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Sensory Inspiration

Ideas and Inspiration for Engaging Learners Through the Senses

Ideas to Stimulate the Tactile System


Arts & crafts are excellent tactile activities: explore paints, glitter glues, foamy soap/shaving cream, clay, sand, wood shavings, shredded paper, water, playdoh and different textured fabrics and material. 

Baking is tactile: knead dough, make pastry, cake mix and batter mix. 

Tip! if the individual is touch sensitive, offer the use of lightweight gloves or provide a tool e.g., a paintbrush to create a barrier.

Explore items that provide good sensory feedback with a range of textures: bristly, bobbled, bubbly, bumpy, bushy, carved, chunky, coarse, cold, corrugated, carved, damp, distended, downy, dry, elastic, enamelled, engraved, etched, flat, feathery, flaky, fleecy, fluffy, foamy, frothy, furled, furry, gravelly, gritty, grainy, gooey, grooved, hard, hairy, icy, indented, knitted, knobbly, limp, malleable, matte, metallic, moist, mosaic, mushy, padded, patterned, pitted, plastic, pleated, pliable, pointed, polished, prickly, puffy, ribbed, ridged, rough, rubbery, runny, sandy, shaped, shiny, silky, sleek, slimy, slippery, smooth, smudged, soapy, soft, spongy, springy, stiff, stodgy, stubby, syrupy, tickly, tingly, tweedy, viscous, velvety, warm, wet, wooden, woolly, woven.

Provide the use of hand fidget toys, give a blanket wrap, massage with or without cream and explore the use of body brushes.

Explore dried foods such as lentils, pasta, pulses, and rice.

Ideas to Stimulate Vision

Track and locate moving stimuli such as light from torches and watching the movement of spinning tops, fidget spinners, spinning handheld lights, bubbles.

Explore kaleidoscopes.

Watch the movement of wax in lava lamps.

Make a projector.

Cover one end of a cardboard tube with cellophane, draw an image/shape onto the cellophane then shine the torch through the open end projecting the image onto a lap tray, the wall, floor, or ceiling.

Stimulate the visual system by presenting familiar and new visual stimuli.

Explore colour hues, shiny, bright, brilliant, cloudy, colourful, dark, dim, dull, flickering, fuzzy, gleaming, glistening, glowing, hazy, sparkly, shadowy, pale, rippling, shimmering, shiny, translucent.

Stimulate the Auditory System


Listen to bubbles pop and to the sounds of nature

Listening to meditation teaches calmness, and develops understanding of thoughts, feelings and emotions helping to build confidence.


A quick online search will open a library of free meditations, suiting a range of audiences.


Young children can visit secret treehouses, meet sleepy sloths, or go on magic carpet rides. Teenagers can explore the cosmos, meet their spirit animal, or enjoy a relaxing body scan.

Stimulate the auditory system by presenting a range of familiar and unfamiliar sounds at varying volumes and in different locations.

Can the sensory explorer turn their head to track a sound?

Provide headphones for a personal experience.

Play musical instruments: blow whistles and party blowers, hum, whisper and use silly voices.

Note individual preferences to calming/alerting music, grinding, hushed, monotonous, musical, intermittent, rhythmic, mellow, or percussive.


Experiment with volume and use of headphones.

Play listening games. (A quick search on the internet will give you access to sound effects from helicopters to howler monkeys!)

Play the sound effect and see if the listener can guess what the noise is.


You can theme the sound games e.g. 'The Rainforest', 'Transport', 'Animals', 'Space' 

Ideas to Stimulate the Olfactory System


Explore: antiseptic, aromatic, bitter, burnt, comforting, citrus, clean, crisp, damp, delicate, earthy, eggy, evocative, fishy, fresh, fragrant, floral, fruity, heady, musky, musty, perfumed, refreshing, salty, savoury, sharp, smoky, soapy, sour, spicy, sweet, tangy and woody.

Explore artificial products: essential oils, scented creams & soaps, diffusers, joss sticks, scented bags, soaps, pot pourri and scented candles.

Liven art and craft activities by adding a few drops of essential oils, fresh herbs such as mint or lavender or dried spices to homemade playdoh

Our sense of smell is linked with memory and emotions. Exploring smells help individuals to understand the world around them.

Explore natural items: herbs and spices, fruit and vegetables and scented edible flowers such as rose petals and lavender.

Liven art and craft activities by adding a few drops of essential oils, fresh herbs such as mint or lavender or dried spices to homemade playdoh

Make a potion. Take a paint palette or cupcake baking tray and fill it with items that smell. You could theme them by colour e.g., a yellow themed potion may include grated lemon zest, yellow food colouring, sweetcorn, bananas, raw potato, edible flowers such as sunflowers and marigolds, spices like turmeric and cumin, yellow split peas and lentils.

Provide pipette, spoons, safety tweezers/jumbo grippers, and tongs to promote fine motor skills.


The potions could be friendship potions, Harry Potter spells, superhero potions...the imagination is the limit!

Explore the Gustatory System


Explore aromatic, bitter, bland, buttery, caramelised, carbonated, chalky, charcoal, charred, cheesy, chewy, chocolatey, cinnamon, citrusy, clove-like, coarse, creamy, crispy, crumbly, crunchy, delicate, earthy, effervescent, eggy, fibrous, fiery, fishy, fizzy, flaky, floral, floury, foamy, fresh, frosty, fruity, garlicky, gingery,  grainy, granular, grapey, gritty, herbal, honeyed, icy, juicy, lemony, light, limey, malty, metallic, milky, minty, moist, mushy, musty, oily, oniony, peppery, pickled, plummy, powdery, pungent, quenching, refreshing, rich, ripe, rubbery, salty, sandy, savoury, seasoned, sharp, sinewy, slimy, smoky, smooth, soggy, sour, sparkling, spiced, spicy, spongy, squidgy, squishy, starchy, sweet, syrup, tangy, tart, tender, toasty, toothsome, vanilla, velvety, vinegary, zesty, zingy 

Present a wide range of different tastes and textures for the individual to explore at their own pace.

Initial explorations could be through touch and smell, the next step to present a tiny touch to the lips progressing onto a morsel or a drop in the mouth, an egg spoonful building up to a full bite.  

Play blindfold tasting games.

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