Is your child learning to recognize shapes? This awesome DIY shape sensory bag uses hair gel and foam shapes to help kids practice their fine motor skills, colour recognition and shape recognition. It is perfect for toddlers and preschoolers, and even includes a free shape template for you to download and print at home!
This post may contain affiliate links, which means we may receive a commission, at no extra cost to you, if you make a purchase through a link. We only endorse products, services and merchants that we have personally used/tested and consider of the highest quality standard. Please see our full disclosure for further information.
Have you ever made a sensory bag for your child? They are mess-free, super versatile, and a great way to let babies safely explore different textures.
But one of the things I love about sensory bags is that they’re not just appropriate for babies. My five- and six-year-old love them too, especially when I throw in some learning components.
The Pom-Pom Rainbow Sensory Bag I made a little while back was a huge hit with my kids, and they have brought it on several car rides to keep themselves entertained. So I started wondering what else I create that would engage them in a similar way—and this shape sensory bag was the result!
Not only is this DIY hair gel sensory bag super squishy and fun to play with, but it also calls on a variety of skills, including fine motor skills, colour recognition and shape recognition. This makes it appropriate for toddlers and preschoolers, too.
And of course, because I love creating templates, it includes a free shape matching printable that you can download and print out a home to make your life a little easier!
How to Make a Shape Matching Sensory Bag
Here’s what you’ll need to make your own DIY shape sorting squish bag at home:
- My shape matching printable, which you can download using the form below (there’s another form at the bottom of the article if you’d rather keep reading)
- Gallon-sized freezer bags (we buy large Ziploc bags at Costco when they go on sale)
- Alcohol wipe (optional but recommended)
- Large cardboard box or panel
- Coloured markers or pencils
- Craft foam in various colours
- Sharp scissors
- Stick of glue
- Clear hair gel or sports gel
- Duct tape or Gorilla tape
1. Remove Logo (Optional)
You don’t have to do this step, but it’s really easy and will make your sensory gel bag look nicer, so I always do.
To remove the logo from the bag, all you need to do is rub it with an alcohol wipe and it should come right off. If ever you don’t have any alcohol wipes, you can use a tissue and a bit of rubbing alcohol, or even a couple drops of baby oil.
Note: We like to use two bags because it helps prevent leaks and makes the sensory bag more durable. If you want to do the same, don’t forget to remove the logo from both bags.
2. Print Template
Once you have received your free download, print the shape matching template on a sheet of US Letter sized paper (8.5 x 11 inches). You’ll need to print two copies—one for the background, and one to use as a guide to trace the foam shapes.
Note: You don’t have to use my template for this project—drawing your own is perfectly fine as well. But if you do draw your own, make sure you have a way to recreate the shapes in the same size so you can trace them on the craft foam.
3. Colour Template
Grab some markers, pencils or crayons and use them to colour in the shapes on one of the two printed templates.
I was originally planning on creating a coloured template, but it occurred to me that not everyone would be able to find craft foam in the exact same colours I had. So feel free to pick whichever colours you like, but make sure that you have some craft foam in a corresponding colour.
You can also choose to use only one colour, or even to omit the colours altogether, if you feel that would be a better fit for your child.
4. Create Foam Shapes
Use scissors to cut out all the shapes from the second printed template.
Then, making sure to use the same colours you used to colour in the shapes during the previous step, place each shape on a piece of craft foam and trace the shape with a pencil before cutting it out with scissors.
5. Cut Cardboard
Grab some thick cardboard and use scissors to cut it into a rectangle that is slightly larger all around than the sheet of paper with the printed template.
You’ll also want to make sure that it the same size or larger than the gallon-sized freezer bag you’ll be using to cover the template.
6. Glue Template
Use a stick of glue to glue the coloured-in template onto the cardboard.
7. Add Hair or Sports Gel
If you’ve chosen to use two bags, place one bag inside the other. Then, pour some clear hair gel or sports gel into the inside bag. (Make sure to pour the hair gel into the inside bag and NOT in between the two bags. I’ve done it accidentally and it is a pain to clean up.)
Note: We buy our hair gel from Walmart. Each bottle contains 350 ml, and we typically use up an entire bottle per sensory bag. You can also use less and thin it out with water (but don’t thin it out too much or the texture won’t be as fun).
8. Add Foam Shapes
Add the foam shapes to the gel-filled bag.
9. Seal Ziploc Bags
Seal up the bag with the hair gel, making sure to remove as much air as possible as you do so.
Then, if you’ve chosen to use two bags, use scissors to cut off the excess plastic above the zipper of the bag you just sealed. This will help it fit better inside the second bag.
Once you have cut off the plastic, place the first bag inside the second and seal the second one up too.
Note: The bags are much harder to open once the plastic has been removed, so make sure you remove all the air BEFORE sealing them to avoid having to open them up again to get more air out.
10. Tape Bag to Cardboard
Place the sensory bag on top of the cardboard and secure it in place using duct or Gorilla tape. You should be able to see the coloured shapes from the template through the clear bags and hair gel.
Once the bag has been secured in place, it’s time to play! Give the squish bag to your child and let them have fun squishing the foam shapes around and matching them to the ones on the template.
Note: Make sure your child has short nails before you let them play with this bag as sharp nails can poke a hole in the freezer bag and cause it to leak, especially if you only used one bag. Using two bags is even better!
Related Sensory Bag Ideas
Do you love DIY sensory bags as much as we do? Check out these articles:
- Pom-Pom Rainbow Sensory Bag
- Surprise Water Bead Sensory Bag
- Glow-in-the-Dark Nighttime Sensory Bag
- Melted Snowman Sensory Bag
Join my mailing list using the form below to receive your free shape matching template as a welcome gift! Subscribers gain access to my free printables library as well as to exclusive content that may never be published on my site.