Step on Texture

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Veronika is walking! Okay, maybe my girl can’t do so on her own yet, but holding on to her dolly stroller, nothing stands in her way.

To add some sensory fun to her new-found ability, I laid down a texture obstacle course for her today. Gather up a variety of different materials in your house and lay them in a line on the floor. Beginning walkers can simply toddle across. For Veronika, I set up her stroller at one end, and she instantly began pushing her way across.

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There was a soft fluffy blanket to start…

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…and then her little feet passed onto the nubby texture of a rubber floor mat.

I added in variety with cozy flannel and a velvet-like dress-up cape.

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Perhaps most surprising for her little feet was a sequined dress at the end.

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She sat down and let her little toes play on this one!

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If your child is already talking, encourage him or her to describe how each material feels. For Veronika, I simply narrated as she walked. Off she goes!

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Bathroom Exploration

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You might think of the bathroom as a fairly boring room, but for your baby, it’s fascinating. Just think of all the things to hear, touch, and see! Today, I set aside some time just to explore the room with Veronika.

We started with toothpaste of course, because that tube just begs to be squeezed. I set out a layer of paper towels so she could do this with no mess, and then we squeezed onto an old toothbrush. Let your baby smell the minty scent or feel the toothbrush bristles.

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Next I sat her on the counter. Of course there’s the fun of mirror reflections. She’s learning to wave, so loved saying hello to the baby in the mirror! I let her choose objects to touch, including soft tissues to pull from the box.

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Then I washed her hands under warm running water. Rub-a-dub-dub! Rinse off and towel dry for that nice sensation.

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Next up: the shower! Turn on the water, either in a shower or tub. We watched the water swirl down the drain together.

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And now the most splashy fun of all: flush the toilet a couple of times. She was entranced watching the water swirl down, even though the noise startled her a little.

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In sum, your baby will find delight in even the most mundane parts of the house. This turned out to be a great sensory experience.

Decorating Pancakes

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Anyone who follows this blog knows I love to cook with my kids, and I firmly believe in getting kids into the kitchen from the earliest age. It’s truly never too early; today Veronika helped me decorate pancakes, and she’s not quite 13 months old!

Okay, technically this was more of a sensory play activity than a real recipe, but we sure had fun. First, I whipped up a batch of pancakes. You can make some from scratch with your favorite recipe, but I took a shortcake with Cherrybrook Kitchen’s vegan and gluten-free mix. Veronika loved playing with extra measuring cups while I mixed the batter.

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For extra learning, I cooked the pancakes in heart- and star-shaped molds so I could talk about shapes with Veronika. Regular circles are just fine too, though!

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I set the pancakes down on the floor on paper plates along with a few pouches of baby food. Look for bright colors like pinks and reds for this activity.

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Veronika only needed me to demonstrate once before she was eagerly “decorating” her pancakes. She proudly pressed the spout of the pouch down on the pancakes, and I think even tried to say “squeeeeze” back to me.

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Of course there was the necessary tasting, too. Veronika: meet pancake.

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And the pouch itself got a sip or two.

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I had fun decorating right alongside her, creating a make-believe bakery game.

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When you’re done, you have breakfast or snack built right in to your day. Or if the pancakes get very mushy from all that baby food on top, just consider this a sensory play activity and it’s still a win-win.

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Even the wax paper we had on the floor for easy clean-up was fun!

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You’ll notice that I had Veronika do the activity without a shirt, which seemed the safest way to avoid stains. Plus, I love that little buddha belly these days!

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Peanut Butter Play Dough

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I guarantee this is the yummiest play dough your kids will ever play with, and it’s unbelievably easy to make!

In a bowl, combine 6 large marshmallows (we use Dandies) and 4 tablespoons peanut butter. Microwave for about 15 to 20 seconds, until the marshmallows sotfen. Stir together.

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Add about 2 to 3 tablespoons powdered sugar, stirring with a spoon to combine and then working the dough with your hands until it is no longer sticky. Although there were still some chunks of marshmallow visible, our dough worked great.

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I had intended this as a sensory project for Veronika, but big brother Travis loved it, too! First Veronika just enjoyed picking up the dough…

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…and was delighted when she noticed it tasted sweet!

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Her favorite thing to do was poke at it with craft sticks, or tap it with her fingers.

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Meanwhile, Travis had fun forming the dough. We rolled it into snakes and patted it into flat pancakes.

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Then we used leftover Halloween cookie cutters. It made fantastic shapes!

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Note: Make sure to cover the play dough if you want to play with it over multiple sessions, as it will dry out and become crumbly.

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Corn Meal to Explore

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It’s getting too cold for outdoor sandboxes, so today I made one for Veronika indoors… with corn meal! I simply dumped an old container of corn meal on a pizza pan, set out a few scoops, and let her begin to explore.

The scoops themselves seemed to delight her with their bright colors, First she just wanted to play with these…

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…but soon found her way over to the corn meal.

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Unlike anything gloppy, she had no hesitation getting fingers in dry corn meal. She picked up little light fingerfuls and watched it rain down into a cup, then dumped them out and started over.

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What fine motor skills! Next, I added cars, because you can make great tracks through cornmeal. If you have any toy construction vehicles like dump trucks or diggers, this is the perfect way to use them. But for Veronika I added a few favorites: a fire truck, school bus, and mail truck.

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She loved vrooming them in the corn meal, especially once she had a thin layer of it on the floor.

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I let the happy play continue until we had to leave the house.

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To clean up, I dusted off her pants, swept the cornmeal into the dust bin, and that was that!

