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  • Writer's pictureAmy Godfrey

Creative Play Ideas - Sensory Dry Food Pit

Sensory and creative play activities including many for those who are disabled and/or neurodivergent

Learning & Development

  • fine motor skills

  • boosts imagination,

  • improves social, play, communication and observation skills

  • sparks curiosity

  • develops hand-eye coordination

  • improves focus and attention

  • supports emotional regulation

  • turn-taking

  • stress-relief

  • fun!

  • & creates opportunities for CONNECTION


If you're not sure what that last word is - I wouldn't be surprised; I'd never heard of the other 3 senses either before we had our Autistic sons! They're not widely spoken about outside of occupational therapy classes and SEN schools which is such a shame as they're really important and helpful to know about.

So you'll know of course the classic 5:

Sight/visual, sound/auditory, taste/gustatory, smell/olafactory and touch/tactile.

But did you know about these?

Vestibular, proprioceptive and interoception.

Our vestibular system is how we receive and process information relating to our body's orientation (standing up, lying down, upside down), movement and balance. Examples of vestibular actions are: swinging on a swing, going down a slide or zip line, balancing on a beam/on one leg. cartwheels, hand or headstands etc...

Our proprioceptive system processes pressure and gravity and how our body relates to an environment. For example, we receive proprioceptive information when we hold someone's hand, sit on a chair, squeeze a stress ball, are swaddled/wrapped in a blanket, get pushed or pulled etc...

Our interoceptive system is our body's inner sensations like pain, hunger, thirst, itches, temperature, feeling dizzy or sick etc...

All of us have these sensory systems and they give our mind and body a LOT of information all day every day. For most of us we are able to process this information efficiently and without issue, but those with a sensory processing disorder will have areas where they are over or under-sensitive to various or all of these senses.

When my boys were babies, the sensory activity we did most often was a sensory pit.

The wonderful thing about this is that there are so many variations depending on what you have in your house and what your child enjoys.

Our boys' favourite was the rice and lentil pit but you can swap out the rice and lentils for other pulses from your cupboards like black beans, split peas, mung beans, chickpeas etc...

Coloured matchsticks and shredded tissue paper were also popular.

Approximate preparation time: 5 - 15 minutes (or overnight if you're going to dye your rice/chickpeas etc...)

Suggested minimum age: 1 years

What You Need:

Prepare your area!

+ If you have the space, the best way to play with this (and Lego by the way!) is to lay a fitted sheet on the floor and use 4 chairs at the corners to hold the sheet up to create a play zone.

Alternatively you can sit your child in the bath or in a large tub. If you don't care too much about saving up the scattered pieces to play with again you can just let them fall to the floor and sweep/vacuum them up.

+ A large container deep enough to hold the rice/lentils/beans and wide enough for little hands to get in with plenty of room for a pot/spoon or two.

+ If you're using rice and want to colour it like the photo you can do this easily by adding some rice to a zip-lock bag along with a few drops of food colouring and a tiny splash of water or vinegar then closing the zip and shaking and spreading the colour around to coat the rice. When coated lay the rice on a baking tray to dry out. This takes up to a couple of hours/overnight depending on the quantity of rice and how thinly you can spread it out.

+ You can also add up to 5 drops of essential oil mixed with 2 teaspoons of carrier oil in with the rice to make it an aromatherapy pit. Our favourites are frankincense and orange. *NEVER use neat essential oil.

*** Please note that I am not a qualified aromatherapist so I would advise asking a specialist before adding essential oil if you're not familiar with it.

How To Play:

No real instructions here - just let them explore with hands and feet!

WARNING: Babies obviously mustn't be left unattended to play and mouthing should be discouraged best you can, though if they do eat the odd bit of raw rice or lentil they'll be ok.

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