Messes. Dirt. A tandum of toddler tornadoes reign in our home. But here’s the thing….about a year ago I decided to stop fighting it. All it did was stress me out and make me a crabby mom instead of a fun one. Now we embrace the mess of sensory play fun…colored rice? Shaving cream? Paint? Bring. It. On. Sensory play truly can’t get any more fun. Here are some of our favorite ways to get down and dirty with sensory play fun, no matter the weather outside.
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First off, let me introduce you to the heavy hitter in my sensory play arsenal: baking soda. You may think that it is only something for baking, cleaning, or keeping your fridge smelling nice, but you are oh so wrong. Since baking soda is a very basic (not avocado toast basic…scientific “basic”) product, it interacts with anything and everything acidic in a powerful and sometimes explosive way. Since baking soda tends to be a component of much of our play, we like to play with it by itself before introducing any other elements. Add scoops and spoons, and it is fun to interact with when the beach is way too cold or way too far away.
BAKING SODA AND VINEGAR
Get ready for a bit of a stinky mess whenever you and your littles combine baking soda and vinegar. Since the combination of these two products yields an exciting fizz, this type of sensory play delights both young and old. Our favorite thing to do is to fill squirt bottles with vinegar and a couple drops of food dye, and then let the boys squirt the vinegar into a pan lightly lined with baking soda. Just be ready for everyone to smell like vinegar before bath time rolls around.
SHAVING CREAM PAINTING
One of my favorite memories of being an adolescent was when my friends and I would have shaving cream fights. We love them….our parents….not so much. But since shaving cream is an interestingly soft and smooth product to play with, I let my kids experiment with the substance in a controlled way. How, you ask? We paint it! Put together a paint palette of washable paint for each of your little ones and let them use a layer of shaving cream as their canvas. They can make really neat abstract designs without making too much of a mess. Pro mom tip: Use a reusable aluminum pan or tray with a large side to contain the mess.
We discovered this fun sensory toy when attending the Chicago Toy and Game Fair a few years ago. My boys actually got to sit in an entire bathtub filled with water beads. It was a slippery, slimy, and fun photo op as well as a great way to showcase how versatile water beads are. Just don’t forget that it takes about two hours for them to fully absorb water so they won’t be ready to play with right away. I recommend getting this set to start out with. Also, playing with them in the bathroom is the best way to make sure the mess is contained.
Fun sensory baths are my absolute favorite way to get the boys involved in creative and imaginative play. and it is so easy with bath drops. You can use blue bath colors, add some aquatic toys, and turn your bath tub into an ocean. Another option is to combine blue and red to make a murky purple color–it is the perfect backdrop for a monster truck race!
We go through a TON of finger paint in our house, but lucky for me I found a great idea on Pinterest to use pudding as finger paint. That worked just fine (and smelled really great) when my boys were very little, but now that they are older I needed to modify the recipe a touch. Instead of getting chocolate pudding, I get vanilla pudding and add a couple of drops of food dye to create different colors for their painting creations. And the best part? I don’t have to worry about them getting any in their mouth—I actually encourage it!
Who doesn’t love play dough? Just the act of molding and shaping something with your hands seems to be a great stress reliever for the young and old. But since my boys tend to ruin the expensive play dough by mixing together all of the colors and often forgetting to put the lids on the jars, we now make homemade play dough. Not only is it fun to make, they love being able to add the “extras” such as a few drops of herbs like cinnamon or lavender oil.
Is your kiddo still in the stage of putting EVERYTHING in his or her mouth? Then try this Jello Play dough recipes:
- 1 cup flour (white)
- 2 tablespoons salt
- 2 tablespoons cream of tartar
- 2 tablespoons oil
- 1 cup warm water
- 1 package (3 ounce size) jello powder (any flavor)
Combine ingredients and cook over medium heat. Stir constantly until it thickens and pulls away from the sides of the pot and becomes mostly firm. Let cool on the counter and knead in more flour as needed.
Note: It burns easily so don’t put over high heat and keep stirring Store in a closed plastic bag in the fridge.
I feel like this post should have been sponsored by a paper towel or bath soap company, but it isn’t. Instead, it is just one mom telling another to lighten up, get a little dirty, and make some awesome memories.