How To Make A Simple and Frugal Sensory Tub

Sensory experiences for kids don’t have to be a show stopping three ring circus. I like making elaborate sensory tubs especially for my son since he is getting older and needs ones with specific tasks ( like finding letters, words or sorting objects in them) but a true basic sensory bin is an amazing educational tool. My toddler is just getting to the perfect age for this at 16 months. Exploring the small hard filler, using a spoon and scoop to transfer the grains from one spot to the next and practicing things like sharing with me as we play. Please don’t feel like you need to have all the bells and whistles because for toddlers it’s best to keep it simple and let them discover.

  1. Gather your materials. For this tub I bought some popcorn, barley and dried beans. Total cost for the grains was $2.34. The pumpkins were bought at a patch for $1 for 2 and the spoons and scoop are from my kitchen.  The tub was under $2 and I reuse it by putting the filler from previous tubs into ziplocks and storing to re-use. We had a canning funnel to play with but all she wasnted to do was this which was cute but we moved it to the side so we could get down to digging.
  2. A tip when doing a sensory bin with small grains and a small child. Do it on carpet, if a spill does happen it won’t scatter. You can easily vacuum it up.
  3. Also I am asked all the time how I deal with my daughter putting the beans and grains in her mouth. She doesn’t generally but that is why I use such small grains , they will taste gross if she tried to chew them but they are so small they pose a very small risk of being a chocking hazard. Still stay within arms reach at all times. I used our coffee table ( which is technically a bench)  and sat on the opposite side the while time the tub was within her reach. If your child is not ready for these try this one we made last year
  4. Practice scooping , pouring, talk about the colors of the spoons. Today I think we may have learnt which spoon is yellow and which is orange … I think. I do know we practiced sharing the spoons back and forth accross the table.
  5. I found this interesting, she is cleaning up some of the grains that spilled out. Not something her brother was interested in at her age.

We played with this simple sensory tub for much of the time we had between lunch and picking her brother up from school.  Simple, fun and educational.

Toddler Handprint Turkey Craft

Thanksgiving craft

This is not a new craft, handprint turkey crafts in their many variations are everywhere and they should be , they are classic and simply a part of childhood!  This one is adapted for toddlers to make them active participants in the creation of the craft. You can often adapt craft projects meant for older children to a toddler’s ability by using different tools, fewer steps ( less detail) and removing small pieces that may be dangerous.  Also I find with messy crafts like this using a booster that allows you to belt your child in is useful, not to force them in any way to do the craft ( which should not happen) but rather to keep them in one safe place after they have messy hands. No one is calm if their child is making a beeline for the couch with hands covered in paint. This way we can focus on the activity not the mess.

  1. Gather your materials. You will need a toilet paper ( or paper towel roll), a paper grocery bag or craft paper, paint, a plastic basting brush and plastic plate, glue , scissors and googly eyes* I used googly eyes because my daughter doesn’t mouth them. If you read my posts from 2008 you will see I never used them when my son was this age, because they would go in his mouth immediately. I still watched her like a hawk and only brought them out when it was time to glue. If your child is like my son , just draw the eyes on like I did with the nose.
  2. Cut open the bag and tape it to the table. I love doing this for toddler art , it’s a drop cloth and project all at once.
  3. Start by tracing their hands 3-5 times on the bag. We did 4 and as you may be able to tell that was not easy. If your child is really resistant trace one hand on a cereal box or other scrap paper then cut it out and use that for a template. Don’t upset them before they even get to make a mess !
  4. Time to paint, add multiple colors on the plate.
  5. See why I used a plastic plate?
  6. Also this brush she is using is a plastic basting brush. I chose it because the bristles are sturdy silicone and have never ripped off despite effort to tear it. It’s also big enough for clumbsy toddler fists to paint with.
  7. Expect them to use their hands , although I should mention some kids at this age start showing a real aversion to getting things on their hands , don’t force them to “relax” , instead offer a wet wash cloth to wipe anything off, and support their play even if it’s not what you expected. Many kids don’t like messy play.
  8. Cut the roll in half. Draw a nose or rather beak for the turkey.
  9. Roll the roll in the paint.
  10. Let dry ( I cleaned up the mess while singing to her and giving the roll a minute to dry ). Add glue to the roll. Help your child place the eyes on the glue.
  11. Let the hand prints dry and cut out.
  12. Add glue to the roll and place the cut out hands on the back as turkey feathers. Tip: Use a clothes pin to hold them in place until the glue dries.
  13. Add this to your holiday mantle.

Toddler Friendly Pumpkin Glittering

Craving a pumpkin with a toddler is not my idea of fun , especially without another adult handy for supervising the littles when you are doing the actual carving. I will leave the slimy insides ( that make my son gag – also not fun) and sharp knives for the weekend when my husband is handy, but that doesn’t mean we can’t decorate a pumpkin! I was just going to do this with my daughter who is 16 months old but my son came running to the playroom asking to join in. They had a great time and my foyer is all blinged out for halloween now!

