DIY Sensory Gel Boards!

Guest Authored By Kerry P, MOT, OTR/L

Looking for some sensory fun that’s not too messy?  Follow these steps to create a fun and reusable craft with your kiddos!  All you need is a piece of cardboard, a gallon size Ziplock baggie, hair gel (LA Looks brand works best – and is cost effective), food coloring, and colorful duct tape!  A sensory gel board is a great way for children to explore different textures as well as work on index-finger isolation tasks. 

Why are index-finger isolation tasks important?  When working on grasping writing utensils, children use a variety of developmental grasp patterns.  The most developmentally appropriate grasp is called the tripod grasp.  This grasp benefits from facilitation of index-finger isolation to strengthen the intrinsic hand muscles. 

You can also make sensory gel bags using these same methods; however, the sensory gel board also provides a functional use to practice writing letters and/or drawing shapes (pre-writing strokes) with an isolated index finger. 

Steps: 

  1. Gather all materials – can include a blank sheet of paper to place on top of the cardboard and behind the gel bag to provide a clear background.
  2. Open Ziplock bag and squeeze gel until bag is about 1/6th full. Note: the smell of the gel adds another sensory experience!
  3. Choose the color of your gel by selecting food coloring. Note: if gel has a blue-ish tone, the colors will mix to create different colors.  Add 2 drops to start and mix well; continue to add drops until it is to the color of your child’s liking.
  4. Place paper over cardboard and turn horizontally; place gel bag over the paper with the Ziplock portion hanging over the back side of the cardboard – smooth gel so it is spread fully over the page.
  5. Use duct tape to seal the Ziplock portion to the back of the cardboard.  Then start taping down the sides of the baggie to create a border.
  6. Reinforce the border by taping across the back of the cardboard, connecting both sides of the border.
  7. Turn the board around and use your index finger to draw! 

If you would like your child to work on handwriting and letter formation, you can also draw handwriting lines (about 3” in size) to the blank sheet of paper prior to taping it down. 

For sensory gel bags, you can fill the Ziplock bags (of any size) about half way with gel, add food coloring, and even add glitter, beads, or any other surprise!  Possibly best to reinforce with another Ziplock bag to avoid punctures. 

Final disclaimer: If the child has long finger nails, advise them to use the pads of their fingers and not their nails when using the board.  Freezer bags can also be used to avoid punctures. 

Eyas Landing is a therapy clinic with a mission to provide evidence-based and family-centered therapy services for children, adolescents, and their families. The primary goal is to deliver relationship-based interventions within the most natural environments and to empower families to reach their full potential. To achieve this goal, our highly educated, compassionate staff dedicates time and expertise to create experiences that maximize therapeutic outcomes. The strength, determination, and perseverance of our clients are evident as they succeed in therapy, and ultimately in their daily lives.

Eyas Landing offers a wide range of comprehensive services including Speech Therapy, Occupational Therapy, Physical Therapy, ABA Therapy, Social Work, Family Therapy, and Neuropsych testing. Services are provided throughout the Chicagoland area via Telehealth, In-Home, and in our state of the art clinic.

Want to learn more or you have a specific question? Feel free to connect with us here!