Sensory activities are very popular these days, and for good reason. Sensory play helps children to explore and stimulate some or all of the senses and make connections and process the world around them.
But sometimes it can seem like all of these sensory activities for toddlers are going to break the bank! But it doesn’t have to be that way. You can give your child awesome sensory activities using items found around the house or yard, or purchased very inexpensively online or at the store.
Below are 11 sensory activities for toddlers that are either 100% free- or super frugal- to make!
11 Free or Frugal Sensory Activities for Toddlers
Water beads are SOOOOO much fun to play with. And they are pretty cool too. They are one of my 2 year old’s favorite sensory activities.
They aren’t free, but you can get a big bag that will last a long time from Amazon for less than $10.
You can check out all of the ways we use water beads on 8 Ways to Use Water Beads for Hours of Sensory Fun.
Fruit Loop Crushing
Do your kids love to crush and smash things as much as mine? Fruit Loops (or any other cereal) makes a great sensory activity for toddlers! It’s a very cheap activity- I got a box at our local Aldi for less than $2 and so far we’ve gotten hours of fun from that box!
And bonus- they get to use a real hammer! AND work on fine motor skills!
Check out my post on Smashing Fruit Loops for all the details.
Corn Sensory Bin
When it comes to sensory bin fillers, I love using corn. And toddlers love the feel of digging their hands through the kernels!
You can get a 50lb bag of feed corn at your local feed store or Tractor Supply for less than $10- and that’s a lot of corn!
Pictured above is my Yellow Sensory Bin– featuring whole corn!
Soap and Water
This sensory activity for toddlers (or kids of all ages) is virtually free- and a favorite of my kids. All you need is water and a bit of dish soap-which I am sure you already have beside your kitchen sink!
This activity is a fun outside for hot summer days, but you can bring it indoors to the sink for rainy days. Who doesn’t love mountains of bubbles?
Get all the details on this Soap and Water Sensory Activity.
All you need is instant snow powder mixed with water and you can have gallons of fluffy “snow” to play in!
Just a little powder goes a long way and is tons of fun for toddlers to scoop and pour or play with their toys in.
You can also check out my Snow Sensory Bin!
Playdough is often overlooked when it comes to sensory activities. But it’s one of the best!
Toddlers can squish and roll, build, and cut. Playdough is great for developing small muscles for find motor control.
And it’s cheap! You can make a huge batch for ingredients you probably already have in your kitchen.
Here’s my recipe for Homemade Playdough– plus some additions for a bigger sensory experience.
Mud? Mud!! It’s so much fun to play in! And, don’t stress….all it takes is a good bath or shower and it will all wash out!
I’m a mom of 5 boys and they love mud- okay, so does my daughter. And after a good rain they love to go out and just get muddy.
You can take toys to may with or just splash and stomp and squish your fingers through the mud.
And- bonus- it’s totally, 100% free!
No-Mess Sensory Bottle
Sensory play is great for toddlers- but what if they still put stuff in their mouth? Or maybe you are in need of some sensory activities on the go? That’s where sensory bottles come in!
Sensory Bottles are just like sensory bins- but all closed up in a bottle. You can put just about anything in them. Or make a search and find type game out of them.
You can buy a set of bottles made specifically for sensory bottles- or just recycle your water bottles.
Here’s a super easy, Shell and Glitter Sensory Bottle to give you an idea of how sensory bottles work.
Exploring nature is another sensory activity for toddlers that is 100% free. Take your toddler outside and gather the nature you see around you. Pick LOTS of flowers- or maybe add in pine cones, herbs, rocks, and sticks.
Bring them all to one are and let them explore.
Check out my Flower Sensory Activity tips on turning nature into a sensory and learning activity.
Finger painting is another often overlooked option for sensory play. But it’s one of the easiest and best ways for toddlers to explore and create with their hands!
You can buy a set of finger paints or make your own for pennies.
Here’s a recipe for Kid-Safe Finger Paints
Cooked or Uncooked Pasta
Pasta is another frugal sensory bin filler- it comes in all shapes and sizes and it can be easily dyed different colors to create another level to your sensory activities.
You can take it one step farther and COOK the pasta first. I recommend spaghetti or angel hair pasta for cooked pasta play and adding a little oil to the pasta after draining to keep the noodles from sticking together.
I guarantee if you kids love messy play- they will love the feel of cooked pasta between their fingers!
Here’s a really fun post from Growing a Jeweled Rose about all the sensory activities you can do with cooked pasta!