Under the Sea sensory play and bottle cap fish pictures

Another day of under the idea themed activities!

Firstly, a sensory play activity.
I cracked open the blue water beads that I’d bought before Christmas and had left them soaking overnight. I put these in the tub we use for sensory play, and added in some blue glass beads, sea shells and some seaside ornaments. Obviously, these are all choking hazards so please make sure the activity is supervised! I also popped in their sea creature toys – penguins, whales, seals and sea turtle. It looked great!


As soon as I put it down the kids were straight in there, making the animals ‘swim’ through the beads, and scooping up the beads with the shells and tipping them back in.


I’d laminated some colourful pictures for using with play dough but we ended up getting them out for the tub. I printed these out from here.

After a bit they took all the bits out, just leaving the water bead in! They took their socks off and in went their feet! They love putting their feet in water beads as it feels cold and squishy!


Our second activity was bottle cap pictures. I’ve been collecting then lids from cartons of milk for a while. The idea came from here.. Last night I used the glue gun to stick the lids down on some blue A4 card. These made the bodies of the fish.
I then gave Harrison a pot of pre cut triangles to form the fishes tails. We then glued on googly eyes. We did stick them with the glue stick but they kept falling off so I used the glue gun (my favourite thing ever!).
We used glitter glue to decorate the lids and the tails.
Then came our favourite bit. We dipped the end of a plastic straw in some white paint and over another tray BLEW through the straw. You need to do this as otherwise it leaves a big splodge rather than a white circle. Also, make sure you supervise little ones to make sure they’re not sucking the paint up. Dab the straw onto the paper to make bubbles.
At this point Harrison wandered off so I finished it by cutting some seaweed out of green paper and Alex helped to stick them down.


What do you think?

Mini Creations

Snow dough: a messy sensory activity

Today I was brave and attempted some messy sensory play – a big deal with two
toddlers and a fully carpeted house!
We had a go at snow dough. In a plastic tub we mixed cornflour and shaving foam. It took quite a bit of experimenting to get the consistency right but I think it was roughly equal parts in the end.
I then dumped in some pine cones and twigs that we collected on one of our autumn walks and some baubles. I lay down a cheap shower curtain on the living room floor in an attempt to keep the mess contained. It did still manage to get everywhere but was easily vacuumed up afterwards.
As soon as I put it down Harrison was enthralled and identified it as ‘snow’. He picked it up and sprinkled it, telling me it was snowing and then used the twigs to draw patterns in it.


What he did next was lovely. He took the toys from his school house set and created his own little small world in the tub, with a swing, slide, roundabout and the little characters. He used the pinecones as trees and had great fun in making it snow over his little scene.

He then realised if he compacted the ‘snow’ down he could use his hands and other objects to stamp impressions into it.
His next request was for me to add some water to the tub. I wanted to say no because of the mess, but then realised that’s the whole point of messy sensory play. We tipped a small cup of water in it to make ‘gloop’ and mixed it up using the twigs. Harrison described it as ‘gluey’


It kept Harrison amused for a good hour, not bad for a two year old with the attention span of a gnat! Alex played with it on and off but he’s poorly today so nothing really holds his attention.

A messy but fun activity – have a go!


Post Comment Love

‘That’s Not My…’: A review

I love reading. To me, there’s nothing more calming and magical than losing myself in a book. As a teacher in ‘life before kids’, I also understand the importance of installing an early love of reading. Babies and toddlers are like sponges – get them into books & you’ll help them for life! My boys love reading and have literally hundreds of books. I’ve actually been banned from buying any more (although I’m a master of sneaking them into the bookcase!).

Some of out favourite books are the ‘That’s Not My…’ touchy feely books by Fiona Watt, and published by Usborne. They are the perfect books to start off a child’s library and get them interested in books. We have quite a collection and still have many more to collect!
Our first one was ‘That’s Not My Puppy’ which was a gift when Harrison was born. When he was two or three months old I sat with him and read the book to him, rubbing his fingers over the different textures. He loved it and so our collection started.

These durable wipe clean books are perfect sized for little hands to hold and touch. They’re bright and colourful – a must for any children’s book. The story starts on the front cover and had the textured patch – a perfect way to grab interest’. Each double page of these board books have the textured patches (rough, bumpy, fluffy, smooth etc) which helps with sensory development and speech and language. They’re brilliant for encouraging new vocabulary. The text is big, clear and simple and babies and toddlers will love the repetitive phrases.
The patches are a generous size to help develop fine motor skills.
At two and a half years old I’m not sure how much longer these books are going to hold Harrison’s interest. He still loves looking at them and sharing them with his brother but his vocabulary range is now beyond the books. At 13 months though, Alex is the perfect age to enjoy these books and I’m looking forward to sharing them with friends in the future.



