Tubs of sensory fun

For ages 3 – 8 years

The possibilities are endless with sensory tubs. It can be as simple as play or it can be used as a writing prompt! It all depends on what your child enjoys and their age and development.

This type of play helps build nerve connections in the brain and strengthens the hands and fingers.

 What do I need?  

  • A large plastic container such as a baby bath, storage box or washing bowl
  • Containers for filling and pouring – for example, the scoops supplied in washing powder, funnels, jugs, empty milk bottles or yoghurt tubs
  • Mixing ingredients and items – as suggested below
  • Smock or apron (optional)

 How do I do it?

Take your time! Your child can enjoy playing with their sensory tub over a few days. You could choose a different sensory material each week, or whenever you and your child feel inspired!

A sensory tub can be messy, so choose a place that is easy to protect and clean. An outside place can be best.

Sensory tub ideas

Water play      

Depending on the weather you can use different water temperatures: cool or warm. On hot days you can add ice blocks. Provide bottles, funnels and jugs for pouring, as well as rocks, shells, plastic animals – some things that sink and some that float.


Add Lux laundry soap flakes to water, and mix with a whisk, hand beater or electric beater. The less water you use, the thicker the slime! Your child can play with the slime with their hands, as well as scoops and other containers. You can add food dye for a bit of extra fun!

Cloud dough    

Mix together with your hands – 2 cups of flour, some food dye and ¼ cup of cooking oil (or baby oil). Provide spoons, plastic knives, biscuit cutters, etc to play with.


Just add sand! Hide ‘treasure’ in the sand (bury different things on different days, or hide magnetic letters). One day have wet sand and the next have dry. Provide buckets and moulds to make sandcastles.


Put some soil in the tub, and provide small spades, sticks, rocks, a farm set, buckets and flowers.

Other ideas

  • Add essential oils to add the sense of smell to the experience.
  • Add a focus, such as the beach to the sand tray (shells, animals) or a maths and measurement focus (add cooking measurement cups to the water tray).

The possibilities are endless!

  • Use the sensory material as a story-making prompt: What would happen if you got stuck in the…?

No-one knows your child better than you.  So, choose and/or adapt ideas here to best suit you and your child. Remember it’s the talking and time spent together that matters most.

More activities to try

3 – 8 years

Wrap it up!

0 – 8 Years

We Love Country

6 months – 8 years

Water xylophone