Shaving Cream Rainbows

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Here’s a messy and hands-on way to make a full rainbow with your toddler!

I squirted shaving cream into each of the 6 compartments of a muffin tin, then set out food coloring in the three primary colors.

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Veronika was my helper to squeeze the color into each portion of shaving cream. We could make red, yellow, and blue just by squirting into three of the shaving cream portions. The other three portions required mixing: red + yellow made orange (alas, a sort of muddy one), yellow + blue made a bright green, and blue + red turned into a vibrant purple.

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I had to work quickly, because Veronika immediately wanted to turn this into sensory play!

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Soon she was scooping up portions of the colored shaving cream on craft sticks, stirring them, and smearing them together. I had intended to scoop out a bit of each shaving cream color and make an actual arcing rainbow, but she was so content that I let her play the game her way.

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Was she as interested in the fact that we’d mixed up ROYGBIV? Not especially; this really turned out to be sensory play. But we had fun with this very messy rainbow!

Update: Because she loved this game so much, we did a repeat… but with a twist. This time, I mixed up the colors ahead of time so Veronika wouldn’t immediately begin mixing and matching them. Then, I showed her how to paint the colors onto the window in rainbow order.

“A rainbow!” she said with delight, and began dabbing on the paint, too.

As a bonus, this will actually leave your windows squeaky clean, since shaving cream is basically just soap. Veronika loved helping wipe off the excess with paper towels and then using a spritz bottle and paper towels, long after the shaving cream rainbow was gone.

Winter in a Bag

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Veronika loves glitter but I confess I’m not always in the mood to deal with the sparkly mess it leaves behind. This sensory bag is a great way to enjoy all the sparkle and ice of winter, without a single bit of that mess!

To start, I squirted about half a bottle of clear hair gel into a large zip-top bag. Add any items that are fun to squish and resemble little snowballs or snowflakes. To wit, we used white pom poms and large Dandies marshmallows!

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For snowy sparkle, I then poured in blue glitter and a few silver star-shaped sequins that looked roughly like little snowflakes. Veronika wanted to get hands-on with the bag right away!

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The marshmallows in particular are fun to squish, even through the bag. As a bonus, there’s no sticky mess left on fingers. She also loved spotting the silver snowflakes in the mix.

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She then decided to stand on the bag instead, delighting in how squishy it felt beneath her toes.

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The bag didn’t hold her interest for very long, truth be told, but it was sparkly, wintry fun while it lasted.

Sensory Snow Safe to Taste

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We’ve had lots of fun making pretend snow this winter, and this easy sensory bin was the simplest way yet! When Veronika requested snow this morning, I thought quickly and simply poured in an unused box of instant mashed potato flakes. “Snow!” I told Veronika.

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To mix things up, my original plan was to add toy trains to the bin. But she started using big brother’s army trucks instead.

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“It’s so snowy blowy!” she said as she drove the trucks around, and loved watching the tracks that the vehicles left behind.

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Travis added aliens, so perhaps this was a snowy planet from another galaxy!

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Then she wanted to add her ponies, and thought it was quite fun that the horses were “snowy blowy” too.

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As long as you don’t get the mixture wet, the potato flakes will brush off quite easily at the end, making this an easy bin for clean-up, too.

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This “snow” is perfect for a toddler how might want to take a taste. But if you have older kids who prefer colder snow that can really clump together like snowballs, there are lots of other options to try!

Brown Sugar Sand Castles

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If you’re missing the beach a few months out from summer, bring the beach to you with a material that molds almost as well as real sand… Brown sugar!

This game was part summer nostalgia, part sensory bin. I set out a big bowl of brown sugar, along with a tray to hold our “beach” and a few craft sticks to use as tools.

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I then gave Veronika a variety of paper cups that we could use like sand buckets and showed her how to pack the brown sugar in firmly. Upend the cups and you’ll have tiny sand castles!

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Of course it was equally fun to break apart the towers with the craft sticks.

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If your children have the patience, they can build up layer upon layer for an intricate sand castle. Around here, it was the breaking apart that won the day.

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Veronika loved that she could scoop up brown sugar on the edge of a craft stick and fill her little cups.

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She also loved pouring brown sugar from one cup to the other. And the best part about this “sand” is that it’s 100% edible and sweet. That means no tears if some ends up in your toddler’s mouth. And that sure beats summer sand!

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Halloween Countdown Day 13: Monster Sensory Tub

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This activity doubled as the day’s sensory play and a way to tick off a box on our countdown to Halloween. And it couldn’t have been easier!

I filled a tub with purple water beads and water so the beads could grow to full size. The kids were so impatient to play, though, that I handed over the bin when the beads were only half as big as they could eventually get. To add spooky monsters, all we needed were large wiggle eyes.

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At first the eyes were floating on the surface. But Travis loved burying them as deep under the water beads as he could, and then unearthing the “monsters”.

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They were so eerie swimming to the surface. Veronika jumped right in to copy him!

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She also loved scooping up handfuls of the water beads and then letting them trickle back down.

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Before I knew it, the game changed slightly. Star Wars Stormtroopers needed to escape from the monsters!

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This kept the kids so busy and happy the entire time I was prepping dinner. A definite spooky win.

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Black Bean Indoor Sandbox

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Perhaps I should have held off on this particular indoor sandbox for a couple of days until October is officially here. But when I spotted my bulk bag of dried black beans, the color instantly made me think of all the Halloween decor I just stocked up on. So it was a spooky indoor sandbox a few days early!

I poured the beans into a shallow tray and added a few Halloween items that lent themselves well to sensory play. These included cupcake liners (with spiderweb and black-and-orange print designs), as well as felt skeleton figures.

