20+ Ideas for Frugal and FUN Sensory Activities

Sensory Activities with Natural Materials

                                                                      {Guest Post} Welcome, Rebekah of the Golden Gleam!

The fantastic part about the following list (aside from how much fun your kids will have with these materials…) is that the items are all free or in some cases, create a product that your family will eat in the end!  A lot of people have a problem with using food for sensory play.  They think it is wasteful, and it doesn't teach children to respect the food that should be nourishing our bodies rather than being thrown in the trash after play.

For those who would like to incorporate less wasteful and natural sensory materials for play, the list below provides ideas for materials that are fun for kids to play with and satisfy their need to explore the world through their sense of touch.
Sensory Activities with Natural Materials

No Waste Sensory Materials

In Your Backyard

  • mud
  • sprinklers
  • grass clippings
  • cut flowers
  • dried leaves


  • rain
  • snow

In Nature

  • bodies of water
  • sand
  • rocks
  • dirt
  • puddles

At Home

  • a bath
  • vegetable peels
  • kneading bread
  • preparing foodused coffee grounds
  • ice

At the Park

  • mulch
  • gravel
  • pool
  • fountains
While I do find it beneficial for my daughter to use food for art and play, I respect the fact that some people don't want to use food for play. When selecting materials for our play, I don't always use food if there is another less wasteful option.   In fact, when my daughter was a baby and a toddler and I had never heard of sensory trays.

But she had rich sensory experiences because nature's classroom is abundant with material for her to dig her hands into and explore.  If children spend a lot of time playing in an environment filled with natural materials, the need for food or synthetic material as sensory play material is not necessary.

Rebekah learned about sensory play by mothering her daughter who likes to touch everything.  She writes about lighting up kids through art, play, learning, and a lot of love at The Golden Gleam.