DIY Toys for Sensory Play

Jasmine: Being maidless this and last week, we’ve really had to step up our efforts to be home early and take care of Dylan. One of the ways I’ve found is to make "toys" to occupy both of us meaningfully. Truthfully, we are still in trial and error stage, as Dylan loves certain toys but will only spend a couple minutes on others. The challenge is hitting upon the right "toy" or interest that will keep him engaged and stationed in one place, especially since he loves to run around with his walker.

We have previously written a similar post on DIY and "free" toys, but that was catered towards the 6-12month range. Now that Dylan is shifting from honing his fine motor skills to working on his gross motor skills, we have tried to create learning experiences for him that allow him to push, pull, throw… you get the drift.

These activities are classified by four key types of learning to help baby explore and manipulate his world:

1. Put in pull out practice

-Colander and fuzzy wires


So, this looks like a crazy sci-fi helmet, but it was a really simple idea that took about 15 seconds to make, inspired by a milk tin with holes cut out for straws that we saw at Blue House. Dilly is very eager to pull out the fuzzy chenille wires, and he’s even successfully threaded one or two back in.


-Pom pom drop and shoot

I cut a hole in a takeaway container and stuck a toilet roll in, so that Dilly could drop pom poms in and see them land inside the container. No pictures because Dilly broke the container in his excitement. Haha.


-Doing the laundry

Child labour! Nuff said!


This was a spontaneous and very fun activity for Dilly. He loved sticking his head and hands in, feeling the warmth and moisture of the inside of the machine, and pulling out every single piece of laundry there was. In fact, we stuffed the load of washing back in three times because he was enjoying himself so much.

p.s. I just love his duck training pants.


2. Messy play

This is an area of play which I really want to expose Dilly to more, as it’s crucial for stimulating creativity and appreciation of ambiguity.


However, I am quite put off by the fact that I will end up doing all the cleaning up. I also wanted to do some painting or homemade playdough activities but given Dyl’s eczema, I’m uncertain about how his skin will respond and having to manage any allergic reactions e.g. waking up throughout the night makes me quite mess-averse.


-Gooey sensory bag


I guess my compromise is to do messy play activities that I can handle, rather than not try at all? So I squeezed some toothpaste and shampoo into a plastic bag, and let Dylan smear the two different colours. The gooey-ness and coolness of the stuff also made it a different experience from his other toys. I would have liked to tape it to the window so he could see through the bag, but couldn’t find scotch tape at my mum’s place.


-Lava sensory bag

I also made another sensory bag using baby oil, fluorescent paint and ziploc bags. The idea was that the lava bags would look like lava lamps. However, I couldn’t find glow in the dark paint so I settled for non-toxic neon paints.


My first attempt was classic Pinterest fail:


Through this sensory bag, I actually wanted to introduce Dilly to early science, namely, how water and oil don’t mix, but it seems that I needed to be schooled in that, as I cleverly poured in orange paint followed by green paint, which immediately combined to form what Andrew called the curry colour above. My running out of transparent baby oil and substituting it with olive oil just made it look even more like a bad curry. Lunch appetite, gone.

Oh well, at least there were some good lava-ish bubbles.

This below was the second lava sensory bag. Dilly chose the neon orange colour himself… by erm, pointing at one out of the six little tubs of paint! I also scotch-taped the ziploc opening for added security. However, I was watching him the whole time so I was not too worried about the bag breaking and him ingesting anything.


I’m planning to make a pair of sensory bags to teach Dilly about night and day next. My idea is fill both to the brim with baby oil so they become much more fun to press and squish. The night bag will have glow-in-the-dark stars while the day bag will have glitter and perhaps the train set saved from Dilly’s first birthday cake, for a burst of multicolour 🙂

More, perhaps, to come! (I can just hear Andrew and my mum groan.)

3. Sensory play

-basket of brushes

Dilly loves brushing his hair- well, the intention is there, even if the brush is sometimes upside down or brushes his ears and neck instead. My mum put together this wonderful collection of brushes with different levels of softness for him to explore.


