Autumn: pumpkin pie, costumes, and everything else.
As an OT, I love to get into the “Halloween Spirit” of things at school with my students. Sensory recipes are always a great way to work on multiple skills at once, including Mixing, Measuring, Pouring, Stirring, and Kneading.
Cooking is a great way to work on fine motor skills, bilateral coordination (using two hands), dexterity, and functional life skills.
Sensory recipes are a non-edible method of working on all the above skills, which is perfect for school.
Food Allergies at Halloween
It’s important to make sure that none of your students have food allergies or aversions when you bring a Sensory recipe into a classroom. Some of my kids have gluten-free diets or nut allergies, so when in doubt, I send a letter home with the ingredients a week before the activity to get permission from the parent. Better to be on the safe side.
Halloween parties often include lots of candy and junk food. Instead of the typical sugar overload, why not set up a bunch of fun Sensory activities to get your kid’s friends in the Halloween Spirit?
Halloween Sensory Recipes
Here are my five favorite Sensory recipes— with a Halloween spin!
1) Halloween Dirt Doh
I’ve written about this recipe before. It’s a simple recipe with used coffee grinds. Make a large batch, and it’s perfect for a Spooky Coffin!
Here’s the recipe:
2 cups used coffee grinds (wet or dry)
2 cups of water (add it little by little until you get the consistency you want)
2 cups of flour (add more if you need to make the doh a little more doughy)
I asked my local bagel store to save me all their used coffee grinds for a few days before our Halloween party. When I went to pick it up, they had three bags full. Perfect! I filled an “under the bed storage” tupperware container with my ingredients.
I let my students mix it up with spoons and their hands. Then we hid some “spooky” items in the dirt— eyeballs, fingers, and bones. Add a fake tombstone and voila!
Now you have an awesome spooky sensory activity that addresses tactile defensiveness, hand strength, and bilateral coordination. Also— used coffee grinds have a distinct odor. Kids who are picky eaters usually have a strong sense of smell, which can trigger a gag reflex. Engaging in “smelly” activities is a good way to work on desensitizing the sense of smell. Finding things that are hidden in a busy background is a visual perceptual skill called visual figure-ground.
Add a blindfold that takes away the visual component, and now you are working on stereognosis. Stereognosis is the ability to recognize an object by using tactile information. This means a person uses their tactile sense without using their sense of vision or hearing, to figure out what they are touching, just like digging in your purse for your phone, while looking at something else. Bet you do that a lot! I know I do…
2) Halloween Slime
A simple slime recipe can be altered a million different ways. Add a bit of food coloring or washable paint, and you can color it to fit any holiday or theme. I used my go-to slime recipe, added a bit of orange food coloring, and gave my kiddies some cheap Halloween manipulatives to play with.
Here’s the recipe:
2 cups of Elmer’s glue
2 cups of water
2 cups of liquid starch (found in the laundry aisle)
Mix the glue and the water together to thin out the glue. Then, slowly add the liquid starch. Mix together with a spoon, then knead with hands. Add coloring to your liking. Once the starch is all blended (I let the kids take turns kneading and squeezing the whole batch), split the batch into individual portions for each child. Then, the fun begins! The texture of the slime can vary, which can alter your activity. I had one class that ended up with very “stringy” slime, which reminded us of spider webs! Another class had very firm slime, which was perfect to make Jack o’ lanterns. Add some cookie cutters, manipulatives, etc, and let the kids get creative! You can even leave it white, and let the kids create their own mummies or ghost faces!
3) Halloween Play-doh
You can go simple and just buy playdoh, or you can whip some up the old-fashioned way.
You can use cookie cutters to make witches, pumpkins, spiders, you name it! I like to use a chip tray to give my kids cut-up pipe cleaners, wobbly eyes, and tiny spiders. The kids can make a Halloween creation of their own design.
4) Pumpkin Pie Playdoh
I am a pumpkin lover. I love the taste, but I also really love the smell! Like I said, it’s good to incorporate olfactory (smelly) stuff into your activities. It can help picky eaters to broaden their boundaries, and it is a great way to incorporate multi-sensory learning into your lessons.
You can use a simple play-doh recipe and add some Pumpkin Pie Spice and some orange food coloring and you have the perfect Pumpkin Pie Playdoh!
Here’s what you need to make the doh:
2 cups of flour (you can use gluten-free if you need to)
1/2 cup of salt
1 cup of water
a dash of pumpkin pie spice (a make-your-own recipe listed below, if you can’t find it)
a couple of drops of orange food coloring or washable paint
Mix the flour and the salt together. Add the water bit by bit, and keep mixing and kneading until you get a firm, doughy texture. Add the pumpkin pie spice and the orange paint. I like to do this at the end because the kids can see where the paint isn’t mixed. This gives them a visual cue to keep kneading, twisting, and squeezing, until the colors are blended nicely.
To make pumpkin pie spice:
1/4 cup of ground cinnamon
4 tsp. ground nutmeg
4 tsp. ground ginger
1 tbs. ground allspice
This results in quite a bit of pumpkin pie spice— you can half it if you want, but I love to keep it around and use it to flavor my coffee. Add a teaspoon to your regular coffee grinds, and you’ve got some fabulous, pumpkin-flavored coffee. Who needs Starbucks!? Budget Divas make their own!
5) Ghost Guts
My kids got a giggle out of this one! I took a simple sensory recipe and gave it a Halloween name. It went great!
Here’s what you need:
2 parts corn starch
2 parts shaving cream
You can give each kid a bowl or make it in one big batch. I made it in a big Tupperware bowl and let my kids do the mixing. I also hid some little white bones and spiders in there for my kids to pull out. They loved it.
I hope your Halloween party is a smashing, sensory success!
Do you have any great Halloween Sensory Recipes to share with us?
I love the dirt doh idea! I really want to do this for an event at my work. Do any of the parents have concerns about caffeine absorption through the students skin? Is that even a possibility?
I’ve never had any complaints!