I have been busy making activity bags (also known as busy bags ironically!) for Dancing Queen and one of the things I decided to make for her were sensory balls. Making your own stress ball or sensory ball is easy to do and so inexpensive. Now that I know how easy these are to make, I keep some in the van, one in my purse, one in each of the kids’ backpacks, one in each of the calm down kits, and some in almost every room of the house.
How to make a stress ball:
The first time I made sensory balls, I filled balloons with homemade playdough. I didn’t bother to add scent or food colouring because once it was inside the “ball”, it wouldn’t be seen or smelled.
The next step seemed easy enough…stuff some of the playdough into a balloon. This was much easier said than done!!! I tried holding the balloon open with my fingers and shoving it in with the other hand. I tried holding it open with the fingers from two hands while having one of my girls shove playdough in and that resulted in little cuts on my fingers from her nails.
At this point, I still did not have one full stress ball! I then came up with the idea to insert a coupler (cake decorating tool) into the top of the balloon and make skinny snakes with the playdough and get them in that way. It was still tedious, but it was much easier than the other methods I had tried.After making about five of these playdough filled balloons, I began to think that there must be an easier way to make these sensory balls. I did a google search and read about filling them with flour. I made a funnel out of paper and quickly filled five balloons with flour.
The flour filled sensory balls felt very similar to the playdough filled ones. They had somewhat of a softer feel and did not hold their shape when pressed in the way the playdough filled ones, but when surveyed, every one of my kids preferred the flour filled sensory balls. I also filled a few with dry rice (also using the paper funnel) for a different sensory experience. None of my kids like the rice filled ones.Now when I make sensory balls, I don’t bother with the playdough ones at all. I fill all of them with flour instead of messing with the playdough or bothering with rice. The kids really like squeezing the sensory balls and they are a fraction of the cost that store-bought stress balls are.
*note: use the helium quality balloons for best results
Update: We’ve made these using just flour another half a dozen times or so over the past few years. They sometimes last for many months at a time. You can use permanent marker to draw a face on them or write the name of the child it belongs to. Remind kids not to bite them as they will break if bitten hard enough.
We take our sensory balls with us everywhere. The kids each have one in their backpacks. I have one in my purse for waiting rooms or in the van. Our kids also include them in their anti-anxiety kit and we have one in our sensory room.
Important note: Balloons present a choking hazard and a mouthful of flour isn’t very fun either, so only use these if you know your child won’t be putting it in their mouth and always provide supervision. If you have a child who always needs to put things in their mouth, give them an alternative sensory item for chewing.
For sensory information and resources for the home or classroom, check out Sensory Processing Explained: A Handbook for Parents and Educators.
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My daughter made these in camp a few years ago. Of course there she used sand, but I love the idea of using flour. A hint though, helium balloons tend to be a bit stronger. 🙂
I hope your having a great week!!
What about water balloons..would they be strong enough?
Water balloons are designed to break easily so would not work well for this.
My niece showed me her sensory balls: made them using crushed rice Crispies. Excellent idea.
What great sensory balls. I have only made rice ones.
What a great idea! I can just imagine myself being tempted to swear as I attempt to put play dough in a balloon. OY! What a job that must have been!
Beth B says
If you did want to do play dough or something of the sort again, you could try using a complete pastry bag (or ziplock bag with the corner snipped) and ‘piping’ the dough into the balloon.
I’ve never tried flour though, I’m excited to give it a shot! I also have ‘moon sand’ (also called moon dough) which I made out of flour and baby oil, it holds shape better than just flour. I think I’ll give that a shot, too! Thanks for inspiration!
Check out my website for an easy way to fill the balloons with a variety of substances. Go to http://www.TherapyStreetForKids.com then go to Recipes, then to Push & Squeeze things. The trick is to blow up the ballon and make an airtight connection to a bottle with the filler in it.
Thanks for the hint!
I wonder if you can fill the balloon with the ingredients for the playdough with the recipe altered to fit the amount needed per balloon? I am going to try this today 🙂 Thank you for the great idea!! I bought your e-book today and am excited about all your ideas. I am going to get the kids to help me make some sensory bins because not only will they enjoy them when they’re finished, we’ll have so much fun doing them together! You are full of great ideas that I can’t wait to try. I am most excited about the sensory balls. These look so pretty and I know the kids will love them!
Ironically, I just finished this morning making 20 new sensory balls. This time, I filled all of them with flour as those are the easiest to make and they are the texture my kids like the best. Some of my kids prefer them to be stiffer, so I stuff those ones with more flour. I have given each of the kids one and have made the rest up to give to friends and to have some extra on hand in case some break or get lost.
I’m really glad you’re enjoying the ebook…thanks for the encouraging feedback!
corn starch can be used, its firmer and holds it shapes- so you can make faces with it :), so maybe not so much a stress ball, but a really cool texture.
Thanks for the idea!
Marsha Baird Poirier says
I used stress balls in the Resource Room of our Christian school. I bought stronger-than-average balloons at a party shop and we blew them up (without knotting) to loosen them; older boys and I used a funnel to pour in flour and a wooden spoon to tamp it down. Many went home and to classrooms.
My girls had flour filled ones, and one of them broke. Of course it was a huge mess! So I recommend the playdough option, especially if you have younger kiddos!
the playdough ones break too if tensed up too much. It’s also a mess as the heat from squeezing the balloon makes the playdough melted, but easy to clean up with water!
Tommie Jo says
….for some added strength, I use two balloons. I put one inside the other and then fill with flour. They are definitely used by kiddos.
Theres Just One Mommy says
We are going to have to try some flour ones. So far I’ve only used beads to make one, which creates a very interesting texture, and my son loved to hear the clacking of the beads inside as well.
I made some of those for a little girl I watched this summer. To get the play dough in I turned the balloon inside out. Then I basically rolled it back right over the play dough without much trouble. I also double ballooned all of them so that they would be harder to destroy.
I was reading up on something and what if you used a paper towel holder (the cardboard ones that everybody throws out) and place the balloon at the end, drop the playdough, rice, or flower down the tube and then tie the end of the balloon?
Years ago we made these at a conference. They added about a teaspoon of water and it made the squeezie hold it’s shape. Try that and see what happens 😀
julie tarylor says
Yes I have added water to the flour its works perfectly and lasts for a long time.
Donna J says
I cut the bottom off of a water bottle, stuffed the balloon into the mouth of the bottle and stretched it over the top. Then filled it with flour. This helps keep it open for a funnel, or just your hands depending on what you’re filling with.
Thanks for the tip Donna!
Jennifer King says
When the flour balloons break (and they will!) it makes a HUGE mess. Playdough works better for eliminating mess. To easily fill the playdough ones, just cut the neck off of the balloon. The play dough goes right in! Then cut the neck off of a second balloon and stretch it over to cover the hole. The “double ballooning” also makes them last even longer!
I did this and wrapped the ballon in a thin cloth. It looks nicer and the kid won’t bite them. And if you have kinetic sand, it’s more squishy.
Savannah Benner says
hey i love stress balls
Cut the top of the balloon off and it’s suddenly easier to get that playdoh in it.
you can cut the top tails of the balloon off and layer a few together.
Sammy Railroad says
I use 2 balloons and fill them with pulverized limestone instead of flour. The pulverized limestone has a unique feel and has a nice heavy feel in the hand.
Are there other options for the sensory balls for little ones who are allergic to latex but benefit from squeezing?