Butterfly Sensory Tub

I love what we call butterfly pasta. Not only does my son eat it well, he plays with it well too.  We made this ages ago but between Easter and Mother’s Day crafts it got lost in the shuffle. As we pulled it out to play with it again I remembered I never posted this sensory activity. Although I didn’t photograph it I popped some of these butterflies into a clear Take and Toss sippy cup through a lid on it and my daughter has been using it as a shaker for weeks. So many uses!

  1. Gather your materials. You will need some bowtie ( butterfly) pasta, food coloring, vinegar, ziploc bags, cookie sheets, a medium sized plastic tub, scoops, a divided tray and play tongs. You can also through in some penne pasta as ” Caterpillars”.
  2. Start by putting a few drops of your favorite food coloring into a ziploc.
  3. Add 1 tbsp of white vinegar.
  4. Throw in a few handfuls of pasta. Shake until all the liquid is gone.
  5. Pour out on a cookie sheet lined with wax paper to dry. The vinegar smell will lessen in time, even if it’s strong initially in a day or two it will be all but gone.
  6. Make multiple colors.
  7. Pour dry dyed pasta into a bin with scoops for little ones to explore, add penne pasta as caterpillars.
  8. Using a divided tray you can sort the pasta by color using tongs.

Spring Garden Sensory Tub

spring sensory activities

Sensory bins are such great teaching tools and for this one I wanted it not just to look like a spring garden but to feel like one too. So we stuck with earthy natural colors, all natural contents ( minus the tongs and pots) and talked about how we can ( and will) plant some of the beans from the bin and track it’s growth.  The big lima beans we used are big enough to be a chocking hazard for little ones so remember to only use contents that fit your children’s specific level of development.

  1. Gather your materials. You will need some dried split peas, large dried Lima beans, dried orange lentils, dried white beans, mini bow tie pasta and some small flower pots. You will also need a tub – this one was a dollar at Walmart.
  2. Start by pouring the dried beans and lentils into the tub.
  3. Next add a handful of butterflies ( the dry bow tie pasta).
  4. Add some mini flower pots and explore.
  5. My son was fascinated by the lima beans , they are not a staple on our dinner table.
  6. You can simply scoop and pour with the flower pots
  7. Or grab some tongs and sort and count.

Books About Gardening


The Tiny Seed by Eric Carle is a story about a tiny seed who unlike the other seeds from his flower makes it against all odds to continue the cycle of life. I really enjoy this book and love how it shows all the obstacles along the way for a simple little seed. Carle’s distinctive collage will keep your children marveling at the illustrations while learning about plants.

The Gardener

The Gardener by Sarah Stewart Is a really touching book that I would happily recommend for school age children. It’s a beautiful story about a little girl during the depression who is shipped to the city to work in her uncle’s bakery because both her parents are out of work. She is obviously nervous but knows that it’s something she has to do. She takes a little of the country with her in seed packets which she plants in the city while she learns about baking and becomes friends with her uncles employees. This is more a story about making the most of hard times, and would be a great way to talk about the great depression with your child. There are so many little things in the illustrations by David Small to talk about , from a picture of FDR to traveling by train and the general sense of sadness . In the end it’s a warm hearted book that I can’t wait to share with my son in a few years.


Zinnia’s Flower Garden by Monica Wellington is really useful not just about teaching about flowers and gardens, but also about patience and the annual cycle of a garden. Zinnia plants and waits, waters, enjoys her flowers, then they die, she collects the seeds and plans her garden for next year. I love that the main story is perfect for my almost 3 year old but there is much more for older children with longer attention spans. There is a little journal with notes about what’s happening with her garden, and various facts about plants as well. Like in so many of her books the author celebrates hard work and her characters take great pride in what they do. A fantastic message for readers, big and little. I also love the mix of illustration and photographs in this book especially, it gives the illustrations depth and a really interesting look.

Mining For Shapes

by Kim

My daughter is learning her shapes and colors. She is doing fabulous, but I remember my son having trouble with certain shapes simply because we didn’t talk about them as much. Let’s face it diamonds, ovals, and octagons (other than stop signs) don’t really come up that often. So I came up with this sensory box as a fun way to practice these shapes.

You will need scissors, craft foam, cardboard, aluminum foil, and black beans.

