Sensory boxes are a fantastic addition to any preschool setting.
They provide opportunity for movement, sensory play, fine motor skills, cooperation, turn taking, imagination and more.
You can put almost anything (once it is child friendly and safe) into your sensory box - the list is endless, but I know how a little bit of inspiration goes a long way when you are busy in your day to day work so I’ve put together a list to inspire and help you begin.
You can make your sensory boxes to a certain theme depending on the time of the year/season/current interests of the children or you can make them up randomly and add new textures and variety every month
You can create wet or dry boxes depending on the amount of mess you can handle or the time of year etc - wet sensory boxes are great to put on a tiled area or in the garden in warmer months
First you will need a box!
The best box to use is a large, fairly shallow (about 7 - 10 inches deep) plastic box. You can buy large rectangular storage boxes which are ideal.
Don’t have your box too deep as it will inhibit play and the children will get tired leaning in. The larger your box the better as it gives scope for play without the children needing to extend their play onto the surrounding floor or table too much.
If your sensory box is intended for one child to play with at a time then the dimensions can be smaller.
The best place to put the box is on a child height table - this allows for complete freedom of movement, the children can comfortably stand and play and move around the box without leaning or kneeling or sitting.
If you want to limit clean up time you can spread a large plastic or fabric sheet under the area where the children are playing, this can then be gathered up once they are finished and all the items which have fallen out can be poured back into the box.
Alternatively you can leave some small dust pan and brush sets close by for the children to use to clean up as they go.
dry leaves, twigs, brown wooden curtain rings, acorns, chestnuts, orange lentils, black glitter, dry beans, seeds (check for allergies) pine cones, small pieces of fabric in a variety of textures in autumn colours - brown, gold, orange, yellow etc, small forest animals, scoops, cups, spoons,
White pom poms, dry pudding rice, dry white beans (black eye beans, butter beans) white fabric, polar bears, white dry pasta shapes, bubble wrap, white curtain rings, white socks filled with rice or couscous and tied closed, silver glitter, scoops, cups and utensils
pale green leaves (you can buy fake flowers in a discount shop and cut the leaves off), yellow ribbon, poms poms in pale yellow, pale pink pale green etc, green pasta, baby animals, small plastic or glass hearts, polystyrene eggs, plastic egg shapes, egg boxes - cardboard or plastic, gold glitter,
Sand or dry couscous, pasta shells, bright yellow and blue pom poms, pasta bows, small dry flowers, very small watering cans, small tin buckets, very small spades (you can buy miniature ones similar to ice cream spoons), sea sponges, shells, sieves, shiny blue paper or foil strips, yellow circles of funky foam, pebbles
Other theme ideas
Aliens and space
Colours - make all your objects one colour with a variety of tones
Baking - add cupcake holders, scoops, mini weighing scales, sprinkles etc
Shapes - try and have everything a similar shape - circular/oval/round
Dry box ideas
pasta cotton wool
peas bubble wrap
couscous pom poms
rice fake fabric/silk flowers
coloured rice (recipe below) polystyrene shapes
pudding rice shredded paper
spaghetti funky foam
oats popcorn kernels
seeds bark chip
Wet box ideas
Shaving foam bubbles
water food colouring
slime cooked rice
flour and water
corn flour and water
baby oil and water
cooked pasta or spaghetti
jelly - made up according to the packet
You can add dry items and let the children see and feel what happens as they gradually wetter - things like pasta and rice will change texture, some things will float. some will sink, some will soak up lots of liquid, some won’t, some items (fabric etc) change colour, sponges are a great addition
IMPORTANT: you will need to keep a closer eye on your wet box more than on a dry one as there is tendency towards more mess, foodstuffs need to be monitored for hygiene and freshness and children must wash their hands after play.
Clothes pegs Feathers
toy cars Wiggly eyes
small figures - people and animals Pebbles
pool noodles cut into small pieces Small rocks
nuts and bolts Pipe cleaners
cardboard tubes Cookie cutters
cardboard Small diggers
egg boxes Dump trucks
curtain rings Twigs
plastic cutlery Dry leaves
real cutlery Craft matchsticks
ice cream scoops Lollipop sticks
cups Ice cube trays
funnels of varying sizes
tweezers of varying sizes
Sense of smell
Sprinkle scented essential oils onto bits of fabric or cotton wool to place in your box:
Some work better than others so experiment
You can also add natural items which will add scent:
orange/lemon/lime peel give a lovely fresh scent
Cinnamon/five spice/clove/ in small amounts - add it to a sock filled with cotton wool and tied closed
Scented talcum powder - again be careful the children can’t inhale it - add to a tied up sock with some flour or wadding
Coffee - whole fresh beans if possible
Earl grey tea bags