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  • Writer's pictureGennie Gorback

Need a Sensory Activity? Check Your Pantry!

It’s 4pm and your toddler or preschooler is done napping and ready for an activity. You consider turning on the tv, but it is a beautiful day outside and the bright shining sun is inviting you to play outside. You need an activity and fast! You know your child loves sensory activities, but you don’t have anything on hand to create an activity! My tip: Go into your pantry!! You have so many wonderful fun learning activities just sitting in your kitchen and pantry, waiting for you to allow your kid to play with them!

Here are a few ideas to get you started on planning pantry sensory activities:

Containers + Water + Food Coloring!

Containers + Water + Food Coloring

Did you know that just a few drops of food coloring in a container of water won’t stain your child’s hands or clothes? An easy invitation to play is to fill various containers with water and a few drops of food coloring. Allow your child to pour and mix as much as they want!

Cornstarch + Water = Oobleck


You may remember oobleck from your own childhood! Mix 1 part water with 2 parts cornstarch (I like to do 1 cup water mixed with 2 cups cornstarch) and you’ll get a gooey, messy, drippy material that your child will love to squish! You can add food coloring, too! Oobleck is particularly interesting because if you hold it in your palm, it drips like a liquid but if you squeeze it, it feels firm like a solid!

Metamucil + Water = Goo

Metamucil Goo!

This one is a little “out of the box” but Metamucil and water can make such a fun goo for sensory play! This can get expensive, so only do it if you no longer need the metamucil or if it is expired so you’re not wasting anything. Add water to metamucil until you reach an interesting consistency. Provide scoopers and toysThe metamucil we used had a fun orange color and smelled like citrus! We did this activity in October and used some Halloween themed toys I had from our last trip to the Dollar Store.

Messy Fun!

A sensory activity is typically anything that a child can touch, feel, move, pour or transfer. In our home, we call sensory activities, “Messy Fun.” Children love sensory activities because they engage many senses (touch, sight, sound, smell, and sometimes taste!) Engaging the senses in this way helps build your child’s brain and strengthen their synapses! This is true learning through play!

Supplies for Sensory Play

Using Household Items in Sensory Play!

Don’t buy anything! You have anything you need already in your home!


  • Measuring cups

  • Empty (cleaned) spice containers

  • Various jars

  • Sand toys

  • Animal toys

  • Plastic serving ware

  • Metal silverware

Keep it Open-Ended

The best sensory activities are open-ended. The adult sets up an “invitation to play” with a sensory material and various containers, scoopers, toys and spoons. Then the child uses her imagination to create a play scenario!

Educator Tip: Resist the urge to guide the play. It is so easy to say, “can you serve me some tea,” but try to allow the play to be open-ended and child-centered! If the child says, “here is some tea,” then by all means, pretend to drink the tea and converse about it. But allow the child to dictate the direction of the imaginative play.


When you think about science, you may be remembering chemistry class in high school or Biology 101 in college, but children are creating the building blocks for their understanding of the physical world as soon as they open their eyes as infants! A sensory activity will strengthen a child’s understanding of the physical properties of our world.

For example, when a child is pouring, they are:


  • Learning about conservation of mass/liquids

  • Exploring volume

  • Understanding the differences in solids vs. liquids

  • Understanding gravity

  • Understanding color theory and color mixing (when pouring two different colors of water)


Look in your pantry and get out there! :)


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