University of Edinburgh

Sensory Play and Learning

Presented on Friday, 11 March 2011

Low cost sensory ideas

Judy Denziloe

Shiny things

  • sheets of silvered foam, sold to fix behind radiators to reflect the heat into the room (DIY stores)
  • foil bags from wine boxes
  • pan scrubbers
  • stainless steel bowls (pet shops)
  • lengths of chain (DIY stores)
  • survival blanket (camping shops)
  • gold foil coffee bags
  • unbreakable Christmas baubles
  • small mirror balls for Christmas trees (hang out of reach)
  • remnants of lurex and sequinned fabrics
  • CD-Roms and DVDs
  • gold and silver pom-poms
  • tinsel tied up in a chiffon scarf
  • acrylic tubes filled with glitter and sequins (Tocki, Telephone 01430 410515)
  • unbreakable acrylic mirrors (


  • battery-powered Christmas tree lights
  • flashing red LED lights (cycle shops)
  • fibre optic torch and other light effects ( and
  • battery-powered push light (electrical departments)

Fluorescent materials

  • stickers, price lables (stationers)
  • fishing floats for night fishing (angling shops) - sew them in patterns onto black fabric
  • Hama neon craft beads (toy shops) - sew them in patterns onto pblack fabric; put some beads and oil or water in a sturdy plastic bottle
  • kite fabric - make streamer carousels and wind spirals
  • Slinkies (toy shops) - some colours are fluorescent
  • glow in the dark stars, marbles, string etc ( or toy shops)
  • Velcro pad from a Scatch game (toy shops)
  • gloves, socks etc - check they are fluorescent not just 'dayglo'
  • road safety bands, jackets etc (cycle shops)
  • UV-reactive nail varnish and hairspray (Claire's Accessories,


  • car cleaning mitts (car accessory shops)
  • massagers - plastic or wood (Boots, Body Shop)
  • loofahs and sponges (Boots)
  • body scrubs (Boots etc)
  • cat toys covered in rough sisal string (pet shops)
  • plastic rings and balls covered with 'prickles' (pet shops)
  • rubber gloves with various fillings - flour, sand, gravel, rice and knotted at the cuff
  • mix cornflour and water to make a thixotropic paste - acts like a solid or a liquid depending on how you use it
  • chop a bar of mild soap into small pieces and pour on boiling water; allow to cool and you will have a slimy, stringy experience


  • electronic farm animal sounds - set of 5 (
  • animal noises - turn the cylinder over and back again to hear the cow, sheep, cat or bird - stick the cylinder in the bottom of a pringle tube and cover the outside with appropriate fabric
  • balls with sounds (toy shops,


  • Make a lightweight rattle using a Brabantia whisk with two brightly coloured table tennis balls inside the globe.
  • Make a streamer toy by attaching strips of brightly coloured kite fabric or ribbons to a black plastic whisk. Use fluorescent kite fabric for use with ultraviolet light.
  • Weave lengths of liealite tubing (from suppliers of multisensory equipment) in and out of a black plastic whisk and use under UV.

Pencil cases

Many stationers sell novelty pencil cases very cheaply, so you can make a set of sensory shapes to explore. If necessary, sew a few stitches across the zip, to prevent inquisitive fingers getting at the contents. Here are some ideas we have made:

  • red furry case with a flat sheet of survival blanket
  • orange furry case containing a rattle
  • green 'artificial grass' case with a bell in a film canister
  • black and white case with a flat sheet of bubble plastic to which flat squeakers have been taped
  • pink (fluorescent) case containing a CD plastic case filled with lentils (PVC tape round the plastic case to secure the contents)
  • black and white whale with a noise maker
  • black and white cylindrical case containing a baby's plastic feeding bottle with beads
  • animal pencil cases (cat, dog, leopard etc) stuffed with polyester toy stuffing and the appropriate animal sound.

Judy Denziloe