A playbarn full of hay = some great sensory and pretend play!
Do you have any ‘go to’ places that you like to visit with your little ones? I have a few, although they have been under revision since having Baby E as I haven’t been sure if I could navigate them with two kiddies to worry about! Nearly eight months down the line, however, and I am gaining enough confidence to widen the net on our days out…
It’s great to rediscover old favourites – and even better to find that they have new and interesting spaces to explore. One of our local favourites has created a brilliant covered ‘playbarn’ area, with cheerful farm-themed murals along the wall, a generous variety of ride on tractors and cars, some trailers, wheelbarrows, brushes and – the very best bit – LOTS of hay!
This, it turns out, is a sort of playing seventh heaven for small children, including my own. Little Miss A was really excited to get stuck in, while Baby E found the whole thing absolutely fascinating.
First, Little Miss A gathered great big handfuls of the hay to fill a handy wheelbarrow…
Once the hay had been piled into the wheelbarrow, it was time to move it to the other side of the barn and dump it out all again.
Then came the serious business of ‘feeding’ the animals…
Farmer Baby E supervised the whole process from her dinky little tractor!
The pretend play continued for a while, with Little Miss A filling and emptying many, many loads of hay in her wheelbarrow. This was obviously a major draw, judging by the other children absorbed in doing the same thing!
After a while, the sensory lure of the hay proved too much and she ended up sitting on the floor, ‘burying’ herself in it. (It was pretty much just my child doing that…)
Baby E was equally as struck with it, enjoying the feel of the hay under her fingers and, of course, trying to grab whole handfuls to put in her mouth!
With UK weather being what it is, it’s wonderful to find a covered area that still allows for great fun outdoor play. And the hay clearly provides for hours of fun!
Let your baby explore Christmassy items for festive sensory play…
I’ve been doing lots of Christmas activities with ToddlerGirl so I didn’t want to leave BabyGirl out! She’s been enjoying watching her sister as always and I’ve been involving her when we read our Christmas story books and have some festive sing-a-longs. I decided she might like to get a bit more stuck in.
As she’s loving tummy time at the moment, I found some festive items to lay out around her while she was on her mat:
- our Santa stocking, which feels amazingly soft
- a toy snowman
- a colourful Christmas book, open on an interesting spread
- some sparkly tinsel
- some jingle bells
These items were all for exploring under close supervision only.
She loved stretching her arm out to touch the Santa stocking, which is very tactile. She then spent a lot of time studying the book and trying to get hold of the bells. Of course she was trying to reach everything to put it in her mouth!
Having a variety of items in front of her gave her an interesting sensory experience, with the colours, textures and sounds of these Christmassy items proving to be fascinating! There was lots for me to talk to her about and the objects were obviously enticing enough to encourage her to reach out for them and even attempt to move towards!
A great fun sensory tub from The Imagination Tree that is simple to put together and provided us with a whole afternoon’s entertainment…
I spotted this idea for a baking sensory tub on The Imagination Tree a little while ago and have had it in the back of my mind since then as an easy activity to do with ToddlerGirl one afternoon.
It was very straightforward to set up. I filled a plastic storage tub with dried rice and lentils and then added some baking themed equipment to play with. I’m not much of a baker but managed to rustle up quite a few items:
- Flower shaped cookie cutters
- Wooden and plastic spoons
- A lemon squeezer
- A few tin cake pans
- Some silicon cupcake cases
- A mixing bowl
The Imagination Tree also included weighing scales, a recipe book, an empty egg carton and an empty flour packet. I didn’t have the flour packet so substituted an empty rice box and then our little flour bottle ‘shaker’ that I made for her a while ago.
This was all laid out on a large white blanket and left for ToddlerGirl to explore.
She was immediately absorbed by it and particularly loved putting the rice and lentils onto the weighing scales. I talked to her a little bit about how they worked and we pretended to do some weighing of our ingredients before adding them to the mixing bowl. We consulted our recipe book to see what other ingredients were needed, adding a shake of flour here, a couple of pretend eggs there – plus some more unusual ingredients for cake baking that ToddlerGirl decided to include, such as carrots, hummus and garlic!
The mixture was placed in the pans and then moved to a corner of the blanket which had become the ‘oven’. When it was cooked, ToddlerGirl carefully scooped it onto plates and we had to ‘eat’ it. This procedure was repeated many, many times! There was a lot of scooping, pouring, weighing, transferring from one dish to another, all narrated by ToddlerGirl as she explained to me what was going on.
