Usually when we do a sensory tub I don’t have a clear goal for it but with this mini one I did. This was a simple sorting activity that while focused on color sorting also naturally led to counting and comparing amounts. You don’t need to put this into a sensory tub but by adding the split peas I added sensory and surprise elements that my daughter loved. When it was all done everything fit into a ziploc and can be taken back out for less structured play from now on.
Gather your materials. You will need some black and orange paper, black and orange creepy crawlies ( we used various spiders, ants, frogs, snakes etc… ) some split peas, and a container. I just grabbed the cheapest split peas at the store and didn’t notice until days later that there was a flavor packing with it. Just discard that if you have one unless you can think of a crafty way of using ham flavoring. If you do I am curious to hear it!
Invite your kiddo to come investigate. I didn’t have to tell her what to do , it was all right there and she naturally placed them on the matching color. As she did I did ask ” What are you discovering?” which started a discussion about that there were way more orange creepy crawlies than black.
Much time was also spent on just exploring the split peas. How they sounded when dropped back into the container from various heights and how some stuck to her hand if she squeezed them in her fist for a moment or two.
Simple activities like these are my go to for short structured lessons. They still leave many doors open to let my daughter explore but include tid bits of more pointed learning. The vast majority of what we do is open child directed play and we fit in little activities like this 2-3 times a week. Kids don’t need giant blocks of structured learning at this age but if they like it and you want to work it in try playful ideas like this.
Books About Creepy CrawliesAll of our book titles are linked to Amazon with affiliate links.
The Very Busy Spider was a favorite of my son’s from the get go. We have the board book edition and what I love about it, is that the spider web in it is raised and offers a sensory element to reading the story. This is a story of hard work, persistence and also helps reinforce animal sounds. Perfect for toddlers !
Two Bad Ants by Chris Van Allsburg is a very interesting story of two ants who decide not to return to the colony and hang out in a sugar bowl eating instead. Of course nothing is as it seems and they have quite an adventure trying to avoid all the dangers of a kitchen, realizing in the end that being a part of a colony isn’t so bad! This is a cute book for preschoolers who will love trying to guess what each new adventure the ants face really are- they include a toaster, hot coffee and an electrical outlet.
I Love Bugs!by Phileomon Sturges is a rare find. It is listed as fiction but I would consider it as non fiction, as it really is a great factual book about bugs for older toddlers/ young preschoolers. It is really hard to find simple, short books that include facts and this one is perfect. It doesn’t go into the life cycles of butterflies or how lightning bugs light up, but it does use descriptive words with bright and charming illustrations. Great for the under 3 crowd, and useful for older kids too!
One of my very favorite things to do when I had some downtime is to go to the beach and search for sea glass. It’s such a calm and focused activity. My daughter really wants to help but doesn’t have the patience to search for very long. So when I was asked to check out the new Mod Podge Mod Melts for a sponsored post I knew just how I could create something for her while trying out this new product. This sea glass sensory tub was a huge hit. My daughter has (finally) moved past the mouthing stage and so these little shapes are fun and great for her fine motor development too . If your child is still putting things in their mouth try larger items like big seashells and try this out when they are ready.
- Gather your materials. You will need some play sand , a tray or container, Mod Podge Mod Melts and mold , a high temp glue gun, paint and a jar.
- Start by creating your “sea glass” the melts are easy to use . all you need to do is place the melt sticks in your glue gun like you would a glue stick. Fill the mold and wait. Our heart n=mold was small so I only waited about 5 minutes and them popped it out. Make many.
- Paint! We used acrylic paint in green and blue . I painted 1/3 blue, 1/3 green and left the rest plain. I am not sure how well my camera captured it but it really looks like sea glass! The paint dries quickly if you use a sponge to apply it.
- Pour your sand into the tray or container.
- Add your “sea glass” I hid some under the sand and put some above .
- Invite your beach comber to come and search. My daughter immediately dove in.
- Pop them into the jar .
- After you have found them all scatter them and count. Next she hid them all and repeated every step. This is a pretty intuitive activity I wasn’t having to hover or instruct. I think I showed her the jar without any clear instructions and the rest she figured out and explored with me clicking pictures and enjoying how intent she was.
- She even gave me a heart for my sea glass collection .
Anyone who thinks that sensory play is just for toddlers needs to see this post. Since making the swamp sensory tub last year my kids have asked to do another one just like it. I didn’t mean for so long to go by but we finally got around to it and this time made it into an ocean sensory tub with blue gelatin. Play like this is fun and simple and perfect for summer . We leave ours out covered in our yard for a day or two and observe how the gelatin changes throughout the day. Please note that we live in the PNW in warmer climates leaving it out may not be a good option.
- Gather your materials. You will need a container to make the gelatin in, a large container to play in, some fun sea animals and glass pebbles, plain gelatin ( I used 5 boxes) and some blue food coloring. You will also need a little bowl, scissors, many cups of water and a pot or kettle for the boiling water.
- Start by pouring all the gelatin into a little bowl – 5boxes = 20 packets of gelatin.
- Boil 5 cups of water . Add a few drops of blue coloring to the water.
- Pour 15 cups of cool water into your container.
- Sprinkle the gelatin on top and let rest for one minute.
- Pour the boiling water in and stir until the gelatin is dissolved.
- Hide in your fridge behind yogurt. Well that’s what I did because the last thing I wanted was blue gelatin all over my kitchen . When I made the rainbow gelatin sensory tub I spilled some blue and it it forever to get that stuff off.
- When the gelatin is set about 3 hours ( ours was a little under done but the kids were eager) grab the sea animals and get the table prepared.
- They explored the gelatin before putting it in the table. Touching and tasting it. ” It tastes like zero, nada, nothing .”
