Hot Cocoa Sensory Tub

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Disclaimer: This is by far the messiest sensory play I’ve undertaken with either of my children, and that’s saying a lot. But it’s worth it!

In retrospect, I would have done this activity around Christmas. Something about it felt very seasonal, perfect for the holidays, although technically it is still winter which means hot cocoa season. The original version of this game called for a container of hot cocoa mix, but it’s very hard to find a brand with no milk powder. Instead, I mixed together a tub of cocoa powder but added about 1/2 cup vanilla-flavored protein powder. This meant the mix wouldn’t be too bitter if Veronika happened to lick her fingers (which she did!). Straight cocoa powder probably won’t appeal to your little one.

To complete the set-up, I added a few gingerbread people ornaments. in keeping with the cocoa theme. If you want to keep the bin fully edible, use mini Dandies marshmallows instead. Or try gingerbread men cookies, if in stock around the holidays.

I added a funnel and a few scoops and rakes, and Veronika went to town!

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This was like indoor dirt, except it smelled divine. I held the scoop up to her nose a few times to fully enjoy that chocolate-y scent, which prompted little “mmm’s” of delight.

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Mostly she loved scooping through it.

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Once I showed he how to fill up the funnel, she became an expert at that.

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The gingerbread men were fun to put in the cocoa and bury, then dig up again. Again, I wish I’d thought to use edible marshmallows, though!

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By now she had completely spooned cocoa powder all over her pants and socks. Another mea culpa: wear only a diaper next time!

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Well, since we were already this messy, I figured why not take our sensory bowl from indoor “dirt” to “mud”. I poured in a little oat milk, which made the whole thing smell even better. She loved stirring and watching the powder dissolve in big bubbles.

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Okay, playtime complete; now it was immediately upstairs for a wash and a change!

Pretend-Play Hot Cocoa

fake cocoa (6)Ok, so this cute little craft won’t really warm the kids up during the polar vortex, but it will get their imaginative juices flowing! We loved this pretend play idea from High Five magazine.

I set up a table for Travis with all the materials we’d need: newspaper, brown paper, cotton balls, and big mugs for our “cocoa”.

First we needed to wad up a piece of newspaper for each cup.

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Stuff in a mug to make a base.

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Next, rip brown construction paper into pieces; smaller is better. Once you have a lot of pieces, crumple each up.

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Add these pieces to your mug, and you’ll have a chocolaty cup of cocoa!

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Travis loved adding “marshmallows” (soft cotton balls).

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We thought it would be neat to trick his dad with this one, telling him we’d made him cocoa. Surprise! It wasn’t really meant to drink.

We also set up a little cafe for a few stuffed animal friends.

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Travis did tire of the game rather quickly after that, but some kids may want to run their “hot cocoa stand” for a while. Have fun serving up drinks, making a full cocoa cafe, and more. I’d love to hear about it in the comments!