Easy Sensory Bags for Babies and Toddlers

sensory bags

I have been experimenting with sensory bags lately for my one-year-old and have been pleasantly surprised at how ridiculously EASY they are to make!

For a basic sensory bag, all you have to do is 1) open a plastic bag, 2) squeeze in some cheap hair gel and 3) drop some small items in the bag. That’s it! You can reinforce the zipper seal with some packing tape for added security. The dollar store will be your best friend for this project!

Here are a few ideas for sprucing up your sensory bag and making it even more fun for your little one. Do it yourself or have your little helper give you a hand!

Add a handful of beads.

sensory bag

sensory bag

Put seashells in blue gel for a look that will make you long for the Caribbean.

sensory bag

sensory bag

Mix some body wash with hair gel and throw in a dash of sparkles for some sudsy, sparkly fun. The more you squeeze it, the more bubbly it becomes.

sensory bag

sensory bag

Or see how your little one responds when you give them a sensory bag that glows! (Five-pack of glow sticks also found at the dollar store.)

sensory bag

sensory bag

These are just four quick, easy ways to expand your child’s sense of sight and touch in a fun, non-messy way…do you have any idea how fun it is to squeeze those squishy bags?!

Not only can sensory bags be fun for teeny tiny ones, they can also be helpful for older kids who are always wanting to touch EVERYTHING. Help them make their very own sensory bag and offer it to them when they feel like they need something for their hands. Be sure it’s sealed and reinforced, and provide appropriate supervision for their own safety. I’m thinking about using these sensory bags with some of my very own therapy kiddos. We’ll see how it goes!

If you’re as excited about these sensory bags as I am (and I hope you are!), then come back on Wednesday morning…I will be featuring a round-up of LOTS of different kinds of sensory bags from amazing bloggers around the world. If you haven’t already, be sure to subscribe to the blog so you don’t miss out on the fun!

{UPDATE: You can find my round-up of 40 fun sensory bags here…it’s been a big hit!}

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This post was shared on Tuesday Tots at Rainy Day Mum. Click the badge below for more fun kids’ activity ideas!

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Mama OTIn addition to being mama to two sweet little boys and wife to a crazy awesome husband, Christie is a Registered & Licensed Occupational Therapist (OTR/L). She holds a B.A. in Psychology with a Minor in Education from the University of California Los Angeles (UCLA...Go Bruins!), and an M.A. in Occupational Therapy from the University of Southern California (USC OT). She has experience working as a pediatric OT in early intervention (birth to 3), clinic-based, and school-based settings. Her mission with MamaOT.com is to encourage, educate, and empower those who care for children. Christie loves that she gets to PLAY when she goes to work, is hopelessly addicted to Kettle Corn, and is known for being able to turn virtually anything into a therapeutic tool or activity, from empty food containers to laundry and everything in between. Learn more about Christie and what inspired her to become an OT.

Occupational therapy (OT) is a holistic profession that helps people across the lifespan participate in the things they want and need to do through the therapeutic use of everyday activities, also known as “occupations”. Some OTs help people diagnosed with disability, injury, or disease. Others help prevent disability, injury, or disease. Because of occupational therapy, people of all ages are able to say, "I can!" no matter what their struggle. Isn't that amazing?!

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Please provide appropriate supervision to the child in your care when completing any activities from this site. You as the grown-up will need to decide what types of products/activities on this list will be safe for your child. If you’re not sure, check with your child’s occupational therapist or pediatrician. Appropriate and reasonable caution should be used when implementing any ideas or activities from this site, particularly if there is any risk of injury (e.g., falling, crashing), choking (e.g., small parts), drowning (e.g., water play), or allergic/adverse reaction (e.g., materials/ingredients). The author and blog disclaim liability for any damage, mishap, or injury that may occur from engaging in any activities or ideas from this site. 
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32 thoughts on “Easy Sensory Bags for Babies and Toddlers

  1. It looks cute but I have a student with Autism that would get the bags open even with the bag taped shut. Do you have any other ideas that could work?

    • I totally understand where you’re coming from, Tami. If giving the student a bag like this would be a hazard, then I’d definitely stay away from it and try other tactile/fidget items. If you wanted to try and modify a sensory bag, then what about using a thick freezer bag and then really reinforcing the edges and corners with tape…and then putting it inside one of those small mesh laundry bags that cinches shut? If that’s still not safe or effective, there are many tactile/fidget toys out there to satisfy that need for touch. A quick search on Amazon with the phrase “fidget toys” yielded a whole great list: http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss?url=search-alias%3Daps&field-keywords=fidget+toys Check it out!

      • I have made several of these bags, using the bags from my vacuum sealer. They are tough enough for tots to step on, & enjoy the feeling on their feet. I also bought a 5# tub of hair gel from the beauty supply store for under $10.