I drew some shapes onto the craft foam and cardboard. Rectangles on green (for emeralds), octagons on red (for rubies), ovals on blue (for sapphires), and diamonds on the cardboard.

Cut the shapes out and wrap the diamond shapes with small pieces of foil.

Pour the black beans and shapes in the bowl. I chose black beans because I thought it would look more like coal. It really makes the colors stand out, too.

To make it a tad more authentic for mining, you can cut strips of construction paper and tape them together to fit around your child’s head. Then cut a 1 inch section off of a toilet paper roll and tape it to the headband. I thought we had yellow tissue paper (very cute for the headlamp, but we didn’t). He’s still cute, I think.

You can give your child tongs, sifter, strainer, colander, or measuring cups. Try anything to make it feel more like mining. It’s all about having fun.

Every time my daughter found a shape I would say “Wow, you found a blue oval. Great job!” or the corresponding shape and color. We had a blast mining. My son had to play along after he saw how much fun my daughter was having.

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Kim is a contributing writer for No Time For Flash Cards, a mom to a toddler, a preschooler, and a foster parent, too. She juggles her day by trying out fun activities and crafts with the kids. After all, she is just a big kid herself. See what she has been up to over at Mom Tried It.

Alphabet Sensory Tub

Sensory tubs are great for all sorts of learning  and you don’t need fancy things to get your kids interested … but it’s so fun to give them a theme! This one is a great one for preschoolers who want to do a little more than scoop and pour. It’s easy enough to simplify using plain rice or beans ,  only the  larger letters and adding cups to fill and spill! Do not feel like you have to be directing your kids while they play with sensory tubs, some kids need it but most do not, just let them play. If they are older and looking for a game to play with it follow our instructions for the letter hunt .

  1. Gather your materials. For this sensory tub we used a handful of magnetic letters, some huge floor puzzle letters,small foam letters,  small letter beads, plain white beans a plastic dish tub ,  alphabet pasta. If you want to do the letter hunt game, you will also need an ice cube tray and some tongs.
  2. Start by putting the beans in the tub .
  3. Next the pasta.
  4. Now add the letter beads – my son was playing outside and came in to help.
  5. Next the foam, magnets and jumbo puzzle pieces.
  6. If you are doing a letter hunt place some letters in your ice tray for your child to find.
  7. Go for it!
  8. Found it!
  9. This was such a big hit that he pulled it back out later that evening.

More Fun with Letters

Fishing For Letters

Christmas Sensory Tub

We love sensory tubs!  Digging, scooping and my son’s favorite… pretending! Yes these fun tubs filled with dry goods aren’t just for sensory development they are awesome for the imagination too. I really love this one not just because it was a big hit with my son, but because it combines so many different textures as well as sounds as you play.

  1. Gather your materials. For this festive themed tub we are using split peas, white beans, green matte garland , red and silver shiny garland, scoops, tongs and a plastic container. My son also grabbed a Christmas tin to fill up.
  2. Start by cutting the garland into the tub. Have your kids help if they want.
  3. Pour in the split peas.
  4. And the beans .
  5. As soon as he did the hands dove in to explore. The shiny garland was smooth, the beans were hard, the green garland was crunchy and the split peas were sharp. A wide range of textures for such a simple tub.
  6. Add the tools and enjoy.
  7. My son used the tongs to sort the garland into the tin.
  8. And the scoop for the beans.
  9. Eventually he got all the bunches of garland out.

Books

Merry Christmas, Mouse! (If You Give…) by Laura Numeroff is an adorable little Christmas counting book. Most of the praise should really be on Felicia Bond the illustrator because the pictures take the cake on this one. The book follows the mouse as he decorates the Christmas tree, 1 Star… 2 angels… etc… It’s a perfect to read and then count the ornaments on your own tree. After reading it my son and I found 4 bells, and 3 trains on our own tree.

A Small Christmas by Wong Herbert Yee is about as perfect a Christmas book as my son could ever read. My son is obsessed with firefighters, he rescues his baby sister all day long and the sound of sirens are pretty much a given day or night in our house. Fireman Small is a tiny firefighter that children immediately relate to because he is little. His heart is big though and so is his courage. In this installment though it’s not a fire he rushes to but Santa’s aid.  Your child doesn’t need to be as nuts about firefighters as my son is to enjoy this sweet holiday book.