Shaving Cream Sensory Play: Discovery at Home

Materials needed:

  • Shaving cream (inexpensive brands can be used).
  • A cookie sheet, pan, or plastic table covering to save your table.
  • Loose parts discovered in the yard or around the house.
  • Food coloring
  • Towel.


  • Create a safe place for messy play.
  • Lay out the collection of objects.
  • Take the cap off of the shaving cream, and go to town! Make certain that the nozzle is pointing the right direction first.
  • Cover the objects with a thick layer of foam.
  • Enjoy the sensations of messy gooey play. Try something warm or cold. Or frozen. Does temperature change the dynamics of play? Do the kids play longer? Finish quickly? What if you change the color or texture of the shaving cream?

Ways to expand the activity:

  • Don’t just uncover hidden objects, play hide and seek. What does the object feel like? Describe what you find! Can you find matching objects? Can you tell what it is without looking?
  • Add drama! Tell a story and create “Search and Rescue” teams.
  • Play a counting game. How many rocks did you hide? How many did you find? How many are still missing?
  • Use a fork or kitchen tool to draw through the shaving cream.
  • Finger paint.
  • Add watercolors, food coloring or gel coloring.
  • Place a piece of paper on top of the colorful design and lift off a print of your design.

What do kids learn?

  • Children gain social and emotional skills through dramatic play. When they pretend, they are experimenting in social roles, practicing language, and solving problems: Don’t panic! How can we get your hands clean? How can we get the foam off of the dinosaur's back?
  • Basic engineering skills. Engineers solve problems with constraints, in this case, getting something thick, cloggy or viscous off of their hands! They learn to solve problems by using the engineering design process: asking questions, coming up with solutions, testing and improving.

  • Spatial or visual thinking. Being able to imagine the positions of objects and how they interact is an important skill for learning to navigate the world and later, to learn math and more complex language to express themselves.
  • Fine motor skills. Kids practice using the small muscles in their hands later used for writing.
  • Symbolic thinking, or the ability to think about one thing representing something else. When small children begin to connect the idea of saving a toy animal caught in the shaving cream with the first responder who helps us when we call 911, they start building the connections in the brain that allow for reading and life learning later.
  • Experimentation! When kids experiment, they're learning how to learn. Failure is an important part of experimenting, so let kids try things that won’t work. It’s how they figure things out!
  • Hand eye coordination. Young children can use activities like identifying something hidden from sight to help improve communication between their minds and bodies.
  • Sensory play! Sensory play that lets children touch, squeeze, smell and feel, helps build connections in the brain.

Thank you to the Ulmer family for providing photos of this activity!