Must-try sensory activities for kids with autism

Almost every child with autism has sensory challenges.

Our world is filled with overwhelming sensory experiences. Some kids are underwhelmed and need lots of stimulation, and other children are easily overstimulated by lights, sounds, and scents.

There are tons of sensory activities that you can do with your children, young and old, to help them enjoy and cope with a variety of sensory stimuli.

Here are a few favorite sensory activities:
(Always monitor all sensory activities.)

1. Sand or water box – Fill a Tupperware container with sand, rice, or water and encourage your child to get his hands dirty. He may only tolerate it for a few seconds, and that’s okay. You can always work on increasing the amount of time. Hide his favorite toys in the container, so that he has to dig through to find them.
2. Hide beads in playdough – Either using store-bought or homemade playdough, hide small objects (i.e. beads) in the playdough for your child to pull out. Then, have him place the beads in a bowl after he pulls them out of the dough. This encourages following two-step directions, promotes fine-motor skills, helps improve focus and attention, and is fun! You can also try using a visual tool that describes the steps involved in the task.
3. Create a fabric board – Using fabric samples that you can find at an arts and crafts store, glue different materials to a foam board or piece of plywood. Place the board on the wall at eye-level, and encourage your child to touch the different fabrics. You can have him pick out the fabrics that feel good to him such as felt, flannel, silk, carpet samples, or maybe even sandpaper. This is great for children who tend to be tactilely defensive, as it promotes the sense of touch.
4. Fun with scents – Fill old film canisters or other containers (that are not transparent) with different scents. Have your child guess what the scent is. You can put lemon, cinnamon, garlic, peppermint, or anything else that has a distinguishable scent. This game can be so much fun. You can even create a visual tool where the child has to match the scent with the picture.
5. Glue on a board – Squeeze Elmer’s Glue on a clipboard and let it dry overnight. The next day, let your child peel the glue off the board. This activity is especially great for children who pick their skin or their cuticles. It also provides great fine-motor practice.

Remember that different children like different things, so it’s great to try out a variety of activities.


The Social Skills Workbook for Children and Teens with Autism

Does your child have challenges with conversations, making friends, and understanding social rules?


  • brenda guerra
    Posted at 08:26h, 12 January Reply

    My child is 18 months old and has been kicked out of day care because she bites other kids. I understand the severity of this behavior because she also will bite me and my husband. Help I don’t know if this is a sensory issue or just a behavior issue.

    • Jennifer Lingle
      Posted at 08:34h, 12 January Reply

      Hi Brenda. I am sorry to hear that you are going through a challenging time. I would need more information to assess the situation. Behaviors are often sensory driven, and they can go hand in hand. I offer parent support phone calls to help parents. Feel free to email me at and we can talk about setting one up.

  • Ymkje Wideman
    Posted at 19:27h, 12 January Reply

    I am working with a 13-year old boy on the spectrum at this time, and his favorite activity is to clean the tips of the Elmer Glue bottles during his Life Skills class. While doing it, I often catch him squeezing just a little glue onto his hand to let it dry and peel off later. I never get tired of the cute smile and gleam in his eyes when he realizes I noticed. Such a great and easy way to fill a sensory need.

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