Sensory play is so important for preschoolers. It integrates their senses, fires their synapses, can help them self-regulate if overstimulated, and encourages their imagination.


1. 2-3 c flour (plus some extra) 
2. 1 c salt 
3. 4 tsp cream of tartar (this is a powder, available in the spice aisle at the grocery store) 
4. 1 ¾ c warm water 
5. 3-4 Tbsp vegetable oil 
6. Liquid watercolors or food coloring 
7. Wax paper  

1. Mix dry ingredients in large bowl, set aside 
2. Add vegetable oil and a few drops of coloring to the warm water 
3. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients, mix well 
4. If the dough is too thin, add more flour. If it is too thick, add more water 
5. Lay out a large sheet of wax paper and sprinkle flour on it 
6. Turn dough out onto floured surface and knead 
7. Form into a ball and let cool  

Kitchen utensils, cookie cutters, plastic knives, and wooden blocks/cylinders all make great playdough tools.  

Playdough can be saved in an airtight container for up to a month

Quick Playdough

This playdough uses basic materials and goes together quickly 

1. 1 c flour 
2. ¼ c liquid hand soap or dish soap  

1. Mix flour and soap. Knead with hands.  
2. If it is too thin, add more flour. If it is too thick/dry, add more soap  

This playdough doesn't last as long as the previous recipe. Store in an airtight container for up to a week.

Toilet Paper Dough

1. one roll of toilet paper 
2. one bar of ivory soap 
3. water 
4. cheese grater 
5. large bowl 
6. access to a microwave and a microwave safe plate (optional)  

1. Use cheese grater to grate bar of soap 
2. Shred toilet paper into small pieces 
3. Put toilet paper and soap into large bowl, slowly add water and mix until dough forms 
4. Enjoy  

Alternate instructions 
1. Place bar of soap on microwave safe plate 
2. Microwave for 1 minute (watch it the whole time) 
3. Add soap, shredded toilet paper and water in large bowl and mix well 

Save in an airtight container

Borax Goop

1. 8 oz bottle of white glue such as Elmer’s 
2. 1 tsp Borax – a powdered soap usually available in the laundry aisle of a grocery store and often labeled as a “laundry booster” (more may be needed if goop is too thin) 
3. Water 
4. Liquid watercolors or food coloring (optional) 
5. Large mixing bowl 
6. Measuring cup and spoon 
1. Pour whole 8 oz bottle of glue into large mixing bowl 
2. Fill the empty glue bottle with warm water, replace top, and shake 
3. Pour contents into mixing bowl and stir well 
4. Add coloring if desired 
5. Measure ¼ c warm water and add 1 tsp borax to it, mix well 
6. While stirring the contents of the large mixing bowl, slowly pour the borax solution into the mixing bowl. Stop stirring and start kneading while you pour the last of the borax solution into the glue. Keep kneading until a stretchy ball of goop forms  

Goop can be saved in a ziplock bag. If you made white goop, you can color on it with markers if desired.

Cornstarch Goop

This is one of the easiest, messiest sensory recipes to make.   

1. Cornstarch 
2. Water 
3. Large tub 
4. Strawberry baskets, spoons, kitchen utensils, etc  

1. Add one part cornstarch to one part water, mix well 
2. Add a bit more cornstarch, mix well, then let settle 
3. If mixture looks dry, it is perfect. If it looks wet, add more cornstarch 
4. Insert a spoon, strawberry basket, anything into the cornstarch mixture and pull up, watch what happens 
5. Scoop out a chunk of cornstarch and hold it in the palm of your hand. Watch as the solid piece slowly melts and drizzles out of your hand  

Options to extend learning 

1. Ask the children if the mixture is a liquid or a solid. If they say liquid, point out that when it settles, it appears solid and does not slosh when the tub is gently shaken. If they say solid, demonstrate how a chunk of it will slowly melt when moved. 

2. Ask the children why the cornstarch behaves this way. What makes it appear solid, then act like a liquid? Some say the heat from your hand melts it but if this were true, why does dipping a strawberry basket into it and pulling up produce the same “melting” effect? 

3. If you really want to impress the children, get an old subwoofer or speaker – the old school kind with the wood sides and the black fabric. Lay it on its side with fabric facing up. Cover in plastic wrap and place a chunk of the cornstarch mixture on the plastic wrap. Turn on the speaker. Music with a deep base and a slow to medium beat works the best. The cornstarch will dance on top of the plastic wrap. Search for videos on youtube if you can’t do this activity for yourself. It is very fun to watch.

Digging for Fossils

1. Toob of dinosaur skulls (available at Michael's)
2. Cornstarch
3. Vegetable oil
4. Small brushes
5. Toothpicks
6. Large bin or box

1. Pour 1 c cornstarch into a large bowl
2. Slowly drizzle vegetable oil in while stirring
3. Mix until you get a consistency similar to soft sand
4. Place dinosaur skulls in large bin or box. 
5. Cover with mixture and push firmly so it somewhat hardens around dinosaur skulls
6. Use brushes and toothpicks to "excavate" skulls

Other Sensory Ideas

  • Birdseed
  • Dried beans
  • Uncooked pasta
  • Uncooked rice - you can add a few drops of food coloring or liquid watercolor and let it dry before play
  • Rock salt - this looks like crystals. You can also color it
  • Cornmeal - dry is fun but wet is even better - you can mold it and shape it but it is messy
  • Shaving cream - just spray this on a table and go to town with it - bonus - it will leave the table top clean when wiped down after play