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Squishy, Captivating, AND Mess-Free?! What A Great DIY Sensory Toy!

Sensitivity to over-stimulation is common among people with autism, and toys like sensory bags allow them to engage in an activity while focusing on specific tactile input. Squishy, captivating and mess-free, these bags can be a great way to engage your child in therapeutic play!

These DIY bags go by a variety of different names: squishy bags, sensory bags, I Spy bags. Plus, there are a few different types you can make. Bags filled with baby oil and food coloring create globs of color that can be broken up by touch; bags filled with hair gel and different toys offer a squishier tactile experience; and bags filled with tempura paint allows your child to practice creating shapes and letters. You can put a variety of small toys and objects in the bag, theme them around holidays or favorite cartoon characters — get as creative as you like!

The type of bag we’ll show you today uses hair gel as the base. This video tutorial will walk you through it, but we also have directions listed below it. (Though if you follow the video, be sure to use a heavy-duty tape like duct tape and really tape those edges.)

First, gather your supplies. You’ll need:

  • Ziplock freezer bag
  • Nail polish remover
  • Hair gel
  • Food coloring
  • Small beads/plastic figurines/shapes
  • Glitter

Remove any brand lettering off the bag with the nail polish remover. Then, squirt or spoon hair gel into the bag. You can use clear or colored hair gel, and you certainly don’t need to splurge on the fancy brands. Bottles of it can be found at the dollar store. Use about half a bottle, and spread it out in the bag. (You don’t want to over-fill, and you can always add more gel after you’ve added the rest of the items if it’s not enough.)

Next, add a few drops of food coloring and massage into the gel to blend. Add any small beads or toys or fuzzy objects that you have on hand (avoiding anything with a sharper edge so it won’t rip through the bag). Then add in any glitter you like.

Gently press the bag to remove any excess air, and then shut the bag. Tape the bag on all sides to reinforce it, doubling over the zipper. Use colored duct tape for extra fun. If you want even more reinforcement, you can also cover the entire bag with clear tape.

Voila! Tape it to the window or table-top, or place it on your child’s lap to enjoy. Make sure that you supervise your child at all time while using it, in case it breaks open.

Want more craft ideas? Check out this calming bottle tutorial. It can be a great tool for soothing kids with autism when they’ve experienced sensory overload.

What are your child’s favorite sensory activities? Share with us in the comments!

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C. Kramer is back in the Mitten State after a brief residency in the Sunshine State. She has an adorable dog-child, and enjoys reading, writing, going to the theatre, and finding pins on Pinterest.