It’s also got a “sorter” (actually the ice cube tray from my play kitchen when I was a little girl) of oversized pom poms and a sensory bottle of lucky stars. Looks like my mum is even better at Montessori than me, what a great surprise!

-tactile sensory bin

We went on a Daiso/ Spotlight mini-shopping spree of sorts and got a microfiber mitten, laundry dryer balls and a dustpan.


You can also see the Daiso LED light balls and cellophane paper which I used to make his light box. The LED light balls were actually a recommendation from our church friend Pearlie, who used them quite beautifully in coloured sand play with her preschoolers.


Never too early to do the chores

To my utter glee, my baby is rather ticklish. He squeals and squirms away most delightfully whenever we put any of these above items, especially the laundry dryer balls, to his face or feet.


I especially love running the laundry dryer balls (a cheapo substitute for those pricey baby sensory balls, which essentially look and feel the same) over his arms and legs and hearing him giggle.


-Yakult pit

This is GREAT for keeping him in one spot for a good 10-20 min each time. Dilly loves the sound of the bottles rattling against each other, and throwing them out at us.


He is also getting really clever at finding other uses for the box, like climbing out and using it as a walker, or turning it on its side and exploring it like a cave. Now, all we have to do is get him to pick those bottles up 🙂


I have since collected several kitchen and toilet paper rolls and added them to the box for texture. Even my mum’s friend, Auntie Winnie, has contributed to the box! Just this Sunday she told my mum, “I have something for you”, and gave her five empty Yakult bottles! Hahaha so sweet! She has been following us on Facebook! Awesome present!

We also made the Yakult pit “glow” by throwing the Daiso LED light balls in.


4. Light and colour play

-colour sorter made from muffin tray

From start to end, this took maybe 10 min to do? I simply cut out circles from construction paper, pamphlets and even a Yakult foil, and put objects of matching colours in.


Dylan’s favourite use for this “toy”, however, is turning it upside down and seeing all the carefully sorted, colour-coordinated objects scatter everywhere. Thanks baby.

This is the glowing version, again with those LED lights. The laundry dryer balls fit perfectly in that muffin tray, too.



-lightballs and scarves

Inspired by our church friend’s sand play activity, I did one using translucent scarves for Dilly coz I a) didn’t have sand and b) was afraid Dilly would eat the sand.

I put a mirror under for added light and a peekaboo effect when Dilly pulled the scarves off.

This is how it looked with the lights on:


And with the lights off:




I would say this was one of my most ambitious (and therefore, most procrastinated) undertakings. Most of the projects above take a couple minutes at most to assemble but this one took about an hour when Dylan was napping.

I cut the cellophane papers into different shapes and pressed them into laminated stickers for durability. Then I put the light balls in a large plastic container and called it a lightbox.


Honestly, I half-imagined that Dylan would quietly and intently investigate the colors and shapes, and was even abit disappointed when he kept throwing all the shapes off. Dear tried to comfort me by saying that Dyl liked the lightbox but he was playing with it differently than intended- indeed, Dyl kept shaking it so vigorously I feared the lights would break.


However, i found a way to achieve my "lesson objective" by stuffing all the shapes in the box so Dilly could see the colours changing as he rattled the box about. And by letting him do things his way, the little boy’s attention was kept all the way until his night feed.


Even more useful as a stool… kuakua

Guess it was a good lesson for me, as a parent and as a teacher- every child has his unique learning style and preference, and don’t always play with/ learn things in the way that we expect. But when children do something differently, we should encourage them for thinking innovatively instead of insisting that they fit in our preconceived mold of how and what they should be learning.

Ending off with a picture of Dilly surrounded by all his “toys”. His favourite was the treasure basket, which he kept pulling all the different fabrics and hats out of!


And now, finally a word from Andrew…

Andrew: I found these “toys” extremely useful when I had to spend a night alone with Dylan. He was just entertaining himself when I had to watch my Survivor.

Jasmine: Huh? That’s it??

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