Sensory Activities for Infants and Young Children

By: Christine Hemelians, MS OTR/L

Below listed are the various activities for infants and toddlers broken down into the different sensory systems.

Proprioceptive system: (the body’s ability to sense movement, action, and location in space)


Infants: Toddlers:
Graded tummy time on caregiver’s chest (airplane rides) Running, jumping, hopping, skipping, climbing
Lotion massage and joint compression Deep pressure massage/ joint compressions
Side-rolling with use of toys Rough house play/ wrestling
Encourage hands to feet Playdough (rolling/ pressing)
Bounding on therapy ball/ peanut ball while holding child Simon says game (incorporate big body movements)
Babywearing (wraps, structured carriers) Children’s yoga poses
Squeezing squishy balls Tug-of-war (pushing/ pulling activities)
Pushing ball Animal walks (crab walks, bear crawls, kangaroo hops, etc.)
Bicycle kicks Scooping/ digging/ carrying buckets
Pulling ribbons/ scarves from container or tissue box Wall pushes
Swaddle Drumming activities
Pediatric bikes/ tricycles
Jumping jacks/ jump rope


Vestibular: (the sensory system involved with providing our brain with information regarding motion, head position, and spatial orientation)


Infants: Toddlers:
Visual tracking (watching moving objects while on tummy or on their back) Practice going up and down stairs
Reach and roll Beach towel/ blanket rides (sit on towel and have adult/ older child pull towel/ blanket
Follow the noise (use a rattle or musical object to engage and follow sound) Laundry basket rides
Bouncing on therapy ball while holding onto baby One-footed balance
Airplane rides/ knee rides Simple ball skill games (catch a rolling ball, kick a stationary ball, etc)
Rocking chairs
Place objects out of reach and cross to either side of the body (i.e. place desired object on R side and encourage reaching to the L side, or vice versa Swings
Stroller rides Slide
Upside down play Log rolls
Infant swings (i.e. Mamaroo) Freeze dance


Auditory: (ability to process and interpret sound/ noise)


Infants/ Toddlers:

  • Egg shakers
  • Musical instruments/ music (tempos/ rhythm)
  • White noise or sound machines
  • Wind chimes
  • Reading out loud and narrating your day
  • Singing to child
  • Exposure to loud sounds (i.e. blow-dryer, vacuum, blender, gardeners, etc.)


Visual: (ability to process color, light level, contrast, and other visual stimuli in the environment)


Infants/ Toddlers:

  • Hanging mobiles
  • Black and white visual cards
  • Glow sticks/ flashlight play
  • Peek-a-boo
  • Hide and seek with toys (i.e. hide under cloth)
  • Puppets
  • Shape sorting
  • Tracking bubbles and balloons
  • Sensory bottles



Infants: Toddlers:
Mesh/ silicone teethers Use mini spoon for trying new foods
Exposure to flavors and textures (explore seasonings) Toothpicks and cookie cutters
Dip teething toys in foods, sauces, or condiments Involve child in kitchen and food prep (model taste testing while cooking; involve food play)
Food painting
Explore toothpaste flavors


Tactile: (ability to process touch and different textures)

Infants: Toddlers:
Water play Finger painting
Texture boards/ exploring fabrics Playdough
Texture/ poke-a-dot books Sensory bins (rice/ grain, water beads, lentils, grass/ dirt, etc.)
Sensory stretchy strings Shaving cream
Food play Water play
Rolling/ crawling/ walking on different textures (i.e. sand, grass, etc.)
Sensory bins with edible/ safe materials
Infant safe paint





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