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Sensory Activity: Dry Pasta Noodles

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The last time I gave Veronika pasta as a sensory item, it was cooked and she was tiny (she looks so little even though this was only 5 months ago!) Now for my bigger girl, the item of the day was dry pasta! I’ve seen sensory bins like this done with dried macaroni, but I chose larger cavatappi noodles just in case she tried to eat one. Little did I know how much fun would be had with this simple activity!

I set out a bin with the pasta, along with a few containers that it could be scooped into, a big plastic spoon, and a larger jug.

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Veronika instantly knew she wanted to transfer the pasta to the jug but couldn’t quite figure out the mechanics.

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I helped her along with the ladle. What fun when it landed in the jug with a plink!

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The smaller containers I had set out were great for scooping up pasta. With the lids on, these were just like maracas.

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Veronika also loved transferring pasta piece by piece from the small container back to the big bin. Over and over!

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What I hadn’t anticipated was how much even my 5 year old would love this sensory tray!

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He loved filling the jug, shaking it, and playing some imaginary game involving the pasta pieces. Soon they were happily sharing, and I loved seeing them play together.

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Once the jug was all filled up, Veronika looked so pleased!

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Rice Cereal Sensory Tray

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One-year-olds are a tough age when it comes to devising activities. They’re old enough to want variety and to do things with those little hands and bodies, but not skilled enough yet for the games and projects they can enjoy once true toddlers (closer to 15 or 18 months).

Here’s a fantastically easy sensory bin that’s sure to engage a baby at just this age. If you have a box of rice cereal, just dump it in a bin! I added a few of her favorite little toys (Duplo figures, plastic farm animals) and buried them somewhat in the cereal. Now everyone was hiding in the rice paddy!

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I also added a rake for her to explore with, thinking this would make less of a mess than shovel. This wasn’t necessarily the case, but the rake became a fast favorite, and she trotted over to her playroom with it once the sensory play was done!

I also added a spritz bottle. Toddlers can practice squeezing the handle themselves. For Veronika at age one, I spritzed the water so she could watch the droplets in the sun-lit room.

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The instant the water hits the rice cereal, you’ll also get a scent sensory bin, with the homey smell of cereal for breakfast wafting up.

The water also means the rice cereal will clump together. She delighted in handfuls, picking them up, marveling when they stuck to her little palm, and shaking them loose with glee.

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And of course, trying a taste!

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She had fun raking through and finding the toys.

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Then it was lots of scattering the rice cereal around for ages.

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But don’t worry about clean-up. The rice cereal (even when wet) sweeps up like a charm with a simple dustpan.

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This was definitely a winner!

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Ribbon Play

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Ribbons are one of those great toys you can return to again and again with your child as he or she grows; at each age, children will engage with the same item differently.

Today, I made a new set of ribbon wands for Veronika. This time, I let her be very involved in the set-up! She loved sitting in a big pile of ribbons that I had cut, pulling them through her fingers and lifting up big handfuls. (Obviously supervise any ribbon play closely).

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She also loved the spools that the ribbons came on, pulling them down to unwind in big long strands.

I began tying lengths of ribbon onto the ends of dowels, alternating patterns and colors. Although I only had two kinds of ribbon to work with, you could make these with as many as desired!

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I also cut some pieces of ribbon that were short and some long, to talk to her about opposites, and we also talked about the colors and patterns on the ribbon.

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Once all the knots were tied, we had ribbon dowels to play with! She loved when I waved these above her and she could grab at the ribbons.

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Then we put on slow soft music and I made big circles over her head and beside her, for some magical music play.

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Alternate songs with fast and slow tempos, since the ribbons will help your little one visualize the speed. These are also great for taking along on car trips, as long as you cut the ribbon lengths on the shorter side.

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Feely Bags

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It’s been a while since I focused on a texture game with Veronika. To keep a one-year-old intrigued, you need more than just objects with texture: Make them a surprise with a reach-inside feely bag.

Fill a small child’s backpack with a few items, choosing ones that vary considerably in texture. First up, a crumpled piece of newspaper. This was crinkly and soft, I told her as she kneaded it in her hands.

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Next up: a knobby sensory ball. We talked about how it was squishy and bumpy.

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And best of all bouncy!

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Then she pulled out a soft and fluffy stuffed hedgehog.

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This was followed by a jingly set of toy keys.

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Finally, I included a wooden block, using words like “hard” and “smooth” to describe it.

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Meanwhile she had lots of fun simply filling the bag up with items, taking them out again, and repeating… A soon-to-be-toddler favorite activity, as I recall.


Squish Bags

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I made a floor sensory bag for Veronika some time back; today I added two twists for a new version of the game!

In the first, I added 1/2 cup water and then various small items from our craft bin: translucent pony beads, buttons, and wiggle eyes all fit the bill. I got the idea after noticing how much she loved a drum with floating beads under the plastic at music class.

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I taped the bag firmly to the floor on all four sides, almost like framing it. Now she could squish the items inside, but not move the whole bag.

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The second version was even squishier! This time, instead of water, I squirted in a generous dose of shaving cream. I sprinkled in even more beads and buttons, using lots so they showed up through the thick cream. This one, too, I taped firmly down on all four sides.

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Veronika loved pressing her fingers in! Or scooching her whole body across.

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She could move beads and buttons with one little finger or a whole hand pressed down, and the visual effect was dazzling.

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If you make these while your baby is still young enough to need tummy time, it’s a sure way to keep them entertained!