- Then we added the gelatin.
- Play!! Clearly the 6 year old was into it. Literally.
- Because ours was a little under done it was stickier than normal and required more washing off – so they ran to the water in our yard and cleaned themselves off.
by Allison McDonald My daughter is crazy about bulldozers right now and we’ve been playing with toy bulldozers in our sensory table . This is such a simple construction site play idea. No need for anything really special other than your child’s favorite construction vehicle. You will see I had a variety of them but her little orange bulldozer was firmly in her hand the whole time.
- Gather your materials. We used dried beans, cinnamon sticks, popsicle sticks , corks , empty ribbon spools, and construction themed toys and tools.
- Start by filling your tub or table with the fillings. She loved pouring the beans in .
- As soon as the cinnamon sticks made their way in she was busy building a new kindergarten. Sensory play like this offers so many opportunities to learn but don’t push it. Their imaginations will lead them and if you are present you will be able to find little moments to jump in but don’t feel you need to by any means.
- The main thing she wanted to do was build with her dad ( we did this on a Saturday so he was home to play) and bulldoze things off the cliff. She did a lot of sorting and counting without prompting from me.
Dig Dig Digging by Margaret Mayo is one of the few books we have that we have bought twice. Our first copy was so well loved that we knew when it could not be read anymore that it would be immediately replaced. This book is imbedded in my brain ( and heart) because both my children have gone through a phase where it’s their absolute favorite. The book takes readers through different vehicles like firetrucks, rescue helicopters and of course bulldozers. The text is repetitive and will get stuck in your head for days but it’s ok because your kids will recite it along with you.
Dazzling Diggers (Amazing Machines) by Tony Mitton is part of the Amazing Machines series of books that are favorites of both my kids. Now my son reads them to my daughter and yes my heart bursts when he reads to her and it makes me completely forget when he tackles her. The book themselves are little gems. This one talks about diggers and bulldozers with absolutely fantastic rhymes. What amazes me about this book is that your child will actually come away having learned something substantial about the vehicles in it at the same time as loving the brilliant rhyming text. Must read for construction vehicle fans.
Goodnight, Goodnight Construction Site by Sherri Duskey Rinker will have to be renewed from the library while I wait for my copy to come from Amazon. This book is starting to get pretty popular and rightfully so, it’s a lovely book. In it busy little construction vehicles wind down for the night and fall asleep. I never thought I would say an excavator was cute but the one in the book is. It’s a wonderful bedtime book and your child will enjoy winding down with the sleepy bulldozer and his friends. My daughter completely adores this book.The book links are affiliate links.
I keep the basics of sensory tubs in ziploc bags under the bottom shelf of my pantry and for days my daughter has been asking to play. Ours days have been nuts and whenever she asked was never enough time to play. Until this morning. I grabbed one of the bags from previous tubs and decided to make something extra special for my little princess obsessed girl. As soon as I told her it was a princess theme she insisted on wearing her full costume.
- Gather your materials. You will need a tub ( ours is a lasagna pan ) , white rice, multicolored sequins, princess figurines, beads or jewels, pompoms , glitter, small cups and some spoons. The things about these tubs are that there is no exact recipe you can add what you have making sure of course that whatever you add is something appropriate and safe for your kids.
- Start with just the basics in the tub . Our rice and sequins were already mixed so I popped it in the tub. Then invited my daughter to add what she wanted when she wanted. The princesses went in immediately .
- Next she added the pom poms and beads with a spoon. This is great for eye hand coordination .
- She spent a lot of time scooping and pouring and mugging for the camera before adding some glitter to the mix!
- Next she pretended it was soup and pretended to feed herself and her princesses. At some point she switched crowns too.This is what I love the most about sensory tubs , all the pretend play that blossoms as they explore. She asked for her pony and kept going.
- The sign she was done for me was this little face I caught on camera… that handful of rice didn’t end up in her mouth or in a tub as I snapped this picture I warned her if she threw it on the floor we would put the tub up.
- And that was her choice. We’ll play again another day. The rule of accidental spills being no biggie but if I warn my kids and they dump, pour or throw anything on the floor it’s the end of the fun, for today.
Princess Books For Little Readers
The Very Fairy Princessby Julie Andrews and Emma Walton Hamilton is a cute book about a little girl who loves all things princess related. What I like about this book is that it’s message isn’t heavy handed and it celebrates princesses while sneaking in some very positive messages too. In a world where many parents ( me included) have issues with this whole princess thing and struggle to find that balance this book has it. It tells you it’s ok to want to be a princess and to “let your sparkle out!” and talks about confidence in the process. I must admit though I am a total Julie Andrews fan and I am not sure I’d ever dislike anything
Maria , I mean Mary Poppins I mean Julie Andrews wrote.
The Princess and the Pizza by Mary Jane and Herb Auch is really a cute re telling of the classic Princess and the Pea. They have modernized it and made it a little more feminist in the process, exactly my kind of book. The text is a little long for toddlers but my son sat through about half before wanting to go back and look at the illustration of the horse on the first page. The message is sweet, saying that a woman doesn’t need a man or marriage to attain her goals! Beware though it will make you crave pizza! ** Edited for 2013 my daughter recently found this book and we have been reading it most nights this month . She loves it and sits happily through the whole book , laughs at the funny parts and while she doesn’t get all the subtleties she loves this book.
Good Night, Princess Pruney Toes by Lisa McCourt is a fun carefree book about a happy loving father and daughter. Princess Pruney Toes emerges from her bath to rule over her kingdom before bed. I love that the dad in this story follows along with his daughter’s imagination. I think it’s so important for parents to play with their kids and what’s better than pretend play? This lovely book is another fresh look at what makes a princess and that even princesses wishes can be easy to grant.