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First her attention went to the little skeletons, and she loved putting them in the cupcake liners, or burying them under the beans and then digging them back up again (spooky!).

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She could also use the cupcake liners for scooping and pouring, which was great for fine motor skills.

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She spent quite some time transferring beans back and forth this way.

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I had planned just to let her use her hands, but she requested a spoon to scoop through, too.

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Then to my surprise, she first sat in the beans…

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…and then stood right up in them! This gave her the giggles.

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In sum, the bin was a great one for keeping her busy and for introducing the upcoming holiday!

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Edible Sno Cone Creation Station

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Here’s an activity that will a) cool the kids off; b) provide sensory play; c) fire up the imagination; and d) give them a yummy snack! I told the kids they were going to open up their own sno cone stand, and the excitement began.

I set out a tray of crushed ice (an easy task thanks to our fridge filtration system, but a blender can do this for you, too), then added ice cream scoops.

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For “cones”, we folded conic shapes from craft foam. These turned out to be very easy to break, so next time I would probably stick to little plastic bowls.

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All they needed now were fruit syrups to flavor the ice! For these, I simply pureed fruits in the blender. We had pink from strawberries and deep purple from a mix of blueberries and blackberries.

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If you have condiment squirt bottles, those would be perfect to use here! I gave the kids paper cups filled with each syrup instead, along with plastic spoons.

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As with a recent nature soup activity, I loved that this game could engage both my toddler and 1st grader in different ways. For Veronika, it was all about the sensory aspects. First she just loved spooning through the ice.

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When she tasted plain ice, she copied big brother and said, “It’s yummy!” but I don’t think she really thought so.

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“It’s cold!” she added instead, looking confused. So we showed her how to spoon the berry syrup on top of her ice. Well now she couldn’t be stopped!

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In retrospect I would have done this activity in just a diaper to avoid berry stains, but it was worth a few purple splotches. She was having such delicious fun I let it be.

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Travis, meanwhile, enjoyed the role-play aspect of the game. He loved using the ice cream scoop to properly fill a “cone,” and then asking me for my order, adding strawberry or purple berries on top accordingly.

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And of course he did lots of tasting, too!

Tea Scented Ice Sensory Play

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We’ve been busy with ice lately during a heat wave, and today we added an olfactory element to the fun: ice cubes scented with tea! You’ll want strongly scented teas for the best results with this activity. Think flavors like cinnamon, maple, ginger, mint, or other bold scents.

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The night before, I brewed strong cups of 3 tea varieties, using 3 or 4 tea bags for each mug of hot water. Let cool and then pour into the compartments of an ice cube tray.

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Partly to add a visual sensory element to the game and partly just so I would remember which cube was which, I also color-coded the three different teas with food coloring. Yellow was for peppermint, red for cinnamon apple, and blue for maple ginger.

In the morning, it was HOT out on our patio and the ice was frozen solid, the perfect combination.

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The ice cubes came out of the tray within moments. I held each different scent up to Veronika’s nose in turn. Look how happy the maple ginger made her!

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She loved leaning in for a big whiff of each, asking for “more more” insistently since at first the cubes were too cold for her to touch and lift.

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Then she wanted to take a lick! She loved the peppermint best.

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As the ice melted, the yellow, blue, and red coloring began to trickle off. I couldn’t decide if I was glad I’d used color or not. The kids were more into the smells and tastes anyway, not the sensory look of the colors, and it just meant messier fingers. But oh well!

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And then they discovered that the ice on the hot patio melted in a matter of seconds.

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I guess this disproves the theory that watching ice melt is dull!

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Both kids loved smelling the tea and swirling the cubes and tasting until the last drop of ice had melted.

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A perfect sensory experience for a hot morning.

Spice Painting

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Having recently enjoyed a sensory game where she smelled items from the pantry, I thought Veronika might like marrying that game to another favorite: Painting!

To set up, I set out white paint and then chose spices with scents across the board, from spicy to sweet to earthy and back again. Our lineup included:

  • cinnamon
  • black pepper
  • turmeric
  • paprika
  • ginger

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For each spice, I poured a little white paint into a paper cup and then tapped in some of the spice. It was hard to get the mixtures to turn out exactly as I wanted. Too little spice and they just looked like flecks in the white paint. Too much and it became too dry to spread.

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Of course Veronika wasn’t bothered about the consistency! I held each cup up to her nose and described what she was smelling. Cinnamon was sweet, paprika was spicy, and so on. Even though we could also smell the paint, she seemed to enjoy it!

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Then she began smearing the paints all over a piece of black paper (which I thought would look best against the white paint). Whoops, she managed to dump some spices out, too, before I screwed the lids back on tightly.

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Older kids can be more deliberate and careful with the activity, either making a guessing game out of it, or making brushstrokes of each paint on the paper and labeling them.

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It wasn’t long before Veronika tested out some of the spicy paint on her legs, too. Which meant it was time for clean up!

Lotion Smelling Sensory Activity

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Veronika has a current obsession with… lotion! I laugh when I think I might wind up with a girly girl, since she is certainly trending that way. Instead of saying no today to her requests for my lotions and creams, I gave her a few nearly empty bottles and let her go to town.

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There were several “learning” elements to this game. First, squeezing the tubes was great for strengthening her hands and fingers. I gave her a little container to aim for as she squeezed out the leftover lotion, though of course her aim wasn’t always spot on.

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Then there was the sensory element, both for smell and touch. We talked about the different scents, and I described each to her as I held a dab of up to her nose.

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Meanwhile she loves the way that lotion feels, busily rubbing it on her own arms and legs.

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Finally, there was the pure fun of making a mess. So before you toss a nearly empty bottle of lotion, consider building up a little collection for your toddler’s sensory play.

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