When her interest started to fade, I brought out some decorative cupcake picks, which ToddlerGirl enjoyed sticking into the cupcake cases. She discovered that she had to fill the case a certain amount otherwise the picks didn’t stand up on their own and it took a little bit of experimenting to find just the right amount to put in. I always find it’s worth holding back a couple of the play items for these type of activities as it can help to extend the fun and give it an extra lease of life!
When we’d finished playing, I packed everything away into the storage box so we could bring it out again another day.
This was a great activity with lots of different elements to it: sensory play, pretend play, learning about concepts such as weighing and measuring. Most of all, it was a huge amount of fun for ToddlerGirl. Thank you The Imagination Tree for a lovely Playtime Pinspiration!
Use petals from your fresh cut flower displays before you throw them out to create a simple and engaging sensory tub for toddlers.
I was lucky enough to have a beautiful bunch of roses recently, which looked gorgeous on our dining room table. ToddlerGirl was very interested in them, so when the petals started to fall and it was time to move the flower display, I decided to use the roses in a sensory tub for her.
This couldn’t have been easier to set up:
Plastic storage tub on a huge white blanket I use to define the play area and contain the mess
Handfuls of the rose petals
Various tools and containers for exploring the petals, including a magnifying glass, some cupcake cases, a heart shaped box, a couple of cardboard tubes, some spoons
This was an incredibly tactile sensory tub. ToddlerGirl was immediately fascinated by the texture of the petals, which felt velvety and soft. Even I couldn’t resist plunging my hands in!
We spent some time feeling the petals and then examining them a bit more carefully, holding them up to the light to see the faint veins, with ToddlerGirl using her magnifying glass to get a closer look.
She had fun just swishing her hands around in the tub and scooping the petals out with the spoons, piling them into the boxes, dropping them down the cardboard tubes and carefully spooning them out into the cupcake cases to make ‘special treats’ for Mummy.
Of course, this being my little ToddlerGirl, she eventually had to clamber in to get the full body experience! Soon, the socks and leggings were off and she was pretending to be in a rose petal bath (very decadent!).
After a while, the petals came out of the tub and were scattered all over the blanket. This is why I like to use some sort of floor covering, as it makes the clean up a lot easier! It also really helps to define an area to keep the play within and ToddlerGirl understands that any mess creeping off the blanket means ending the activity (after a warning or two).
This was really a spur of the moment activity but this simple sensory tub kept her engaged for well over half an hour. When her interest waned, I kept back some of the petals and we made some sensory/discovery bottles.
We filled three bottles with water and ToddlerGirl added a few handfuls of petals to each one. Then we added red food colouring: quite a lot to the first bottle, so that it turned a deepish shade of red, and a lot less to the second, so that it was a faint, rosy pink colour. We also sprinkled some glitter in for good measure! The third bottle we left plain, so that we could see the contrast between all three.
They looked very pretty with the light shining behind them and ToddlerGirl has been playing on and off with them since then, shaking them up and rolling them around and having a good look at them through her magnifying glass.
This was a great way to use up a beautiful bunch of flowers when I was ready to throw them out and ToddlerGirl absolutely loved her petal sensory tub!
Most toddlers will need no encouragement to celebrate International Mud Day! Find out all about the day, why playing in mud is beneficial for children and my top three favourite ideas for getting, quite literally, stuck in…
What is International Mud Day?
“International Mud Day is children and early childhood professionals all over the world celebrating nature, outdoors, and mess by getting really muddy.” via World Forum International Mud Day | World Forum Foundation.
Sounds like fun – ToddlerGirl will definitely approve! Find out more about the day by following the link above.
Why children should play in the mud…
“Did you know that playing in the mud is beneficial to children?” via let the children play: 10 reasons why we should let children play in the mud.
It’s official, playing in mud makes you healthier, happier and smarter!
Three great ideas for muddy play
1. Make some mud paint
Give a new twist to painting with this Mud Paint Recipe from Learn Play Imagine. Top tip from the blog: “Be sure to use a thick cardstock or even poster board or card board. Thin paper could rip with the moisture from the paint.”
2. Create a ‘wild art’ forest face
“Making forest faces is one of the simplest and most enjoyable activities that can be done in a woodland setting.” via Creating Wild Art: Forest Faces | TheBoyandMe.
This looks like a lot of gooey fun – a perfect activity to go with a walk in the woods.
3. Make mud pies – with a sparkly twist!
“Who knew mud could be so beautiful and full of sparkle?” via Mud Play Recipes ~ Growing A Jeweled Rose.
