Sensory Play During the Holidays

by Jodi Gilray-Szostak, PT, DPT, c/NDT, Jodi Gilray Pediatric Therapy

Our senses are really put to the test this time of year, and we love it! Your child will benefit from intentional sensory play and the experiences that come with it.

Gift ideas for sensory development 

If you’re seeking The 12 Days of Christmas gift ideas for kids, focus on gifts that support sensory development for each day. Here are a few suggestions:

  • Weighted blankets — These heavy blankets are excellent for kids seeking extra proprioceptive input such as if they are craving pressure. Plus, weighted blankets can be calming.

For kids with sensory processing disorder, they often find themselves on high alert. Place this cozy blanket over them, and they’ll be relaxing and sleeping a little bit better.

  • Play-Doh — Playing with Play-Doh is messy fun that nurtures the sense of touch. Not only that, but Play-Doh is great for fine motor skill development and creative thinking.
  • Pop fidget toy — These small trinkets are ultra satisfying to pop, and as a result, it creates a unique sensory experience. Many kids will find the poppers to be calming.

Santa’s tasting his milk and cookies 

Be sure to incorporate holiday traditions and Christmas sensory activities that get the family experiencing all the sights, sounds and smells of the holidays.

  • Holiday sensory bucket — Buckets and bags filled with holiday goodies make for an exciting sensory play activity. Fill the bucket with sprinkles, whipped cream, sand or shaving cream and bury a variety of goodies inside.

To bury inside: ornaments of interesting textures or shapes, Christmas bows, pompoms, green and red beads, candy canes, buttons, Holiday squishy toys.


This is a great option for both family bonding and sensory play. There’s no fun in baking without a little mess. No matter how old your child is, baking messes can be really good for the soul and tactile senses.

Building a gingerbread house or whipping up some Christmas cookies also gets the attention of your sense of smell and, of course, taste.

How to navigate sensory play, processing challenges   

First, you’ll want to make sure our child has a safe place to go if things become a bit too overwhelming. This doesn’t mean that you shelter them from experiences, but rather, start new experiences slowly and talk to them in advance about how experiences will play out.