band should keep the end in place. Let her eyes fill with wonder as she looks through the viewer while spinning it around. If you don’t have these supplies on hand, find another empty toilet roll and some tape to make homemade binoculars.

Smelling and Tasting

Buy or pick some flowers with your child and and teach her how to dry the petals. Make little sachet packets from the dried petals to put in her sock drawer or to give as gifts. Find some scented oils, and in the final process of making homemade play dough, let your child drip a different scent into each color. Some scented art can also be used to connect smell to taste. Purchase a fruit-flavored cereal and some cocoa cereal. Let your preschooler smash the colors separately in zip-top baggies. Use a clear jar and make layers of the colors to resemble sand art. During the art lesson, let him smell each color, and if he likes, let him taste!  Gelatin dessert packages can be opened and with a little added water make excellent watercolor paints. Except, that for this paint, it will be fun to smell and taste the paint!


Depending on what kind of day you’re having, you may want earplugs or headphones available for this activity. Let your preschooler scavenge your pantry for items that might make noise. Beans, rice, metal jar lids, pasta shells, and certain types of candy (hide the chocolate) are all usable selections. Let the musician place his items in a paper cup or on a paper plate. When he’s done arranging, staple a matching plate or cup to the first to make a tambourine or maracas. Turn a paper towel into a kazoo by cutting one hole about an inch from the end and covering the hole with some waxed paper. Keep the paper in place with a rubber band and let your child hum into it.


Use the homemade play dough from your scent craft to make shapes and animals. Look through your sock stash and outgrown clothes to make sock puppets. Cut up pieces of fabric and paper of different textures such as sandpaper, satin wrapping paper and accordion scrapbook paper. Let your artist make a collage with all the different pictures and ask her to try to describe what she is feeling.

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