The Sensory Bounce Therapy Blog:

Sensory Processing, Motor and Social Skills Resources
for Parents of  Special Needs Children

Fun Indoor Sensory Activities, part 2

Part 2 of 9: Found art: great for a rainy day — or any day

Creating found art and recycled art
Found art is art made with ordinary objects, and recycled art is art made out of discarded materials and trash. Found art challenges the concept of what constitutes art; recycled art is about repurposing and reusing materials.

Below are some ideas for super-fun sensory art activities you can do inside with your child, using components you find in your recycling bin and around the house. Your child will be building her fine motor, coordination and concentration skills, stretching her creative ‘muscles,’ and even absorbing some elementary physics, all while relaxing and having a good time.

These are good starting points for what you and your child can make using recycled and found items; your imagination is the best source.

Construct an upcycled sculpture or an assemblage
An assemblage is a work of art made by grouping found or unrelated objects, usually incorporating elements that project out of a two-dimensional medium — like a collage, but three-dimensional.

So grab your child and raid the recycling receptacle, cannibalize the crafts cache, and hunt through the house for bits and pieces she can glue together into wacky sculptures. He can glam them up with paint and craftsy decorations if he likes. Finally, a use for that lonely single earring…

Ideas for materials to use:
– Tin cans
– Cut-up cardboard
– Foamcore
– Lightweight wood
– Egg cartons
– Bottle caps
– Tiles
– Beads
– Buttons
– Old toys or parts of toys
– Wine corks
– Twist ties
– CDs
– Old keys
– Broken or unwanted costume jewelry
– Cardboard cylinders from wrapping paper, aluminum foil, toilet paper and paper towels
– Boxes and cartons
– Old tupperware or take-out containers
– Rinsed out yogurt containers
– Dish detergent containers
– Any interestingly-shaped containers
– Sewing supplies
– Crafts supplies
– Newspapers
– Magazines and catalogs
– Any ordinary household items and small objects which capture your child’s interest and you no longer need

– Glue
– A mini hot glue gun (for older kids)
– Drawing supplies such as paints and markers
– Arts and crafts materials to decorate the sculptures:

              – Paint
              – Glitter glue
              – Feathers
              – Stickers
              – Cut-outs
              – Colored tissue paper
              – Sticky-backed jewels

How to:
– Glue the objects together in a pleasing configuration (encourage your child to move items around and experiment with different placements)
– Paint and/or decorate the resulting sculpture, if desired


Here’s a link to more ideas on Pinterest to get you started if you like, but first let your child’s imagination wild and see what it produces:

Be sure to photograph the results in case they fall apart.

It’s a wrap!

Let your child be like Christo — have her wrap existing household objects or structures she builds herself. You can look at photos of Christo’s and Jeanne-Claude’s projects with your child and discuss them, then encourage him to try something similar (on a smaller scale!).

Here’s a link to some of Christo’s and Jeanne-Claude’s finished works:

You’ll probably want to look especially at the wrapped trees, Reichstag, Roman wall, etc., not for scope, of course, but for ideas about the logistics of wrapping objects that have irregular shapes and surfaces.

Suggest that your child try different wrapping materials, and it becomes an opportunity to talk about how different materials feel and act differently.

Your child can wrap objects you find around the house — that’s an activity too: go through the house together with a fresh eye and open mind, collecting different-shaped objects and toys to wrap — or he can wrap a sculpture he built.

Ideas for wrapping materials to use:
– Canvas or other heavy fabric
– Thin fabric
– Felt
– Newspaper
– Catalog pages
– Wrapping paper (from the dollar store)
– Garbage bags (white)
– Recycling bags (blue)
– Recycling bags (clear),
– Contractor’s trash bags (black)
– Aluminum foil
– Wax paper
– Anything you can shape or mold to an object and attach

How to:

Use glue, tape, twine, clothespins, safety pins, etc., to attach the wrapping material to the objects

– Encourage your child to experiment with tight and loose wrapping, and how tying material in different spots creates different shapes than gluing material down
– Take photos of the finished piece(s) so your child has a record of her creation even after the toy has returned to the play bin and the blender to the kitchen counter

Building a whole new world
If you like, this can be an expansion of two ideas above (building a structure, and wrapping it).

Suggest to your child that he construct a city with buildings and other structures of different shapes, levels, sizes, etc., then either wrap everything in a unifying material, or paint it all a uniform color.

If she uses aluminum foil to wrap, the construction becomes an alien city from another planet, or a magical world, or whatever is decided by her imagination.

Alternatively, he can paint it all one color, for the same unifying effect, or paint it different colors, depending on his preferences and vision.

Once it’s complete, the finished piece can decorate your child’s room and/or be a play space populated with small cars, dolls, plastic animals, and other little toys.