I love this idea for making princess mud pies, complete with added powdered paint, glitter, flowers and sequins. A new twist on the classic mud pie!
Want more ideas?
- Set up a mud kitchen – ToddlerGirl has so much fun playing with hers, it keeps her occupied for ages
- Go splashing in some muddy puddles – super easy and always a winner
- Poke around with some sticks
- Set up a play garden – or do some real gardening with your little one
- Create a dirt sensory bin – add tractors and plastic animals for a farm theme
So, what are you waiting for? Go get muddy! Of course, these ideas will be just as much fun any day of the year :)
How are you celebrating International Mud Day?
Let your toddler loose with the shaving cream for some fun, messy play – a perfect summer sensory activity in the garden!
To capitalise on a (hopefully) BBQ summer for the UK this year, I made a giant list of sensory activities that we can do in our garden. ToddlerGirl loves getting messy, so I’m banking on these ideas keeping her happily occupied while I can sit in the shade and supervise, without having to heave my hugely pregnant self around too much. Taking these activities outside makes the clean up that much easier afterwards. Win-win!
One of my favourite activities on the list involved shaving cream. I found this lovely idea for creating an ice cream parlour from Connecting Family & Seoul, combining both messy and pretend play elements. The set up looked simple: a few bowls of shaving cream mixed with food colouring to create the Mr Whippy style ‘ice cream’ and then some bowls, spoons and other items. ToddlerGirl would LOVE that, I thought to myself as I pinned it.
And oh, how she loved it!
I set her outdoor workbench up on the grass and laid it out with assorted Tupperware bowls, plastic plates and spoons. We also have a sweet little pretend play ice cream set, complete with a scoop and two dinky cones, that made a perfect addition. Then, ToddlerGirl watched with impatient excitement as I squirted some cheap shaving cream into a couple of small tubs and mixed in some green and yellow food colouring, to create ‘mint’ and ‘vanilla’ ice cream.
We marched ceremoniously outside with the tubs, ToddlerGirl bursting to stick her hands in the cream. Unsurprisingly, she was straight in there, scooping it out and dolloping it onto plates and into the cones. Handfuls of grass were sprinkled on the top and the confections were handed to me to sample.
This was all well and good but, quite frankly, it just wasn’t messy enough for ToddlerGirl. I had filled her paddling pool up nearby, thinking this would be useful for washing the shaving cream off. She had other ideas and after a while was taking huge spoonfuls of the stuff over to the pool to float on the water. I tried unsuccessfully to divert the play back to the ice cream parlour idea but this was soon completely abandoned. I realised that she was having so much fun doing her own thing, so let go of the reins and let her dictate how she wanted to play with the shaving cream.
Of course, this resulted in her slathering the shaving cream all the way up her arms in order to then go and wash it off in the paddling pool. I couldn’t help but laugh along at her absolute delight in the whole process.
When the activity started to wane, I filled a smaller tub nearby with clean water and encouraged her to wash up the tubs, plates and spoons, which proved to be a fun activity in itself and very useful for Mummy! I then emptied the paddling pool and refilled it so that I could clean her off before we went into the house.
Although I had expected her to spend much longer on the ice cream pretend play element, I can only count this activity as a huge success as ToddlerGirl was in seventh heaven all afternoon. She has requested to play with the ‘cream’ multiple times since then. The next time I set it all up, I skipped the pretend play idea and simply squirted the shaving cream into a couple of storage tubs for ToddlerGirl to play with how she wished. She ended up climbing into it, revelling in the slippery sensation of the cream all over her feet.
For my mess-loving little girl, this is pretty much a perfect activity, especially with the addition of the paddling pool. I’m sure we will be bringing it out again over the coming weeks…
Thank you Connecting Family & Seoul for our Playtime Pinspiration!
Summer is (hopefully!) nearly here – the perfect time of year to get outdoors with your toddler for some messy and sensory play!
As I mentioned in my post, Great garden fun for toddler s this summer, I am planning lots of time in the backgarden this summer so that my hugely pregnant self doesn’t have to do too much walking (running) around out and about with ToddlerGirl. She absolutely adores messy, sensory activities so I’ve made a huge list of ideas to keep us going, which I thought I’d share on the blog :) They are all either very easy or fairly easy to set up as I’m all about keeping it simple at the moment, and they should keep a mess-loving toddler happy for a good while… Doing these type of activities outside also makes the clean up that much quicker afterwards.
Water play ideas for toddlers…
Painting with water
Grab an assortment of brushes and other painting tools, fill a few bowls with water and let your toddler loose! This watery activity kept ToddlerGirl more than happy last summer.
