Thursday, November 10, 2011

Sensory Play - The Cheap Way

As a teacher in my pre-mommy life, I became an expert out of making a lot out of a little.  With budget cuts and oversized classrooms, it became a challenge to do everything I wanted to do in the classroom without dipping too far into my personal bank account.  Like most teachers, I became a hoarder of things that, "Hmmmm, that looks interesting, I think I could find a way to use that later".  And you know what, I always did!  When free and super inexpensive things came along, you took them first and thought about how you'd use them later.
Now that I'm a full time mom, I still have that "teacher-hoarder" in me and honestly, I'm not ashamed to admit it!  I am starting to do a lot more sensory play with my 17 month old and I'm really working hard to keep everything cheap, cheap, cheap.  One way I do that is by shopping at my local Creative Reuse Depot.  Essentially, it's a store that has a bunch of leftovers, scraps, misprints, bits and pieces, and anything else that might otherwise be considered trash, but not to this frugal mom!  Here's what I bought on my last shopping trip where I spent a total of $9.50:

Most people might look at this and see trash, but I see sensory gold!  Old pill containers? Poke holes in the top, stick smelly things inside for a smelly fun experience.  Protein powder scoops? Scoopers for rice and water buckets.  Green and black tubes?  Screw to a piece of plywood and you have a fun water tube board.  Balloons ($0.02 a piece, by the way!)?  Fill with different liquids and foods and you have a touchy-feely texture experience.  Carpet and tile samples?  Well, those are just fun for a 17 month old to feel.   I haven't decided how I'm going to use the shower rod rings yet, but I'm thinking!

The best part about sensory play is that most people already have the items they need at home.  I went out and bought these items, but I bet most people would already have many of them.  All you have to do is spend a little time collecting.  My family members are starting to get in on the program, too.  When they go to throw something out, they'll usually come up to me first and ask, "Can you use this?"  (I'll usually say yes, even if I haven't really thought of a way to use it, because I know I will later!)

Are you interested in doing sensory play, the cheap way, too?  Here's a list of items that you might think twice about throwing away next time (or course, make sure you clean everything really well):
  • Styrofoam trays (the kind with meat on them) - great to hold paint
  • glass jars (like from applesauce, olives, etc.)
  • plastic bottles
  • old face makeup compacts with mirrors
  • old blush brushes
  • empty diaper boxes
  • tin cans
  • toilet paper and paper towel rolls
  • plastic lidded lunch meat containers
  • extra buttons that come with new clothes
  • the baggies that those extra buttons come in
  • egg cartons
  • old magazines
  • wine bottle corks
  • yogurt/sour cream containers
  • empty cleaning product spray bottles
  • empty vitamin bottles
  • empty oatmeal canister
  • paint chip samples (free from hardware store)
  • infant Tylenol/ibuprofen bottles with eyedroppers
  • plastic diaper wipe containers with snap shut lid
  • I'll expand this list as I think of more....If you have any ideas, leave a comment and I'll add it! :)

Trolling the Internet and some of my favorite blogs, I've found some great ideas to do sensory play REALLY inexpensively, using things you probably already have at home.  Click on the picture captions to take you to the original blog, post, or site!

Homemade Lightbox 
Smelling Cards
Tin Can Xylophone
Homemade Playdough

Clean Mud

Water Balloon Bathtime

Cave of Stars
If you find any other great, cheap sensory ideas, let me know!  And I'll be sure to add to this list as I find more ideas.  Have a sensorific day!


  1. I love this! and I love your blog so far. I never thought about entertaining a child in this way. cool!

  2. @Cassandra - Thanks! I can't take too much credit because I get most of my ideas from other blogs/people, too! :)