  1. Gather your materials. You will want a drop cloth for this, white glue, glitter, paint brushes, a plate and a small stool, box or something else you don’t mind getting glitter on to hold the pumpkin at your toddler’s level so they can stand and move around as they create.
  2. Pour the glue onto a plate.
  3. Paint on the glue.
  4. “Wait for me I want to do it too Mom!” <— music to my ears!
  5. Shake the glitter on.
  6. Change glitter colors and keep shaking.
  7. Let dry overnight, gently shake any loose glitter off.
  8. Display!

Acorn Nature Collage

Exploring nature doesn’t have to be in a far off place, a neighborhood park , school yard or your own backyard will work just great. Explore , talk about what you see, hear and smell. Touch things even they aren’t going into your bag for the collage, explore and take note of how the garden, forrest or park you are in has changed since the spring or summer.  I love when I can do an activity with both kids seemlessly and this one was super easy .

  1. Gather your materials. You will need 1-2 paper grocery bags, scissors,crayons,  glue and a yard , park or forrest to explore.
  2. Start by handing each child a bag and heading outside. Can I just say that my little paint covered point and shoot camera works great for inside crafts when movements around too big or fast, but getting a good shot of either child was next to impossible.  Especially a wobbly 15 month old.
  3. Explore- let your child lead the way. Hopefully the other child( or 5) agree and go the same way, or at least in the same general vicinity.
  4. Put everything they find and want to glue to the collage in the bag . Don’t say no to little things yet, let them discover later of it won’t glue.
  5. Huge sticks are totaly ok to refuse, but let them figure it out by asking how it will fit in the bag. Offer scissors to cut a small piece off.
  6. Head back inside and prepare for part two. I did this while they played in the playroom around me, but don’t feel like you have to do this all in one go. Do this after bed time and continue with part two in the morning if that works best for your family. You will want to empty out the contents and place them on a table – or even a shallow box. Using the bag cut it open and draw an acorn.  Tape it to the table to stay steady.
  7. Now invite the children to chose from their treasures and glue them to the acorn.
  8. Hmm the pine branch is too big  to glue down… what could we do?
  9. Cut it!
  10. I helped my daughter add the glue and she happily banged the leaves she gathered down. I was so surprised to see she remembered exactly which leaves she found and used them in her collage.
  11. Gluing is my son’s favorite part of most art because he pretends it’s a bomb ( yes this stage is still driving me batty but I am trying to roll with it)- his sound effects surprised his unamused little sister…
  12. Let everything dry overnight.
  13. Cut out.  Display if possible – kids love seeing their own creations displayed with pride.

More Acorn Crafts!

If a nature walk isn’t possible for you try another one of our acorn crafts .

Click the images for the original posts

 

Halloween Sensory Tub For Multiple Ages

I noticed on Pinterest a comment on a pin of my Sensory Tub from Halloween 2010. The commentor noted that I use the same container ( usually yes) and just store the contents in ziplocks ( yes again I have close to 20 bags).  That comment sparked this post. My son had been asking for a Halloween sensory tub since we bought the bouncy ball eyeballs a few weeks ago. My goal was  to make one that both he and his baby sister ( 15 months) could use. This is what we did.

  1. Gather your materials. I grabbed my Halloween Sensory Tub contents from 2009 and 2010 – which included black beans, white beans, orange lentils for the fill. Then sticky skelletons, plastic spiders and other bugs, bouncy ball eyeballs , a few pumpkin containers , a scoop and some tongs.  Do not feel like you need to have all of this! My main goal is to show that you can mix two old ones to make a new one.  
  2. For the toddler version I started by putting in the dried beans and lentils. Then chose only the large plastic bugs and pumpkin containers.
  3. You may notice she is on a small rug. If you are doing this on the floor a carpeted floor works the best, the beans don’t skatter as far.
  4. Encourage them to keep the beans in , but please don’t scold. If spilling makes you angry just skip this activity all together. Gently show toddlers how to keep it in but until children have lots of experience with sensory tubs use only positive guidance. Anger will confuse them and halt any play and learning that was happening.
  5. Feel free to have them put beans back in though !
  6. Into the pumpkin!
  7. Now for older kids add the as my son calls it ” good stuff!” We did this when my daughter was daddy so it wouldn’t be unfair for her to see her brother playing but be told she can’t.
  8. I challenged him to pick up the balls with the tongs – it was tricky!
  9. He decided to pick out all the skelletons.
  10. Then he decided to create a skelleton world on the playroom floor, and the eye balls were bombs? Something like that. He asked if he could play it for his quiet time. Ummm yeah! I love how fun mama directed activities almost always lead to something for him to explore and lead himself. 

When I stored this sensory tub I used 2 ziplocks, and picked out all the big kids stuff into one, the toddler safe in the other and store them next to eachother for fast fun for either kid.

** Please remember that it’s your job to know what is safe for your child and what your child is ready for . All activities require adult supervision. **