I didn’t receive anything for this review, these were books we already owned and loved.


Rainbow Rice Sensory box: an invitation to play

After the success of our lentil sensory box last week I was looking for a new material to try. Rice popped into my head. How could I make this more interesting? White rice is a great material for exploring texture but a bit boring visually. After doing a bit of thinking I decided I would have a go at colouring it & making ‘rainbow rice’.
Google threw up a few suggestions on how to make it but most used rubbing alcohol, which I wasn’t keen on using. Alex still tends to try eating everything and I didn’t really want him putting chemicals in his mouth. I finally came across a recipe from Learn to play at home which I had a go at.

You will need: rice (quite a bit, I used 2kg), white vinegar and food colouring.

I’ve struggled to find food colouring. Our local Tesco – which is one of the big superstores – doesn’t stock it which I found strange as they have just about everything else! Apparently there’s not much demand for it anymore as people tend to use ready made icing. I had a strange look off the woman when I said I wanted to dye rice with it! Anyway, my mum managed to get me some from Sainsburys who only had limited colours, so for now I’m limited to pink, red, yellow and any colour I can make mixing them!

Back to the rice…in two cups of rice I used a couple of capfuls of vinegar. Too much and it will stink & go a bit soggy. Mix it in and them add a few drops of colouring. How little or how much you use depends on the depth of colour you want. I wanted it quite vibrant so added quite a few drops!! Give it a good mix – you might want to do this in an old bowl or tub and don’t use a wooden spoon like I did (although I do quite like my pretty pink wooden spoon how!) as it stains!!
Then you need to leave it to dry. Spread it out in on a tray. Try and spread it out thinly as it won’t clump up and is quicker to dry. I left it a couple of days to make sure it was 100% dry. I was worried it would run off on hands and material and stain but it doesn’t – I think as well as preserving it the vinegar helps the rice to absorb the colour really well.
I put the rice in lines of pretty colours (pink, yellow, orange & red) to encourage discussion about colours in our clear box. Didn’t get time to look at the colours as they were so excited they dug straight in! I’d put in some scoops, spoons, tubs, bottle lids & ice cube trays. They scooped, shovelled, poured, mixed, stirred and ran their hands through the rice (try it – amazingly therapeutic!). It did spill out onto the mat as they were so excited but they had plenty of fun using their dustpan set to clear it up at the end.

The rice should last for quite a while if kept in a sealed container. We’re going to have a go at using it to make some lovely pictures this week!

Have a go!!

Rach x


For the Kids Fridays at SunScholars.com


Sensory Play: what is it and why is it important?

I asked this on my Facebook, Instagram
and twitter (I’m social network obsessed!) and got lots of interesting ideas and answers:

“When we use sensory description in narrative writing, we tell the students to take a mental snapshot of a person/place & then describe it…presumably sensory play would be activities that appeal to one or more of the child’s senses?” (Clare)

“stimulates one or more of the senses” (Becki)

“Lights, music, colours, textures, smells, treasure baskets, songs, explore, magical!” (Gillian)

” Letting baby explore and learn. The messier the better!” (Jade)

Sensory play can mean a lot of things, but ultimately, it is any type of play that engages one or more of the senses.
My sons are aged 13 months and 2.5 years. They’re typical little boys and love their toys. However, like most kids that age, they have the attention span of a gnat. That is until we do sensory play. They love it!
I’m quite new to this sensory play idea. My first experience of it was at a Sure Start stay & play group I took Harrison to as a baby. They had a sensory corner with chiffon-y drapes, mirrors, light up bubble tubes & fairy lights which the kids loved. I ended up buying some fabric from the market for Harrison (and then Alex) to play with, and they’ve both seemed really calm after playing with it.
They also did more messy sensory play. They would have ‘tuff spots’ (the big tray thingies that builders use!) with jelly, cold custard, spaghetti, yoghurt etc in, which they encouraged the babies to strip down to nappies and get messy in. I was horrified! Why on earth would I let my lovely clean little baby roll around in wellcustard or jelly?! It wasn’t until a few months ago when I discovered Pinterest I found out about the different types of sensory play and the benefits it has.

What are the benefits of sensory play?

It helps kids to develop their language skills and new vocabulary. Harrison has surprised me with lots of words when doing sensory play – gooey, gloopy, slimy, slippy, wet, dry, shiny, fluffy, rough and smooth being just some of his favourites!
It also helps them to develop social skills – they have to share materials ab equipment . Fine motor skills are honed – they mould, pour, scoop, dig, sift and sort amongst other things. Dramatic play can happen – our lentils become cakes, the cloud dough is sausages. Sea shells are cups. It allows their imagination to go wild, as only a child’s would.
These are just a few benefits. Children and adults with special needs often benefit especially.

