It’s time for play to make sense—literally. Get tiny eyes, ears, noses, tongues and toes in on the action with our ultimate list of sensory activity ideas. Whether you want to make a big mess or keep things simple, there’s something for every kid at home. Keep reading for 12 totally different ways to help your kids discover the Big 5.

Colorful Cloud Doughphoto: Jen Kossovan via Mama. Papa. Bubba

1. Keep it simple.
You love sensory play, but you don’t love how much stuff you need to make it happen. Consider setting up an activity that requires three ingredients/supplies or less. From colored cloud dough to cardboard box coloring and yup, even shaving cream painting, it’s simple to help your kids engage their senses.

Animal Bath Timephoto: Where Imagination Grows

2. Put the water table to work.
Water tables are a splash-tastic addition to play time, and it’s possible to give them a whole new meaning with just a few extra supplies. Take a peek at our favorite water table sensory play ideas here and get started. Hint: Many of these ideas don’t include water!

Stuck in Sensory Sandphoto: The Measured Mom

3. Sand that sticks around.
You don’t have to go to the beach for sand play. From kinetic sand to quicksand boxes, there’s no end to the sense-ational fun. Check out our favorite ideas here.

Erupting Snow Powderphoto: Krystal Underwood via Growing a Jeweled Rose

4. Let it snow.
Snow-based sensory play is a blast, especially if you live in a region that doesn’t see the flaky white stuff very often. One of our favorite projects is sensory snow, but there are other options: a snowman play dough station, melting snowman slime, erupting snow powder and more. Click here to see the whole list.

photo: Red Barn Blog

5. It’s the season for senses!
Each season brings it’s own unique sights, sounds, smells, touches and tastes. Spring brings flowers, Easter, and gardens; Fall brings leaves, harvest produce, Halloween fun and more. Click here for the best Spring ideas, and here for Fall fun.

riceplay_asiacitro_sensoryplay_redtricyclephoto: Asia Citro via Fun at Home with Kids

6. Just for baby.
Sensory play comes in all shapes and forms, but your baby will need a special set up that includes safe supplies and gear. Lucky for you we’ve got the scoop on the best ideas for sensory play with baby: Edible sensory trays, pin boards, brightly lit bottles—it’s all here.

senseofsmell_savannahlewis_flickr_sensoryplay_redtricyclephoto: Savannah Lewis via flickr

7. The nose knows.
The sense of smell is quite possibly the strongest of the Big 5. Take advantage of the fact that planning a nose-centric play session is pretty easy and always interesting. Take a peek at our ideas and sniff out what you’ll need to get started.

light-table-play-teachpreschoolorgphoto: courtesy Teach Preschool

8. Let there be light.
We’ve never met a kid who didn’t love the light. From shadows on the wall to glow sticks, kids can see and explore in so many different ways. One of our favorites is from craft-master mom Anna from The Imagination Tree. Her easy DIY light box is the perfect tool for your little explorers—from colored tiles to sand drawing, the possibilities are endless! Click here to see the tutorial.

Air Mazing little boys and scarves Imagine CM

9. A quick fix.
Sensory play doesn’t have to involve an elaborate set up and tons of time. There are plenty of quick activities and games you can play with your kids for a sensory workout. Ideas include dancing with scarves, making a window collage with contact paper, heading outside for a nature walk and more. Dayna of Lemon Lime Adventures has a great list of 30 easy options. Take a peek here.

Share Sensory Bagsphoto: Katie Pinch via Little Pinch of Perfect

10. Bag it up.
For an afternoon of completely contained play (win, win!) with your little one, opt for a sensory bag. You can fill it with all sorts of neat odds and ends, sparkles and textures. For the best of the best, see our top picks here.

jelloplay_mericherry_sensoryplay_redtricyclephoto: Meri Cherry via Meri Cherry

11. Tastes like…
Whether you’ve got a mouthy babe or a kid who loves to snack and play, edible play time is a best bet. We love this jello play idea from the fabulous Meri Cherry, and this collection of edible art ideas is worth a nibble.

playdough successphoto: Amber Guetebier

12. Perfect playdough.
Play dough. Th original sensory play material you didn’t even know was a sensory play material. If you opt for buying some from the store, it’ll be all about the touchy-feely aspect. If you make your own batch at home, add in a scent or sparkles to give a couple of the other senses a workout, too. For the ultimate playdough recipe, click here.

What’s your favorite sensory play? Share with us in the Comments below!

— Gabby Cullen