Five Fun Sensory Activities with Stuff you Have Lying Around the House
Before my son was born I worked as a preschool teacher. Even though I have been home and in full-on mom mode for the three years, my teacher brain is still very much a part of who I am. This means me and my kiddo do lots of fun, free art and sensory activities with stuff we just have lying around our house. These activities come in handy especially on rainy days or those brutally hot days where you just can’t bare to go outside. So, I present to you (in no particular order) my top five favorite activities using stuff you already have in your kitchen (or that you could easily buy at the corner store).
Why I love it: This recipe is great for babies and toddlers who love to put things in their mouth. It uses all edible ingredients, so you don’t have to worry if they decide to sample a fingerful.
What you need:
- ½ cup flour
- 1 cup water
- Pinch of salt
- Extra water (a cup or two set to the side)
- Food coloring (or if you want to make this all natural you can boil some berries or beets and use the colored water you have left over)
- Pour the flour and 1 cup of water into a pot
- Stir the ingredients over medium heat until they start to come together to form a thick paste. The mixture may start out a little lumpy but will smooth out eventually.
- Once the mixture forms a thick clump and starts to pull away from the sides of the pot, remove it from the heat.
- Add a pinch of salt (this keeps the paint from getting funky if it is sitting out for a while)
- To reach a smoother consistency, slowly add cold water over the mixture and stir as you go. I use about ¼ cup of water. You can stop adding water once the mixture gets to be a smooth, spreadable consistency.
- Divide the mixture into as many bowls as you want colors
- Add the food coloring or berry/beet water or even liquid watercolors work here.
- Store in the fridge in between uses
Baking Soda + Vinegar = Bubbles
Why I love it: Although this activity seems simple there can be a lot of learning that happens here. In helping your child pour small amounts of vinegar at a time into the baking soda you are modeling self regulation and patience (because every toddler ever just wants to dump the whole cup at once)! Then, once the mixture starts to bubble you can talk about the noise it makes- encouraging them to listen carefully.
What you need:
- Baking Soda
- Vinegar (any kind will do, I have used both white vinegar and apple cider vinegar)
- Food Coloring (optional) added to the vinegar for extra fancy factor
- Spread the baking soda onto a tray or pour it into a bowl. I would start with about a cup or so.
- Begin to slowly pour vinegar into the baking soda until it starts to “erupt” and bubble up
- Talk with your child about what they notice, encouraging them to use all of their senses (what does it smell like? Sound like? Look like? Heck, even taste like!) If your child is preverbal you can still do this step by narrating what you notice for them.
Q-tip and Egg Carton Coordination Game
Why I love it: This one is one of my favorites. I have never seen my kiddo more focused than when he is working on this activity. It gives your old egg cartons new life and is so great for their hand eye coordination and fine motor skills (pre writing skills!)
What you need:
- An old egg carton (the cardboard kind works best)
- Turn the egg carton upside down and use a scissor or sharp knife to poke holes in each compartment.
- Grab a handful of Q-tips and demonstrate how to stick the Q-tips into the holes.
- If your tot gets frustrated, encourage them to try again and maybe offer some “hand over hand” assistance, guiding their hand toward the hole but not necessarily doing it for them.
**Note-– I would not recommend leaving your little one unsupervised with this one. I have caught my tot try to stick a qtip in his ear one too many times and that makes me nervous so I always sit with him while he is working on this.
Shaving Cream “Writing”
Why I love it: This activity is great for helping kiddos work on writing their names or letters in a fun way that doesn’t seem like “work”. It is also great for children who are hesitant to get their hands dirty- they can use just one finger or a qtip to make marks in the shaving cream.
What you need:
- Shaving cream
- A play surface (a tray, a table, the floor if you are brave)
Process: Spray the shaving cream on your play surface and let your kiddo go to town. If they are a young toddler you can model language for them by talking about what the shaving cream feels like, show them how they can draw shapes in the shaving cream, etc. For older kiddos, they can draw pictures in the shaving cream or write their names- the sky is the limit.
Ice Cube Painting
Why I love it: This is another activity that keeps my little guy busy forever. I keep some paint cubes in my freezer at all times and when I am cooking dinner set up a little painting station for him on the kitchen floor. This is especially fun to do outside on hot summer days. You could make different shapes using fun silicone ice cube trays.
What you need:
- An ice cube tray (I have found that the silicone ones work best since it is easier to pop the ice cubes out)
- Food coloring
- Mix some water and food coloring together in a cup and pour into the ice cube tray. Use as many colors as you’d like and the darker the color, the better for this activity.
- Use a paper that can stand up to a little water like finger painting paper or poster board but if all you have is regular ol’ printer paper it works too, that is what I usually use.
- Pop the ice cubes out onto the paper and encourage your child to move them around on the paper. As the cubes begin to melt, the dyed water will create “paint” almost like water colors. Talk to your child about what is happening with the ice and why they think their paper is turning colors (or, go cook your dinner– your kiddo is busy!)
- You can experiment here with different ice cube shapes, different papers, etc.