    • I made some using my vacuum sealer (Foodsaver type). My 18 month old was able to get the taped up zip-top bags open after about 15 minutes, but he hasn’t been able to damage the vacuum sealed ones yet and we’ve been using them for a few weeks. Just make sure you stop the vacuum function before any of the gel escapes the bag!

  2. I do these for my toddler class, but I use my foodsaver! Really tough bags, and if I want to change what’s in them, I just cut ’em open and reseal them after changing them.

  3. Is there anything that’s non-toxic to put in the bags other than hairgel? My child would be the one that decides to bite a hole in the bag before I got to her. What about mixing up water with corn starch on the stove and then letting it cool before placing it in the bag with the goodies? It might still be a little cloudy but it would be thicker than water..or plain gelatin? I love your ideas!!! Thanks!!!

    • Carlie, you ask a good question! My little one did end up biting a small hole in the corner of the bag and that’s why it’s SO important to closely supervise…I caught it right as it was happening and promptly removed it before he got gel on/in his mouth. You can reinforce all edges and corners of the bag with packing tape or colorful duct tape while also using a freezer bag (which tends to be thicker than regular sandwich bags)….but I LOVE your cornstarch/water idea! You wouldn’t even need to heat it up, you could just put the corn starch and a little bit of water in the bag, zip and tape it up, and then let your child be the one to mix it all up (or you could help out if you want). Jello would be a fun one too, hadn’t thought of that!

      I will be featuring a round-up of “40 different ways to play with sensory bags” tomorrow morning, so be sure to check back for more sensory bag ideas for your little one.

      • Clear glue would be nontoxic. Not something you still want them to eat but it won’t harm them if they do.

      • Yes, that’s a great idea. Check through the other comments on this post to find some other creative ideas for hair gel alternatives.

    • I have used just plain water in the bags, it works and kids love to hear the water make sounds. The infants love playing with the water bags and kicking them to hear the sounds and the feel when they hit the water too.

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  5. I work in an Infant Room and have made many sensory bags. I usually tape them to our light table. Right now we have a bag filled with fingerpaint gel and two colours of powdered tempra paint so after it get worked together they will get to experience that two colours make a new one but also experience the sensory side of it. We have put shaving cream inside of it, fingerpaint gel and sparkles, liquid dish soap, water and a little bit of soap to make the bubbles inside. Another thing about the sparkles is that they are made of metal so they do poke tiny holes in the plastic so you just have to be careful of that…did a little bit of patching with the tape on that one.

    • Ruth, what a fun job you have! Thank you for sharing your ideas about the light table, the mixture of materials you have used, and the info about the sparkles. You can find (and contribute) even more ideas on my sensory bag roundup post, which can be found here: http://mamaot.com/2012/09/25/40-fun-sensory-bags/ Hope you enjoy it, and I look forward to hearing about more ideas.

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  9. I work in a one year old room and we have been doing these bags for a long time. We use corn syrup in the bags. If they do poke a hole in the bag it just gets a little sticky then we clean it off and use some clear packing tape to seal it again. The kiddos really love the bags.

  10. I use empty water bottles and superglue the tops back on. They last forever and aren’t as easy to bite holes in. Favorites include: 1. filling the bottles as full as you can with shaving cream, then adding water a little at a time until the shaving cream is completely dissolved into the water, add food coloring and it makes the most awesome swirly mixture when they shake or roll them, 2. color a large amount of uncooked rice (rice, rubbing alcohol, food coloring in a large baggie, drain and dry) then add small items like toys, beads, things that would be too small for toddlers to play with but facinate them and then fill with the dried and dyed rice = discovery bottles, 3. get colored lamp oil from a craft store (I believe you can get red, blue and yellow oil) partially fill a water bottle with the colored oil then fill the rest with colored water. The two will stay separate from each other. If you add red oil with blue water and shake it, it will tempoararily mix to make purple, then separate again. Make ones for green (yellow oil and blue water), orange (red oil, yellow water), etc.
    4. Karo syrup (add food coloring to make it colorful) with various items added to it, glitter, marbles, etc. When the bottle is tipped they love to watch the items slide and slowly drop to the bottom. 5. You can print out pictures of family or class members, roll them slightly to get them into the bottle and use tweezers to unfurl if needed, then add popcorn kernels or rice, uncooked pasta, to fill the bottle. As the kiddos roll and tilt the bottles they will reveal pictures of people they know.

  11. I receive mail order medicine. Each month they are packed in a heavy duty zip lock bag. You might try asking parmacies if they have these items. Then decorative duct tape seals the bag for added interest. Thanks for wonderful ideas.

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  14. I didn’t read through every comment, so sorry if someone already mentioned this, but instead of the chemical hair gel, etc., how about making some plain gelatin (can make it clear or add food coloring) to put in the bags? That way if they tear a tiny hole, or big one for that matter, it’s not such a big deal if it gets in their eyes or mouth before you can catch them. Love the idea of making them yourself.

  15. great ideas will be putting this sensory bag to the test on tuesday when the kiddies come into care. I couldnt get into the light table activity.

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So, whadya think?