Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Sensory Fun

Like most kids of the toddler/preschooler age, my girls love to get their hands in just about everything. They're learning with all their senses, and one thing I've found that keeps them occupied for record amounts of time is sensory play.

Whenever I post pictures of the girls with their hands buried deep, I get comments and messages asking me about it. So here it is...our version of sensory play!

You can find examples of sensory play on hundreds on blogs, pinterest boards, parenting websites, etc. There are many moms out there who do themed boxes for seasons and topics. We stay pretty classic, but if you're interested in that, Pinterest is a great place to start.

In the summer, you'll find the girls playing outside in the sandbox or in the water table. We've managed to keep our sand animal and rainwater free by using a cover with a plastic tablecloth underneath, held into place by a few loose bricks.

In the heat of summer, I added colored ice cubes to the water table. A great idea in theory, but we picked a really hot day and the ice shapes were gone within 5 minutes. If they'd slowly melted, it would have been a neat mixing of colors, but a rapid melt meant immediate brownish water. They still loved it, but I'll try it differently next time.

Silicon trays from Ikea - 99 cents

Food coloring and water mixture, easily popped out!

The 30 seconds before the girls descended!

Once we're indoors, that's when I really experiment with different textures. These are my easy go to dry options. I get all of these from either BJs (a warehouse club) or the dollar store. I have about 5 pounds of each.
  • Lentils
  • Dried beans
  • Oatmeal
  • Rainbow Rice
  • Pasta
My backup when the water table is outside, or dirty, or whatever. The only disadvantage is they can't stand up to play.


Pasta (elbows seem to be a good size for us)

Rainbow rice
Storage containers

I really prefer things that, although I don't want the girls to eat, won't hurt them if they do. I've had a few people suggest that beans can go up the nose. Luckily, that hasn't been an issue here yet (knocking on wood and cursing those for putting that out in the universe).

I store them in cylindrical containers from the dollar store. One of these containers just about fills the water table. It's also nice for me to be able to see if our supply is starting to dip from clean up.

I put a tablecloth underneath the table, and the girls know that they are supposed to keep the mess contained to the table and the cloth, but I'll admit, that doesn't always happen. I've heard that using a queen sized sheet is pretty effective, and since we just replaced our bedding, I think that's what we'll be trying.

Clean up is usually pretty simple. Everything that lands on the tablecloth can be easily picked up and dumped back into the table. Everything on the floor is usually picked up with a quick pass with the dustpan and broom or vacuum.

The one issue with using this kind of table is that I really have no efficient way of getting everything back in the storage container. I have to scoop it (usually with Madison's help). It feels like it takes a long time, but just for fun, I timed myself last time. Working alone, with a basic scoop, I was completely cleaned up in five minutes. That's it.

Of course, messes do happen. Some of you love to comment on how amazing it is that the girls don't create huge messes.

Sometimes they do.

This was an exceptionally bad mess.

Still, it was cleaned in under ten minutes. Not bad.

There are a few other substances we love to use, but they require a little more effort and clean up.

  • Cloud dough

This is a mixture of flour and baby oil. It molds like wet sand and feels amazingly soft on your hands. It's definitely messy, so we don't use it as often as I think the girls would like. That works in my favor though; since it doesn't come out often, it occupies them for a while.

I'm hyper cautious with these when it comes to Reagan. She is not allowed to play with them unless I am right next to her watching her like a hawk. I love the kid, but I just don't trust her. She's past the oral fixation phase, but when I first started using them, I read some stories that scared me a bit.

No, they're not toxic. But they can be a bit of a choking hazard if they're whole, and because they absorb water, they don't necessarily "pass" like a bean or lentil would - they soak up more water internally and, in the case of small kids, can get stuck. Madison understands the rules and can verbalize them back to me. I don't trust that Reagan does. So this is a "Reagan is napping" activity or a "Mommy plays too" activity.

I love these. I love the texture. They're slippery, bouncy, and I think they're really fun to scoop and pour.

I got ours at Big Lots (the multicolored - these are specifically for play) and the Wal-Mart floral craft section (3 packs to make 4 1/2 quarts). You can also find them on Amazon. I've had the best luck with FloraCraft Blue Water Beads and Globbies but it's hard to go wrong. I keep them in a sealed box and refresh with water if it seems like they're shrinking.

And of course....


We have some Insta-Snow Powder , but having played with both, we prefer the real snow!

What do we play with?

  • Scoops
  • Measuring Cups
  • Bowls
  • Trucks
  • Tea Set
  • Anything that makes its way in! The princesses have found their way in, the trains have found their way in...no rules!
Have fun!

Recipes for Cloud Dough and Rainbow Rice - there are many variations; these are what I use. Adjust quantities as necessary. We use a double batch of cloud dough, and I make two cups of each color rice.

Cloud dough - 8 cups flour, 1 cup baby oil. Mix.

Rainbow Rice - 1 cup rice, 1 Tbsp vinegar, enough food coloring to get the color you desire, Shake until all the rice is coated (I use a mason jar and let the girls take a turn to shake, but I know others have used Ziploc bags). Spread on foil covered baking sheets and bake at 200 until dry.
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