DIY Sensory Board For Toddlers: I Spy Game

This sensory board was designed to mimic the “I Spy” books that most of us are probably familiar with. This board is extremely easy and inexpensive to make and is perfect for learning through play. Use this board to introduce new textures, colours, and vocabulary words. You can quiz your child and have them find items based on what they are, what colour they are, where they can be found in the world, or what they feel like. When your child becomes more confident they can ask the questions and you can enjoy a full game of I spy!

One night I was in the middle of my girls’ bedtime routine, when I noticed an I Spy book lying on the floor. My daughter loves to read these and try to find the different items. I too always loved these books as a child. I would lie on the floor looking through the pages, trying to take in every unique item. I especially loved the ones with the Rube Goldberg Machines and the dominoes. I decided I wanted to recreate something like these books that can be touched and explored in addition to playing “I spy with my little eye”.

I love learning through play, so I knew I wanted to come up with a way for this DIY to be fun for my girls, but also a learning tool. I added a variety of textures and colours to help achieve this. I grouped items into several categories, just based on what I had around the house, and then made sure to include different colour variations to add to the game. I also added items my daughter is unfamilliar with, to help add to her vocabulary.

This project was essentially free for me to make. At one time or another I purchased, or randomly acquired the objects I used, so I didn’t actually have to buy anything to make it. I often will pick up wooden canvases from the dollar store because they are perfect for impromptu signs. I’ve used them to make birthday party decor and to organize toys. They only cost a few dollars and have a ton of uses.

Let’s Jump Into the Tutorial!

  • Wooden Canvas – I purchased mine at the Dollar Store. They also sell them on amazon
  • Glue Sticks
  • Multi surface glue – to add strength if desired (I used a bit of Elmer’s Probond Advanced)
  • Craft paints or paint pens – I like to use these paint pens
  • A collection of small objects (different colours, textures, types):
ballsshellsdominoes bag clips
beadsfaux flowers/greenerybells cards
buttonsrocksgoogly eyes letters
featherspine conespaper/cardstock coins
pipe cleanersscrewscassette tape numbers (magnets)
fabrics small toys dicebows/ribbon
  • Hot glue gun
  • Paint brush

Step 1 – Plan out the board

First shop your house for your items and then divide them into categories, or put items in groups, approximately how you want to put them onto the board. I divided my items based on 4 categories. I just determined these categories based on what I gathered from around my house: Christmas, outdoors, food, toys/games, and miscellaneous household items.

I placed the items out on the board, deciding how I wanted to organize the board, and the general play where I would later glue down the items. This took a bit of trial and error, but it was quick and easy. I placed some like items together, but I also wanted to place smaller objects around the board in different places so they would be more challenging to find.

Next I decided where I would sketch a couple of designs to add to the board.

Step 2 – Sketch out your designs

I wanted to add a couple of extra details to the board, but didn’t have any items that would work, so I decided to paint them on. First I sketched out the drawings – a rainbow, snowman, and lady bug. Then I placed items that I would use to add to the drawings.

You could draw whatever you want onto the board, depending on what items you have, and what things you think might complement them. You could paint on letters, numbers, animals, food items, really anything you want to add.

Step 3 – Paint on the designs

Next, paint on the designs. I did this with a combination of acrylic craft paints and acrylic paint pens. Paint pens tend to bleed on unfinished wood, so I did a base coat with acrylic paint first. Then I filled in the designs with paint pens. I was having a hard time getting the paint pens to work exactly as I wanted them to, so I ended up painting a bit with a brush too.

Get creative with this step. You want the board to be bright, interesting, and to get your little one’s attention. You also want to hide some small images for them to find later when they are playing. You can adjust the difficulty based on the age of your child, and change up the design based on their interests. For example, I added a snowman because my daughter loves “Frosty the snowman”, I also used a rainbow because she loves everything rainbow.

Step 4 – Glue on the items

Next is the fun part. Watch your board come to life by gluing on the items. I used mostly my hot glue gun. I intended to use Elmer’s pro bond glue too, but the hot glue gun was working well and it dries so quickly, so it’s convenient. You could use any glue you prefer, depending on how concerned you are about items falling off.

Of course you want to be weary of choking, so if your little puts things in their mouth, choose your items with that in mind, and use a strong glue. Elmer’s pro bond works really well, it just has a longer dry time. I’ve glued things with that before and they haven’t moved at all over the course of years.

I enjoyed this process and found it quick and easy.

There you have it. Your I spy sensory board is done!

Now you can play with it with your little one. It can be used in a variety of ways for learning and play. You could ask your little one to find items, such as “find something that is pink”, or “find something that is soft”. You could also ask them to find items based on what they are called, or to make it more difficult, where they are found. For example “find something that is found on a beach”. You can tailor the difficulty based on your little one’s age, or what they are confident at.

As your child grows more familiar with the board you can have them ask you the questions. Then you can take turns and play “I spy with my little eye” together.

If you enjoy the board you could make more – like the “I spy” books, and sort them based on themes. You could do a whole Christmas, or Easter themed board, or an outdoor, or kitchen board. The possibilities are pretty much endless, so have fun with it.

Enjoy Your Project!

I hope the little one you made this for loves it and you can play with it together. I’m looking forward to teaching the I Spy game to my girls. If you’re interested in more projects like this one, subscribe to my email list to be notified every time I post. For more ideas, follow me on Instagram @the_walnut_grove and pin this image to Pinterest to refer back to. Thanks for the support!

Let’s Chat!

If you have any questions, comments, or suggestions, please leave them down below. I’d be happy to hear from you! Let me know if you made this rainbow sorting board, and how the process was for you. I’d love to see if you did something different too! For more ideas, check out similar learning through play projects below.