15+ Ways to Get The Most Out of Sensory Play

“The greatest danger to our planet is the belief that someone else will save it.” - Robert Swan

If you’ve been around here for a while then you probably already know that at Broccoli Boxes we exist to encourage families and strengthen communities. We do this in two ways. First, we provide creative, screen-free sensory play for kids and deliver it right to your door, so you can spend less time planning and prepping and more time playing and learning. Our themed sensory kits are expertly curated to be engaging and enriching and are inspired by children’s literature. Sensory play encourages creative, open-ended play and provides opportunities for families to bond together and for children to enjoy self-directed play opportunities. The second way we encourage families and strengthen communities is by donating sensory boxes to children in foster care. Each donation provides foster families an ideal opportunity to begin to connect, build trust, and bond. We believe that by encouraging families we will also begin to strengthen our communities. 

Each month, we create a new sensory experience for your family and provide additional ideas to extend the play. These ideas also are not meant to be gone through all in one sitting, but to follow the lead of your child. Some ideas may resonate more with your child than others. That’s okay. In fact that’s great! Go with it. Enjoy playing and learning together. 

Broccoli Boxes - Sensory Kits

If you don’t have our new Ocean Sensory Kit, you can create something similar with some blue play dough, ocean figurines from the toy box, a few shells, and then pair it with your favorite ocean themed picture book.

When it comes to play, I am a huge advocate for encouraging our children to take the lead. I strongly believe our kits (and any sensory play) are best used when the child takes the lead, going wherever their imagination takes them. However, I also completely understand that there are times when it can be fun to help guide the play in a new direction or you may need to help your child get started. This is not an exhaustive list and isn’t meant to be printed and checked off as you go (but it certainly can if that works for you). 


  • Before reading, look through the book and look at all the pictures. Ask, “what do you think this book is going to be about? What makes you think that?”
  • Be intentional about using the Table of Contents and the Index - use those words and share WHY you’re using those parts of the book
    • Let your child choose a topic they’re interested in and then use either the table of contents or the index to read more about their interests
  • Notice out loud and describe the textures of the different objects - soft, squishy, hard, pointy, bumpy, smooth… What other words can you come up with?
  • When reading, point out the captions and labels. It can be as simple as saying, “let’s check the caption to see what’s happening in the picture,” while pointing to the caption.
  • As you’re playing, if your child has a question about an animal, try replying with, “let’s look it up.” and then use either the table of contents or the index to search for the answer. 
  • As you’re reading, look through your animals and molds to match them up with the images in the book. Notice the similarities and differences out loud. 
Ocean Book

STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Mathematics) 

  • Have your child noticed what makes the animals perfect for living in the water - do they have feet? fins? gills? 
  • Wonder out loud, “I wonder how _____ protects itself?” Then, together look at the animal and see if you can find adaptations that help it survive like a hard shell or teeth. If you can’t see anything, look the animal up in the book and see what new information you can learn. If you still can’t find information (and your child is interested) try Googling it to learn more. If you child isn’t interested enough to continue researching, have them make a hypothesis or guess.
  • Count the rocks, the animals, the shells, the ocean molds… count everything! 
  • Ask I wonder how many blue rocks you have? How many clear rocks? 
  • Ask your child to separate the shells by shape or texture. 
  • Ask how many rocks AND shells do they have? 
  • Use the chenille sticks and a ball of sensory dough to create a jellyfish or an octopus. Ask, “what do you think the tentacles are for?” Go to the book and look it up. 
  • If you’re able, take a trip to the beach. Point out the signs of animal life you discover.
  • Be a “World Changer” and bring a trash bag and some grabbers to pick up trash as you walk the beach.
  • Begin discussing states of matter even with your youngest explorers starting with solids and liquids. Try asking, “what do you think the sensory dough is meant to be?” If they say something along the lines of “water” or “the ocean” follow up with “hmm… what makes you think that?” Then, try asking in a conversational tone, “how is this different than the ocean?” As they begin describing possible differences, you can be sure to include that the ocean is a liquid. 
    • If they're not, you can try noticing out loud, “this sensory dough is like the ocean, the ocean is a liquid. Hey! Your drink is a liquid too!”
  • Create different habitats for the ocean animals.
    • Pretend animals are hiding in their habitats from predators. Discuss the food chain with the animals you have. What animal is eating the seaweed? What animal eats that animal? Continue it out as far as you can. 

Gross and Fine Motor Skills

  • Have an Ocean Themed Dance Break (turn on music for even more fun!)
    • Stretch like a starfish
    • blow up like a blowfish
    • Dive like a dolphin
    • Pinch the air like a lobster
    • Open and close like a clam
    • Walk like crab
    • Clap like a seal
  • Roll, squeeze, pinch the sensory dough

Play Dough




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