I ordered these Arctic Animals a few weeks ago and we’ve been playing with them in playdough snow and with our other animal figurines but this arctic ice sensory tub was by far our favorite way to play. My daughter was absolutely in love with this and it’s so easy and cheap to make. The one big word of caution is that this much ice is heavy so please be careful that it’s on a stable surface and not somewhere that it could fall and hurt someone.
- Gather your materials. You will need a plastic tub that will fit in your freezer( dollar store !) , a smaller plastic container, something heavy to place in the container ( I used frozen chicken sausage), a freezer and some arctic animals.
- Start by filling your tub part way with water. Do not fill it all the way it will be so heavy and possibly dangerous. Place the smaller container in and weigh it down. This will create a open area for water inside the icy terrain. Freeze.
- Remove the smaller container and fill the open area with water. I filled mine with lukewarm water.
- Add animals and play. We kept ours low to the ground on a stool in the bathroom so spills and splashes could be no biggie ( and also because the light it way better for pictures than in my kitchen). The next few times we played we played in the kitchen on a towel on the floor.
- Talk about which animals stay on land , which live only in the water and which can swim and walk on land. We talked a bit about predators and prey as well ( especially when her brother joined in the next day). We noticed how the water was so cold even though it was warm-ish when we poured it in and why that was. And most importantly we played and played and played.
I think I may have promised you that our Monster Math was going to be the last monster activity for a while but as you will see my kids are simply nuts for them so who am I to stop the fun? I got the idea for the muck from a pin I saw of this post by Lisa Murphy aka the Ooey Gooey Lady! I knew we had to make a muck sensory tub and I was so glad we did. My son loved mixing the muck and as you will see after my daughter woke from her nap she too got right into the much and made some monsters too.
- Gather your materials. The muck is super simple and requires only shaving cream and cornstarch. We added sun chenille stems I cut in quarters and a wide array of googly eyes that were sent to us from craftprojectideas.com . The other must have is a tub. I am not mess phobic but even I thought it got messy ( corn starch spreads ) if you are doing this inside you will want a tub to keep it contained.
- Start by spraying your shaving cream in. My son loved doing this and refused to let me have a turn .
- Next we sprinkled a little cornstarch and mixed then dumped the whole thing in and wrote some letters in the muck. It took some working to get it thick enough to mold but soon enough we could make balls.
- Added the chenille stems and eyes and made some monsters.
- My daughter woke up from nap and being too short to reach into the tub I helped her mold some balls and put them on a paper plate for her to customize with chenille stems and googly eyes.
- Next my son got busy making a monster muck fort . The stems are guns and goo blasters, the eyes are bomb detectors and the muck is radio active. So what I am saying is that this is a fantastic sensory activity that sparks one of the most important types of play kids need – imaginative play. They worked peacefully for what seemed like ages until the chenille stems ran out.
- So we cut some more and the play continued.
The Monster Princess by D.J. McHale is a story about a monster Lala who so wished she could be a princess only to discover in the end that being herself is even better. As I was reading this book I was really hoping that the three real princesses that befriend Lala would have more depth and not be the stereotypical mean girls that they are . Even after the mean princesses humiliate Lala she does the right thing and saves them when they are in danger. This book had a very predictable feel to it but I am 35 and have lived through mean girls on film many times and been on both sides of it in real life . To a young child this story is fresh and filled with good messages about doing what is right even when we are angry and hurt, discovering that what we dream about being may not be all it’s cracked up to be as well as my favorite message that there are ” All kinds of special.”
Molly’s Monsters by Teddy Slater is a counting book in monster’s clothes. The book is about a little girl named Molly who is just trying to sleep when her room is flooded with monsters. They come in progressively larger groups and my son liked counting to make sure the text was correct. My favorite part was that the first monster to arrive and the last to leave , never does leave and instead snuggles into bed with Molly. I also like that to get these pesky visitors to leave she turns on the light and makes a scary face and scares them. Clever. * I read this to my daughter for the first time just this week and she loved it so much it’s been read many times this week before nap and bed.
Creepy Monsters, Sleepy Monsters by Jane Yolen is a sweet monster book with minimal text and very rich illustrations by Kelly Murphy. The story is really about the daily wind down and bedtime for two monsters. You and your child will absolutely relate to them on one page or another ( or all). These little monsters are just like our little monsters resisting bedtime, trying to avoid baths… well you know the daily struggle. My daughter was not into the book but my son liked it even though I’d gear it towards the 2-4 crowd. We chose our favorite monsters on each page and found interesting details like the recipe for tentacle soup on the page where the mom is making dinner . Cute, your child will relate to it and it’s not at all scary!This post contains affiliate links
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.