Continuing with the theme of mess and paint and getting to really experience all the feels of art products, this post is all about sensory fun. Children love to experience the world with all of their senses and this is an important part of growing and learning. The activities here incorporate not only touch and feel, but also smell, taste, hearing and seeing. And again we have included a no mess option, but I would encourage you to really try and let your child experience all of these activities – especially gloop – you haven’t lived until you have played with gloop – that’s a promise.
Gloop is sort of a magical substance (with a scientific explanation for the curious), that acts as both a solid and a liquid. It is liquid, pours like liquid, slops like liquid and stirs like liquid, but when you exert pressure on it (by punching, poking, grabbing or squeezing) the substance becomes solid. Squeeze some in your hand and it is hard, but open your fingers and the liquid just drips off. And if you are fast enough, you can even roll some into a ball and bounce it on the ground. And when it drips off your fingers, it actually vibrates -crazy huh?
What you need:
- 2 cups of corn flour
- 4 cups of water
- Some food colouring and essence (optional)
What to do:
- Pour the corn flour into a bowl
- First spend time exploring the corn flour – it has the most amazing feel and texture, and when you rub it between your fingers and listen closely – it squeaks! (sound).
- Add the essence and colour to the water and mix (smell and colour)
- Add the water mixture slowly to the gloop, and mix very well
- This is not an exact science – it takes a little while and some good mixing to get the mixture mixed, (yes, that is a lot of mixes in one sentence). Then, if it’s too dry add some more water, and if it’s too runny, add some more corn flour.
- Now play with your gloop, or better yet – let your kids play with the gloop.
For the scientists - or naturally curious:
- Cornflour is made up of lots of tiny (<0.01mm) starch particles, but instead of taking on the regular round shape of other substances, the particles of corn flour are all irregularly shaped.
- These are very attracted to water so the water gets in amongst them very quickly.
- The water acts as a lubricant, so when you move it slowly the particles have time to move past each other and they can flow like a liquid.
- However if you apply a rapid force it causes the particles to move slightly causing the particles that are almost touching to jam together. and the water that was between them moves sideways slightly into the gaps.
- Now instead of having lots of lubricated individual particles you have a solid structure of lumps touching each other which can't flow.
MAGICAL PLAY DOUGH
I know, I know, another play dough recipe. But it must be said that play dough is so versatile. There are very few children (and adults) in this world that don’t like playing with play dough (or in adult speak, prestick/sticky stuff). Who can resist smooshing, pulling and rolling play dough or prestick? “Yes, I see you with that ball of prestick, the one that’s all sticky and icky already.”
Play dough also keeps for a long while if stored correctly - usually, in an airtight container, or a ziplock bag, in the fridge.
It is lovely for stimulating the imagination, for working the muscles in the hands, for improving fine motor control, and for calming kids down. Add a couple of utensils, like sticks, spoons, a plastic knife for cutting, a bottle top to cut out shapes etc. and you have a mini baker on your hands.
What makes this play dough stand out from the crowd is that if you mix the jelly beforehand (so that your child does not see the colour or flavour on the packet), when you add the water to the dry ingredients your play dough will magically change from white to an unexpected colour, and will also smell heavenly. And it is edible for those who can’t resist a taste.
You could also mix up small bags of the dry ingredients in ziplock bags, to give as party favours.
What you need:
- Dry Ingredients
- 260g flour (1 & 1/3 of a cup)
- 2 packets of jelly
- 50g salt (1/4 of cup)
- 1/2 tsp cream of tartar
- Wet Ingredients
- 1 cup of water
- 1 & 1/2 tablespoons of oil
- Mix all the dry ingredients in a bowl
- Bring the water and oil to a boil
- Carefully mix the water and oil mixture into the dry ingredients
- Stir the mixture with a large spoon until it's mixed and cool enough to handle, then remove it from the bowl and knead it well until it's all the way combined.
- If your mixture is a little too wet or sticky, add some extra flour, a little at a time, until it's the right consistency
- Have fun playing with your new play dough, then store it in a sealed bag or container until you want to play with it again.
