Sensory Bags: All the fun, none of the mess!

Touch, taste, smell, see, hear – our senses are amazing! For toddlers, the five senses are a set of tools for exploring the world. At LEAP, we see little ones using their fingers to discover seashells. We hear them banging whisks on metal bowls, making a ting-ting-ting sound. We even see them taste-testing everything from acorns to sand… and learning that some things aren’t tasty!

Sensory experiences allow toddlers the opportunity to answer questions that are forming, such as, "What will this feel like if I touch it?" These experiences also encourage lifelong learning! Our brains have been collecting information since we were born. Have you ever found yourself singing all the lyrics to a song you haven’t heard in years? When you learned that song, you were engaging your senses - listening, moving, and experiencing something memorable. Your little ones are doing this every day!

Each week at LEAP, you’ll find our sensory bin filled with new, exciting materials. We enjoy adding treasures and tools that create different experiences for LEAPers week to week. We LOVE our sensory bin, but sensory bins can be big, bulky and messy, meaning it can be difficult to make them a part of your daily routine. It’s not always easy to find fun materials that can be explored safely, especially when toddlers want to taste test everything. When you are looking for a cleaner activity that requires a little less supervision, we suggest trying out sensory bags! 

Sensory bags? Tell me more!

A sensory bag is just what it sounds like – a bag filled with something soft, squishy, prickly, noisy, the list goes on and on! The stuff inside can be whatever you imagine. Below are some of our favorite fillers along with some tips for making sure your sensory bags last.

Some must-have materials:

  • Ziploc bags – Any size will do! Gallon sized allows for more movement, but sandwich sized makes for perfect toddler-sized fun.
  • Duct tape – As we mentioned earlier, toddlers use their senses to explore. Sometimes, this leads to destruction :) We’ve learned that duct tape is almost completely toddler-proof (no guarantees!). Duct tape will help seal the edge(s) of your bag so it can be reused and re-explored.

Everything else is up to you! Below, find some of our favorite sensory bag fillers, as well as some ideas that we are looking forward to trying.

  • Sand Sensory Bags

    • Desert: Add desert animal figures and succulent leaves. Cacti not recommended :)
    • Beach: Add smooth seashells and some water for a trip to the seashore.
    • Slime/Gel Sensory Bags

      • Add food coloring to theme your bag. Blue food coloring makes a perfect ocean or arctic scene. Keep it clear and add natural materials for a squishy search.

      • Paint Sensory Bags

        • Paint lends well to exploring colors. Fill your bag with paint and add matching colored gems or marbles to explore soft and hard textures.
        • Fill your bag with one color then add white – your toddler will love mixing and creating a new shade!
        • Dirt Sensory Bags

          • All the fun of dirt, without the mess. Hide insect figures, rocks, acorns, or leaves.

          Are your ready to try sensory bags? We can’t wait to hear how it goes. You've likely seen a few of these bags at LEAP. We love putting them out as an intro to new, unfamiliar materials. Little ones can explore the material without getting messy, and can work towards building confidence. A few final tips and tricks:

          1. Adult supervision recommended! Depending on what is inside your bags, holes might occur. Clear packing tape is always a quick fix!
          2. Make sure the bag is not overfilled. Too much stuff can lead to a bag burst!
          3. Tape your sensory bags up to a window for a brand new sensory experience: sunlight!
          4. Enjoy!

          Written by Nicole Filippone