Playing with coloured ice cubes
Add food colouring to water in ice cube trays before freezing. Turn the ice cubes out into a large bowl and let your toddler investigate. Learn Play Imagine puts them in the paddling pool.
Make magic potions
Collect some grass, dandelions, daisies, fallen leaves etc from the garden and set out in containers. Add a mixing bowl/bucket, plus access to water. Show your toddler how to mix up magic potions, fairy soup or whatever you want to call it :)
Set up a coloured water station
Genius idea from Happy Hooligans: set out lots of different containers with different coloured water, some empty containers, various tools for transferring the water (such as droppers, bottles, jugs, syringes) and add one curious toddler!
Messy art activities for outdoors…
Painting with flowers and sticks
We painted with sticks last year, which went down really well. Use flowers as paintbrushes also to vary the effects. Nuturestore uses a variety of flowers and leaves to create beautiful prints.
Painting with spaghetti
Set up a tub of cooked spaghetti for some easy sensory play. After your toddler has had fun exploring this, add some paint… Drop strands of the paint-coated spaghetti onto sheets of paper to make interesting spaghetti prints, like the these from The Imagination Tree.
Outdoor paint printing station
I love this idea from No Time For Flashcards. Squirt some blobs of paint into a large tub, let your toddler mix this around as much as they like and then place sheets of paper on the top to make prints.
Create with papier mache
I’ve been meaning to try out papier mache with ToddlerGirl since Easter. Make some glue with flour and water, provide strips of newspaper (or let your toddler help you to tear them up!) and use a balloon as a base. Once dry, you can also paint the sculpture.
Painting with ice cubes
I can see this simple idea from Nursery Activity Ideas going down well with ToddlerGirl: fill ice cube trays with different paint colours and freeze. Lay the frozen paint cubes out with some paper and let your little one make patterns and pictures as the frozen paint melts. Stick something like cut up straws or lolly sticks into the ice cube trays before they freeze to provide ‘paint brush handles’.
‘Real world’ messy play…
Cornflour paint and colours – ‘cooking’ activity
Love this idea from Mummy Musings and Mayhem: mix up some cornflour paint in different colours, add some (old!) kitchen utensils and leave your toddler to create…
Wash the dishes
Provide a tub of soapy bubbles alongside a stack of plastic dishes and utensils for your toddler to wash. Mess For Less set up a similar activity using dolls, or you could also create a car wash with toy cars.
Do some cooking
Set out bowls with various dried food items, such as pasta, lentils, rice and flour, a few jugs/bottles of water, and lots of utensils and containers for your toddler to use to mix, pour and serve up all sorts of delicacies. I like the way Play Create Explore lays out a selection of ‘ingredients’ in a muffin tray.
Shaving foam sensory play…
Shaving foam with colouring
Another great idea from Happy Hooligans: squirt shaving foam into a tub, let your toddler add drops of food colouring and mix this all around to create a wonderful, swirly sensory art project. You can place sheets of paper on the top to lift prints also.
Shaving foam with cotton wool
This idea from The Imagination Tree sounds like a lot of fun: shaving foam mixed with cotton wool to create a whole new sensory mixture for your toddler to explore.
Shaving foam ice cream parlour
Great for pretend play as well as the sensory element, this idea from Connecting Family and Seoul uses shaving foam with some colouring in it to make ‘ice cream’. Add some bowls, ice cream scoops and sprinkles (suggestions include coloured rice and coffee granules) and your toddler can create their own ice cream sundaes!
Messy/sensory play recipes…
Growing a Jeweled Rose has a huge number of play recipes, great for both indoors and outdoors. These sound particularly messy and inviting :)
Quick and easy sensory small world tubs…
Construction themed sensory tub
We had a lot of fun with this one last summer. It is very easy to set up: dried pasta and/or rice, construction vehicles and any other scoops/spades/containers that you like.
Under water themed sensory tub
A tub of water, optional blue food colouring, shells and stones, plus an assortment of under sea creatures to play with. I think ToddlerGirl would love this sensory tub from Mum Central!
Dinosaur themed sensory tub
ToddlerGirl has been really fascinated by dinosaurs this year so I like the idea of setting up a small world sensory tub on the theme. This one from Happy Hooligans incorporates water, rocks and stones, some leaves – and, of course, dinosaurs.
That’s my master sensory and messy play list for the summer – now all I need is some sunshine! What would you add to the list? Share more ideas for easy, messy outdoor play here or over on my Facebook page :)