Sensory Play at Home


I am a great collector of rubbish! Yes, you heard me right I collect rubbish. Don’t worry, there is a reason behind my madness! The reason you ask? My five year old daughter and my fifty two year old mother of course!

When my daughter was two, my mother came to visit. I was busy showing her the collection of toys and crafts that came with recommendations for learning new skills. Naani and the ladli had fun playing together. When we were on our own my mother asked me, “What else does she play with?” I was puzzled, “What else?”

“You used to play with your brothers and sisters with all kinds of things. We didn’t always buy you toys for everything, did we? Have you forgotten?”

That wicked woman I tell you! I was the middle child with one older and two younger siblings. Like other middle class Indian families we had some toys but we also made do with a lot of junk. We collected old bangles, broken pieces of jewellery, colorful paper, ribbons, bindis, zari worked dupattas. We had a pile of old wire, beads from old necklaces, and oh, wait for this—we made red powder by rubbing two bricks against one another! I can still feel that dry scratchy sensation on my hands.

One day a friend came to visit and saw my daughter playing with my bangles. She remarked on how much fun it must be to play with such colorful bangles of such different materials and sizes. It made me see my mother’s remark in a new light! That weekend I went scrounging around the house to find odds and ends—the non-toys as I call them. These materials are great for sensory play.

I still buy toys and a few craft box sets. But when I look for ideas I think about the most basic materials first. There is something to be said for letting kids create new uses for old materials. They have turned out to be my daughter’s most favorite sensory play items. I rotate these once a week but sometimes keep them longer depending on how she plays with them.

Jewelry sensory bin


Shiny, glittery, chunky, long, short, circles, squares…on some days she wears them. On other days she picks them out with tongs to move them around into trays/boxes. We’ve identified many shapes, and materials in these bits and pieces.

Fabric bin

Soft, silk, shiny, transparent, long duppattas, short bits I have them all.


Some are perfect to wrap around as a saree making her feel all grown up! (Remember raiding your mom’s sarees as a kid?)


Other pieces are great for cutting, decorating and lacing.

Packaging Material


I find all the interesting looking plastic wrappers, twines, threads and ribbons. They go in the bin with some scissors. The different textures and varying thickness give plenty of practice in cutting. We end up with lots of shapes and designs.


My non-glass bangles go in the bin. She can spend hours trying to make patterns! I guess she has been watching me get ready for desi functions, trying to mix and match the bangles to suit my outfit.



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