One of our favorite things to do in the fall is to go to the Harvest Festival at a farm down the road. Last year we took our apples and pressed them into cider, the kids jumped off bales of hay and my son even rode a horse . He has been looking forward to this for a few weeks and when I asked him what sort of sensory tub we should make for his sister he suggested a fall farm sensory tub. So we went to the store to choose what to put in the tub. We looked at all the items and decided on a wild rice and lentil mix and popcorn. If you follow me on Facebook you may have seen this update. It was the trip to gather these items that nearly drove me to drink at 2pm. In the end the massive spill at the store was well worth it because the sensory tub was a hit . Do not miss the tips in the tutorial about what toddlers can gain from sensory bins.
- Gather your materials. We used dried wild rice, unpopped popcorn, dried lentils and fake apples and fake acorns. Sometimes I have the sensory tubs ready to go all pretty and presented and sometimes I have the kids help. The day we made this someone refused to nap so she helped with every step. Fist we gathered all the animals that belong on a farm from our playroom. This is a great basic sorting lesson for kids too.
- Next we poured our filling in. After putting the popcorn in we took time to draw letters in the popcorn. My daughter loved it . A fun sensory based letter activity.
- Add the wild rice, lentils, animals, vehicles, and farmers ( you may recognize a few characters ).
- Play! At first her play consisted of putting animals on the tractor and laughing saying ” Dat animal no drive!” and then replacing it with a figurine of a person. Apparently this is seriously funny to a two year old. I was cracking up at her which was nice after our major shopping meltdown.
- Fine motor skills were next. These little apple sauce cups were a perfect for filling and spilling and she filled them one tiny grain at a time.
- She counted apples and only tried to eat one . Of all these activities within the activity only one writing in the popcorn was initiated by me. That’s the awesomeness of sensory tubs!
- When the filling started scattering on the porch on purpose I gave her one warning that if she threw it down on purpose that I’d pack it all up. Spills from regular play are not disciplined. Still two minutes later she was done and the tub looked like this.I keep the filling in the plastic bags and them inside ziplocs ( usually double them up to avoid bugs) and the toys in a bag so we can pull it out again in a flash. We normally play with one these for a few weeks. Repetition is a great thing for kids it’s not boring so don’t feel like you need a bright shiny new thing every day.
Big Red Barn by Margaret Wise Brown is one of my very favorite books to read to my daughter before bed although it took a while before she warmed up to it. I was worried because I loved reading it to my son and couldn’t wait to share it with her. The story is simple readers see a day in the life of a big red barn and all the animals inside. Each animal is introduced in the seamless text that reads like a melodic poem. It’s calm , soothing and Felicia Bond’s illustrations are perfect, I love how the sky subtly changes as the night beckons. A wonderful book for anytime, but especially poignant before bed.
Fall Mixed Up by Bob Raczka is such a fun fall book for kids. Every page is filled with funny mix ups like Showing pictures of Bears gathering nuts and geese hibernating. My son loved the idea of a Thanksgiving dinner of all candy! I read this to both my kids and while my 2 year old liked the pictures and laughed a long with her 5 year old brother really she was just giggling because he was. My son however thought it was hilarious and corrected each picture as we read. The illustrations by Chad Cameron are stunning as well and a perfect accompaniment to the silly text. If this book doesn’t make you crave a pumpkin spice latte I don’t know what will. Very cute book!
The Cow Loves Cookies by Karma Wilson was as good as I expected it to be and I am a fan of the author. The story has just the right amount of rhyme, rhythm and absurdity that makes for a great picture book. Readers follow along as the farmer feeds all the animals their traditional foods except the cow, the cow loves cookies. The text is paced so well that you can’t help but read it in a sing song and the repetition lends itself to listener participation. Even on the first read your kids will be adding in ” But the cow loves cookies!” . While having fun kids will learn about farm responsibilities, what animals eat and maybe a thing or two about milk and cookies too. The illustrations by Marcellus Hall express so much emotion and have a funky vintage feel that makes the whole book a pleasure to read.
Sensory tubs are fun and messy sensory tubs are even more fun, at least for the kids. Summer is a perfect time to take these outside and not worry about your floors while your kids explore. I am asked often how I handle sensory tubs and pouring everything out . If you saw this instagram showing my daughter pouring rice out you know I am not immune to this and you may notice it was taken outside on our porch. She is in a messy phase and I don’t want to just stop sensory exploration so I head outside too . The way I handle pouring out of the tub is that accidental spillage is no biggie but pouring it on the floor for the sake of pouring it on the floor gets one warning. If it happens again the tub is removed or child redirected to another activity but the key to getting them over this is you try again, same rules.
Beach Sensory Tub
Coffee Grounds Sensory Exploration
Alphabet Sensory Tub
Shaving Cream Fireworks
Ocean Sensory Tub
Butterfly Sensory Tub
Rainbow Gelatin Sensory Tub
Swamp Sensory Tub
DIY Water Table
Spring Bird Seed Sensory Tub
Even though I wish all summer could be spent outside rainy days or too hot days means more time inside and for antsy toddlers that can be hard. This activity occupied my 2 year old for a good 40 minutes and she had fun too. Below are a few tips on how to make play like this last longer without sparing the fun.