Ideas for building materials:
– Cartons, large and small
– Small boxes
– Shoeboxes
– Gift boxes of varying sizes
– Tissue boxes
– Cardboard
– Foamcore
– Cylinders (washed out) from oatmeal, chips, etc.
– Old tupperware containers, or any containers
– Egg cartons
– Anything from the recycling bin that inspires your child

How to:
– Use different size boxes for the framework of the city’s structures
– Make use of cardboard cylinders of different lengths and strengths (from toilet paper, paper towels, wrapping paper, heavier ones from inside aluminum foil, etc.)
– Build ramps, bridges, and other interesting constructions
– Cut out shapes from cardboard to add turrets, towers, and other decorative structural trim


– Have your child move the components around to find a pleasing structure — and to let her figure out the relationship between heavy and light objects, what works and what doesn’t — before you glue them down
– The most important tip of all is to let your child’s imagination run wild
– Take a photo of the finished city because it may be too fragile to last long

Elevating plastic animals to a new level

You know that menagerie of miniature plastic animals that have colonized your home? Turn them into fabulous goodies — see this link for ideas:

“Growing” egg carton flowers
Don’t recycle that old egg carton (cardboard only) just yet … use a paper straw, acrylic paint, pom poms, scissors, glue and a paint brush to turn it into flowers.

Back to the classics: egg carton caterpillars
Just as a caterpillar turns into a butterfly, your child can turn an egg carton into a caterpillar. You might have done this as a kid yourself, but it never gets old.

If your child is young enough, you can read ”The Very Hungry Caterpillar” by Eric Carle to him for inspiration.

– A cardboard egg carton (make sure it’s clean)
– A pipe cleaner


– Paint and brushes
– Sharp scissors
– Markers

How to:
– Paint half the egg carton with a base color (leave it whole for now; it’s easier to paint it that way).
– Let it dry (at least a bit)
– Add more colors of paint
– Let it dry completely
– Cut it in half lengthwise
– Poke two holes in the top of the first section and thread the pipe cleaner through to be the antenna (your child can curl or twist the ends if he likes)
– Have your child draw eyes and a mouth with markers, or glue on googly eyes
– Play with your new pet!

The gang’s all here: a gang of cardboard roll people, that is

Have your child turn cardboard cylinders of different lengths into a group of people.

– Rolls of toilet paper, paper towels, wrapping paper, etc., cut to desired lengths
– Googly eyes
– Fabric scraps
– Pipe cleaners
– Yarn
– Construction paper, scrapbook accents, old small doll accessories etc.


– Markers
– Scissors
– Glue

How to:
– Poke pipe cleaners through the roll to make arms (and legs if you want), with their outer ends bent into hands (and feet)
– Glue on fabric scraps for clothes
– Attach yarn for hair
– Draw a face or glue on features made of construction paper, yarn, googly eyes
– Attach scrapbooking accents, construction paper shapes, and/or old toys for accessories such as hats, bags, tools, pets, etc.
– Have fun with your freshly-made friends!

Mini clothespin necklaces for maximum style
Details here:

From rags to riches: making bead jewelry from magazines or catalogs
Details here:

A new twist on a vintage standard: painted dinosaur pasta necklaces
Details here:
(Note: Of course, you can use any shape pasta your child prefers)

Looking ahead:
In the next post, we will discuss other sensory activities your child can enjoy indoors — and they use water so clean-up is practically built in.

Do you repurpose any of the above or other household items for projects with your kids? What turned out especially well (or the opposite!)?  Please share your thoughts in the comments section below. Also, let me know there or via email what topics you would like to discuss or hear more about.

Feel free to share or quote from this blog (with attribution, please, and if possible, a link), and to repost on social media.

I look forward to hearing from you!

All the best,

About Miriam:

Miriam Skydell MS, OTR/L is a pediatric OT with 30 years experience and a strong commitment to empowering every child with the skills, confidence and emotional stability necessary for a meaningful, independent life. In addition to her Masters degree from NYU (1986) and membership in the AOTA (American Occupational Therapy Association), Miriam is a licensed Interactive Metronome®, HWT (Handwriting Without Tears®), and TLP (The Listening Program®) provider.

Miriam performs preschool screenings, contracts experienced OTs, PTs and STs to schools, helped implement the HWT curriculum, and lectures extensively for parent and support groups and at teacher conferences for public and private schools throughout New Jersey. Through her private practice in Fair Lawn, Miriam Skydell and Associates, established in 1995, Miriam has helped countless children with a wide range of diagnoses improve functional living skills, manage the impact of sensory processing dysfunction, and meet their individual potentials.

In 2013, Miriam developed the Sensory Bounce® Therapy program for children with special needs, including autism, to receive therapy in a fun, natural play environment which their typically-developing peers often enjoy. In a stimulating indoor inflatable bounce facility, an experienced therapist works with small groups of children with ADHD, autism spectrum disorders, sensory processing difficulties, and other delays. Children learn to build their motor and social skills in goal-oriented therapy play sessions, classes, after school programs, and winter and summer camps. Simultaneously, parents meet in a separate space to share common experiences and support each other. Miriam takes pride in providing a nurturing, caring environment where children and their parents feel safe and secure to explore, take risks and overcome challenges.

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