SHAVING CREAM FUN
This is a simple activity for kids to do. Shaving cream is a lovely sensory material that smells wonderful and feels even better, (it doesn't taste good though, so if your baby is at the stage where everything goes into the mouth – use whipped cream instead). Who doesn't want to smoosh, (yes, smoosh) their hand into this?
What you need:
- Shaving cream (whipped cream if your child is little and might try to eat it)
- A tray or sheet of plastic, or other work area (e.g. the paving outside)
- Props (spoons, plastic animals, straws, blocks, plastic cars, etc.)
What to do:
- Put your child in an empty bath for whole body sensory fun, and when play time is over, just add water.
- Fill a tray with the stuff for some outside fun and paint pictures with your fingers.
- Add some cars and make snow tracks
- Add a spoon and truck and shovel the ‘snow’
- Green food colouring turns it into toxic slime, add some dinosaurs, bugs or other animals
- Red food colouring turns it pink for marshmallow land.
- Show your child how to clap their hands while holding some shaving cream to make it snow
SENSORY STRESS BALLOONS
These balloons are as much fun to make, as they are to play with. They can be used for a number of activities, both indoor and outdoor, and can be used for all ages.
What you need:
- Balloons of all colours
- A funnel
- Play dough
- Pasta shapes
- Granulated Sugar
- Anything else you want to put inside; (some ideas: flour, water or gel (if you're brave), lentils, beans, salt, sand.)
What to do:
- Place the neck of the balloon over the spout of the funnel and slowly add the desired ingredient. Use the back end of a pencil to work the stuff through the funnel if it becomes clogged, and don’t overfill the balloon.
- Kids have a great fun filling the balloons and you can take the opportunity to talk to them about how the different things feel inside and outside the balloon, (for instance, sand and flour are free flowing out of the balloon, and become quite firm when constricted by the rubber).
- Take time to describe the different fillings using words like hard, soft, sharp, prickly, round, crinkly etc.
- Also talk about the balloon colours, the different sizes, the different sounds the ingredients make when rubbed together and concepts such as empty and full, volume and air etc.
- You could also make two of the same balloons for each of the ingredients, then put them all into a box or container, and have your child sort through them to find the matching pairs.
- Balloons filled with sand, flour, sugar and play dough make wonderful stress balls. To make them extra strong you could cut the ribbed neck off a second balloon and stretch it over the first balloon to give it a second skin.
- Stress balls can be decorated by drawing a face on them.
This one is just for the fun of it. Who doesn't like bubbles? Blowing them, chasing them and popping them. But bubble solution generally doesn't last though, and young kids have difficulty blowing the bubbles.
The home-made bubble solution is quick and easy, and you can use many household goods as a bubble wand, like pipe cleaners, the top of a plastic bottle, straws and string, and even a clean fly swatter for the little ones, (dipped and flapped and it makes many tiny bubbles).
What you need:
- 1 tablespoon glycerin
- 2 tablespoon dishwashing liquid
- 250ml water
- Wire, pipe cleaners, fly swatter,string, straws, plastic bottle etc for the bubble wands
What to do:
- Mix the ingredients together gently but well
- Make bubble wands
Make double bubbles and bubble domes:
• Put a spoonful of bubble mixture onto a tray or flat kitchen surface and add a teaspoon of water. Put a straw into the bubble mixture and blow through it gently to make a dome shaped bubble. Blow again to make another dome shaped bubble inside your original one. Now you've got a double bubble! See if you can add even more bubbles inside your double bubble. How many can you make?
Make bubbles with your hands:
• Make a circle using your finger and thumb. Dip it gently into the bubble solution and try blowing a bubble. Next you can try cupping both hands together and dipping them into the bubble solution. Try blowing a bubble with a triangle or diamond shape using your hands. Make sure you wash your hands after doing this.
• Take a soft drink bottle and carefully cut around the top third of the bottle. Dip the cut edge into the bubble solution, and blow through the drinking end. You have now created both a bubble trumpet and a container to keep your bubble mixture in.
So there you have it. Yes, it is a messy list, but oh so much fun. Throw caution (and clean up) to the wind for one afternoon, and have fun getting messy in the sensory wonderland of play.