Sensory crafts like tie dye are known for their therapeutic benefits in ABA therapy and autism behavior support. Tie dyeing not only engages the senses but also offers a creative outlet that promotes focus, and fine motor skills. Here’s a step-by-step guide on how to create tie dye shirts, along with the benefits of this colorful craft.

Materials Needed:

  • Fabric Dye in different colors
  • Fabric items (shirts, socks, sweatshirts)
  • Plastic tablecloths or large trash bags
  • Gloves
  • Zip-top bags or plastic wrap
  • Rubber bands or string
  • Squeeze bottles for dye application
  • Optional: Plastic buckets for dipping fabric into dye

Step-by-Step Guide:

  1. Mix Your Dyes and Prep Materials: Before beginning, mix your fabric dyes according to package instructions. If your fabric requires pre-soaking, ensure it’s done before dyeing.
  2. Set Up Your Workspace: Protect your work surface with a plastic tablecloth or large trash bags. This helps contain any spills and makes cleanup easier, which is essential in therapy settings where focus is key.
  3. Prepare Your Garments: Pre-wash the fabric items to remove any residues that might interfere with dye absorption. This step also familiarizes participants with the materials, promoting comfort and predictability.
  4. Fold and Tie Your Shirt: Experiment with different folding and tying techniques to achieve varied patterns. This process encourages problem-solving skills and fosters creativity, essential aspects of therapy for individuals on the autism spectrum.
  5. Apply the Dye: Use squeeze bottles or other methods to apply the dye to the fabric. This step provides tactile stimulation and encourages fine motor control, helping to refine hand-eye coordination.
  6. Let the Dye Set: Allow the dyed fabric to sit for at least 6-8 hours, or longer for more vibrant colors. This waiting period can be a calming exercise, promoting patience and anticipation.
  7. Rinse and Wash: Rinse the dyed fabric under cold water until it runs clear, then remove rubber bands or ties before running the items through a warm/hot washing machine cycle. This hands-on process reinforces independence and practical life skills.


  • You can adjust the intensity of the colors by changing the dye-to-water ratio. If you want more pastel colors, you can add more water to the dye mixture.
  • If you place complementary colors next to each other (that’s red-green, orange-blue, or yellow-purple), you may create brown or other dull colors where the dyes bleed together.
  • For the brightest colors, you can let the dye cure for up to 24 hours.
  • For this first wash, you can wash multiple garments together, as long as they have been dyed with similar colors. If you wash too many colors together in the same load, the garments can come out muddy looking.
  • For the next couple of washes, you’ll want to wash your tie-dyed clothing separately from the rest of your usual clothes.

Benefits of Tie Dye as a Sensory Craft:

  • Sensory Stimulation: Engages tactile senses through touch and fine motor skills during folding, tying, and applying dye.
  • Creativity and Self-Expression: Encourages artistic expression and decision-making in color choices and patterns, boosting confidence and self-esteem.
  • Focus and Attention: Requires sustained attention to detail throughout the process, which can improve concentration skills over time.
  • Social Interaction: Offers opportunities for group activities and collaboration, enhancing social skills and communication.

Tie dyeing is more than just a fun craft activity—it’s a great activity to add to your ABA Therapy toolkit that supports sensory integration, and motor skills development. Whether used in ABA therapy sessions or at home, the process of creating tie dye shirts provides individuals with autism, a structured and engaging activity that promotes both personal growth and social interaction. Embrace the vibrant world of tie dye and discover its colorful benefits today!

If you’re interested in learning more about how ABA therapy can benefit your child, or if you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to contact us. We’re here to help you on this journey. Give us a call at (855) 444-5664 to get started!