Rainbow Jello Sensory Play

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I originally intended this as a sensory project for Veronika, but it turned out that my kindergartner loved it just as much; it was a nice reminder that even though he’s into battling Star Wars Lego figures, he’s still a little boy at heart.

First you’ll need to make jel dessert in all colors of the rainbow. Regular jell-o is available in every color, but not the vegan brands. I can find vegan jel dessert in red, orange, and yellow, but for the other colors, I use clear jel dessert and add food coloring.

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Prepare all the colors, then set in the fridge until firm. (Note: the green never did firm up, which may have been because I used too much food coloring and made it too watery. As a result, our sensory play had a variety of textures).

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Spoon the jel desserts onto a tray in rainbow order. It won’t stay this way for long…

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I placed the tray over a few towels and stripped Veronika down to a diaper – no worry about sticky clothes here – then let her loose with spoons and spatulas. She immediately got started!

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As mentioned, big brother Travis wanted an equal share of this project. He couldn’t wait for a jello snack.

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And just to play!

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Soon the kids were scooping and stirring and mushing. They layered rainbow “cakes” and stirred up rainbow “soup”. “Soup!” Veronika proudly repeated back when Travis used the word.  There were lots of fun vocab words to use, like soupy and lumpy and blobby and wobbly.

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Plus: “Yummy!” she said, whenever she got a little taste. A perfect way to fill over 30 minutes of play.

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Fruit-Filled Jigglers

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Jell-o desserts might just be the perfect sensory material for toddlers, equal parts play and edible snack! Here’s a fun twist on how Veronika has played with jell-o in the past. As always, I use the vegan jel dessert from Simply Delish.

Prepare the dessert according to package directions (we used strawberry), and pour into very shallow plates or containers as a mold.

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I added a few raspberries as “treasures” for Veronika to dig up. Any other berry or small pieces of fruit would work, too. Consider a fruit your little one hasn’t tried yet, as this game encourages taste exploration!

As I prepared dinner, I sat Veronika down in her high chair and scooped out the thin layers of jell-o. I gave her an assortment of cookie cutters, and let her go to town!

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It was fun to talk about the shapes she could make with the cookie cutters, and she did lots of poking and prodding.

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When she discovered the raspberries, she was delighted! She seemed a bit overwhelmed by the amount of jell-o on her tray, so I pared it down to one portion per cookie cutter shape.

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She grinned when she discovered the taste! This is the perfect activity to fill time while you cook.

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Jiggly Rainbow Cups

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Here’s a cute way to “taste the rainbow”, as the old slogan goes! You’ll need jel dessert in all colors of the rainbow. Jell-o of course comes available in everything from red to purple but is not vegan. Instead, I prepared a big batch of Lieber’s clear unflavored jel dessert. We divided it among 5 cups, and used food coloring to make:

  • red
  • yellow
  • green
  • blue
  • purple

This was a great refresher on color mixing, since I only had food coloring in primary colors!

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I also had Simply Delish’s orange flavored jel dessert, so we used that for the orange layer.

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Now you’ll need to layer your dessert. We spooned a layer of purple into a cup and placed in the freezer for about 15 minutes to speed up the setting process.

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Continue adding layers and freezing briefly until you have a full rainbow.

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Unfortunately our three dark layers (purple, blue, green) and three light layers (yellow, orange, red) sort of blended in with one another. Shining a flashlight helped reveal the distinction!

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Meanwhile Travis thought this was just the best dessert ever. Of course there was the obligatory poking and squishing that must happen with jel desserts.

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Then it was time to spoon through the layers, and he kept me updated on his progress: “Mom, I’m up to the yellow!”

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A super fun way to play with rainbows.

Gummy Ocean Vacation

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This snack idea from Highlights magazine is pure summertime fun! We adapted it slightly for our vegan family, and Travis loved the results.

Prepare 1 package of orange-flavored vegan jel dessert (such as Simply Delish) according to package directions. Pour a layer into clear glasses and chill for at least 1 hour, until firm. This will be your beach “sand”.

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Prepare 1 package of clear vegan jel dessert according to package directions. Add drops of blue food coloring a few at a time until desired color is reached.

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Cool slightly, then pour a layer over the orange dessert. Let chill and set for at least 1 hour.

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Now for the real fun! Top your “ocean” with a little swimmer. We used peach gummy rings from Smart Sweets as life preservers and vegan gummy bears from Whole Foods.

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Travis absolutely adored watching his bear go for a swim.

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These were arguably more fun to play with than to eat… but good for eating, too!

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Jell-O Hands

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Gel desserts are the perfect food edible sensory play sessions with a baby. It’s squishy, it wobbles, and if little fingers get some of it into little mouths, it’s perfectly safe to eat. We love the vegan jel desserts from Simply Delish.

To make a fun mandarin orange version, drain one can of organic mandarin oranges (such as Native Forest) over a bowl. Place the orange slices in a large bowl and set aside. Reserve 1/3 cup of the juice and chill for at least 30 minutes.

Dissolve one sachet of jel dessert in the chilled juice. Add enough boiling water to equal 12 ounces and stir to combine. Pour the juice mixture over the orange slices. Let cool to room temperature, then transfer to the fridge and let set for 1 hour.

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I placed the jell-o on Veronika’s high chair tray.  She was quite skeptical at first!

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Once I demonstrated with a finger how it wiggled and wobbled, she was game!

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Little fists loved squishing and squashing through the jell-o.

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And she liked trying to hold on to slices of orange.

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Some of it made its way to her mouth, and a lot more ended up on the floor!

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The activity looked so fun that big brother Travis wanted to join in, too!

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Jell-o Building Blocks

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Take your building block play to the next level. How? With edible building blocks of course!

Kids can help with the first step of the easy preparation – sprinkle one gelatin-free jel dessert (we use Simply Delish) over 1/3 cup water in a saucepan. If you want your blocks to be extra firm, add an additional packet of unflavored jel (such as Lieber’s) – we didn’t have any on hand, so skipped that step!

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Adults, heat the mixture over low heat for about 3 minutes, until the powder dissolves.

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Pour into the compartments of an ice cube tray and transfer to the fridge until completely set.

Jello block (3)For the most fun, try a variety of colors! We were limited to orange and red, since those were the only flavors available at the store. For some reason, our orange came out very smooth, but our strawberry and raspberry flavors were a bit lumpy!

When the blocks had set, I surprised Travis with a plateful. Wow! Wibby wobbly building blocks.

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We loved seeing how they felt…

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And trying to stack them, with varying degrees of success.

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And of course if you get tempted during your play, there is no problem with trying a bite!

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A great variation on block play!