- Gather your materials. We grabbed an apron, a pot, some corks, spoons and a ladle . We also used dish soap half way through.
- Start by filling the sink and asking your child if they want to cook.
- Let them play.
- Without prompting she through corks in and then scooped them out and into the pot. Can you say hand eye coordination development ?
- She mixed and splashed . When she was tiring of it I asked if she wanted to look at all the different tools for cooking. She loved the whisk.
- Next I asked if she wanted bubbles…of course that was a yes too .
- The whisk was extra fun in the bubbles. She even caught a cork.
- For us the sign that she was done was that these big waves turned into let’s make Mama wet even after reminders that the water stays in the sink. You will find your child’s own end signs where gentle redirection fails and every day will be different, some days this will last a long time others it just won’t. It’s not you or your child it’s just the way it is, if it fails try again another day.
Throughout the pretend play I followed her lead. She told me it was cheese soup and I asked her questions about her cheese soup, about cooking etc… I know that pretending doesn’t come naturally to all parents but try to at least ask a few questions and indulge their imaginations. It’s ok to feel silly sometimes even if it doesn’t come naturally.
It’s gooey , it’s gross and it’s green! It’s a swamp and this sensory play idea was a huge hit with both my 5 year old and my toddler. It was surprisingly easy to make and a great way to spend some chill time outside. Sensory play is so much more than squishing things it’s about discovering with all your senses and pretend play as well. My kids spent a good about of time simply making sounds with the goo, sounds like glurp, goop, glug, squish , slip , slurp. It was fun to see how they both narrated their experience and the giggles were amazing too.
- Gather your materials. You will need some gelatin ( I used plain because I had it on hand and added kool-aid for color but plain jello without the sugar should work too). You will also need a large container, pool noodle, some plastic swamp creatures, water and a large tub or water table to play in.
- My daughter helped me make the gelatin. I followed the directions on the back for fruit jellies doubling the recipe.
- I love that by using kool-aid the gelatin smells awesome and is so tart even if kids do taste it , they spit it out. Also I used this old animal cracker container because it was a perfect fit for a space I had in my fridge. And it had a lid which was important since it was at kid level too. We let the gelatin set overnight in the fridge even though ours was ready to go in about 3 hours.
- We cleaned the water table ( it had dirt and rocks in it from our last play adventure) – this was an activity all on it’s own.
- Then the next morning after the gelatin was nice and set I filled one side with the gelatin and the other with water – added sliced pieces of pool noodle for lily pads and just enough creatures to invite play.
- And play they did.
- My son loved flopping the gelatin into the water side and it was neat to see how it would sink to the bottom.
- My daughter loved squishing and squishing and squishing . I just kept taking pictures and soaking up the giggles. Did I mention it smelled amazing too, much better than a real swamp.
- In the afternoon the sun melted the gelatin and my kids were bummed but we covered it and sure enough the next morning it was all congealed again and they had an absolute blast pulling the creatures out of the goo, and we noticed the imprints they made too. We’ll see how many days we can keep it going!
Stars , space and rockets are a theme that has never really lost it’s luster at our house. My son who is 5 1/2 is not as keen on sensory tubs as he once was ( or so I thought) so I set this one up with a little reading and matching activity. If I was doing this for younger kids I would have a few rocket ships and a few cups for pouring and transferring and skip the matching activity completely. As it turned out I misjudged my son and you will see that even at 5 1/2 that simple is wonderful.It’s great for space themes, learning about shapes and even fine motor practice!
- Gather your materials. For the sensory tub you will need dried black beans, bright star buttons and some tools like spoons and containers to dig and pour. For the matching activity I also used a chocolate box liner, some paper, scissors and marker.
- Pour the beans and the buttons in. You could add sparkles but you will never be able to use the beans for another non sparkly tub again and cleaning it off the buttons if you want will be impossible. I like to re-use my sensory tub innards so we kept it simple.
- If you want to make the matching container you can do it a few ways. For my son I wrote the words including light and dark blue and hot pink because we’ve been talking about different shades of colors. For pre readers simply use a marker in each color to write the word.
- Other than setting up I just let him go. He read all the words to start.
- Then got down to business sorting and matching. Don’t be surprised if they start counting while they sort. Everything is a competition at our house right now and so as he was sorting he was keeping me updated to which color was in the lead.
- After he’d had enough he filled the extra squares with beans using his hands , then grabbed a spoon, dumped the buttons out and and started carefully scooping the into the little squares one by one.
- Then we got a big container and filled it ( with the pot from our play kitchen) so his little sister could enjoy the stars too. She loves rolling it around and how loud it is when she does.
So even though I had a more directed activity ready I am thrilled he used it as a start but then directed the rest himself. I am just glad we had all the tools he needed.