What is a sensory bin?

A sensory bin is where the materials and equipment needed for sensory play are contained. The materials should encourage children to explore, discover, create and use as many senses as possible, whilst having a lot of fun!

How do I do a sensory bin?

I always start with a ‘theme’ to give a tiny bit of structure. The theme can be very loose if you want. Some ideas: Halloween, Christmas, Easter, seaside, autumn, dinosaurs, animals, under the sea, weather, bugs, garden, jungle, transport, weather…. The list could go on, only limited by your imagination!

You then need some sort of ‘bin’ or container. We use a large clear plastic tub from Ikea with a wipe clean mat underneath. I’m going to get a ‘tuff spot’ after Christmas if I can work out where to keep it! If we do it outdoors we use the kids water/sand table.

Then you need the materials and equipment. I always use a ‘base’ material which is the main sensory aspect and quite often the messy bit. Some ideas: lentils, rice, cold cooked spaghetti, dried pasta, dried beans (although my friend has used baked beans!!), jelly, shaving foam, ground coffee, playdoh, cotton wool, oats, seashells, water, water beads, bubbles, leaves, pinecones, silly string, shredded paper, feathers….
It goes without saying but always supervise and watch out for allergies, inhalation and choking hazards!!

Then you need to add accessories – spoons, scoops, sieves, plastic animals or figures, toy cars, plastic tubs, cups, gunnels, shovels, whisks, cookie cutters..,all depends if you have a theme as to what you could put in.

The final step – let the child play. Let then explore. Let them be creative.

“You can’t teach creativity; all you can do is let it blossom, and it blossoms through play” (Kyung Hee Kim, 2011 in ‘The Creativity Crisis)’

Let them explore their senses, and most of all, let them have fun!


Gingerbread play dough

I love gingerbread. Sometimes I think
I love the smell even more. I love play dough. I absolutely HATE the smell of it, and it always seems to linger on our hands. So….I made gingerbread scented playdough!! I mooched on Pinterest to find recipes, and found a few, but as usual I didn’t have some of the ingredients, so I adapted it, & it worked 🙂
Turned out a lovely ‘gingerbread’ colour, perfect for Christmas, and smelt amazing. Not exactly edible though as there is quite a bit of salt in it which we all know is bad for you!!

1.25 cups of flour (I used plain flour)
0.5 tsp mixed spice (original recipes said all spice but I figured this might be similar/the same)
0.5 tsp cinnamon (recipe said nutmeg!)
0.5 cups ground ginger
0.5 tablespoon cream of tartar
0.5 cups salt
1.5 tablespoon cooking oil
1 cup water

Combine all dry ingredients in saucepan. Add water & oil. Stir over low heat and continue stirring until dough – like consistency. Knead until smooth & consistent.

You can substitute the spices for a couple of teaspoons of cocoa powder to make (non-edible!) chocolate scented dough. Yummy!!!

activities 4 kids




Halloween Sensory Tub

Probably my favourite activity so far was our Halloween sensory tub. Halloween has passed but this can easily be adapted for the time of year.
Harrison is a little bit like me, fussy with textures. I struggle with the feeling of sponge, cotton wool, anything like that, although I’m getting better. Unfortunately I seem to have passed this trait onto Harrison – not good for a little boy who is supposed to like getting mucky! When he was younger I couldn’t get him to do handprints because he hated paint on his hands. He doesn’t mind it so much now but still gets anxious if he gets paint on him!
To try and overcome this and to stop Alex being the same, I’m trying to do lots of sensory activities. This one was based on lots of different activities I’ve seen on Pinterest.
I cooked a pan full of spaghetti, but added some green food colouring to the water. It needed quite a lot to give it a deep colour. Then it was left for hours to go cold. I then put it in a clear tub (from
ikea) and added in some rubber bats I’d bought from the 99p shop and some
Googly eyes from Tescos. I put a plastic table covering on the floor and then let the kids get on with it. Immediately Harry said ‘urgh’ but loved it!! We used the words sticky slimy and talked about the colour. The kids box containing their toy kitchen equipment was in the same room, and without prompting, they got them out and used them to pick up the spaghetti and put it into bowls etc, saying they were cooking!
Allowing the kids to explore the materials and equipment themselves fits in really well with both the Montessori and Reggio educational philosophies. I’m going to do a blog post soon about these, as is something that’s really caught my interest.
The spaghetti lasted in the tub until the next day. Even though I’d sealed the tub it started to go dry and was looking a bit furry from being played with. Think I used half a pack of tesco value spaghetti which is 31p so a fairly cheap activity. It’s perfectly safe for younger kids like Alex who might want to try eating it!