Tag Archives: sensory activities

From Beginning to End

The project began last fall when we saved some of the seeds from the pie pumpkin that came in our Wild Earth Farms CSA bin.  I think it is important to not only know where your food comes from but also where your seeds come from.  Most of the plants we grow in our garden start as seeds we collect from plants we have grown or food we have eaten.

In the early spring we started some of our seeds indoors – the seedlings really liked the box window location.  The preschool table is located in front of this window so the children got to see the progress of seedlings every day.

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Once it got warm enough outside we moved all the seedling to our outdoor gardening space.  The various squash plants got planted a block away in my daughter’s back yard – she doesn’t use her outdoor space and we don’t have enough room for those sprawling plants.

Throughout the summer we often stopped by her yard when we were out for a walk.  We are supposed to do some weeding and yard work when we go but mostly all the plants are ‘wild’ and just grow however and wherever they want.  Between the squash plants and the weeds there are so many prickly things but the children are still excited to explore every time we visit.

By the end of September her yard looked more like a jungle than a garden.  The children enjoyed searching for things to harvest.

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We found quite a few on this trip over – had trouble carrying them all back.  All the drivers were smiling as they watched our little parade cross the street.

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When we got back we examined the various produce and discussed what we would do with them.

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The flowers were added to our spaghetti at lunch that day.  The zucchini was used in a stir fry the following week.The rest were displayed as decorations until the end of October when all the pumpkins had turned orange.  Then we cut open the pumpkins and scooped out the innards.

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Then I roasted the pumpkin halves to prepare them for the next phase.

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The following day the children took turns mashing the cooked pumpkin.

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We added the other ingredients – everyone got to smell and even taste some of them before we mixed them in.

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Almost done;

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We poured them in to pie shells and baked them in the oven. Afternoon snack on Friday – perfect end to a busy week;

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There were comments like “This is better than birthday cake”.  Some of the children recognized the taste or smell of the various spices – savoring every bit to pick out the individual flavours.

A year long project from beginning to end – but, its not really the end, is it;

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Mud and More

June 29th is International Mud Day – something we celebrate every year.  This year the school-age children were thrilled that there was no school so they were able to join in the day’s activities.  I had the water table set up full of dirt – it was up to the children to add the water and make the mud;

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I also put out another bin with plain water for hand washing but some of the children enjoyed making repeated trips from mud to hand washing and back so really there were TWO mud bins.  I cleaned the hand washing bin and added fresh water several times but it always looked like this;

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Because of this;

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We were outside all morning and the children took breaks from mud play to build bridges;

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play tag, and capture things like this;

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There was a five minute downpour which was very exciting after I reassured the children that we would NOT have to go back inside.  We do often play in the rain but because we didn’t have raincoats and boots some of the children were concerned that we were not properly dressed for the weather.  However, it was Mud Day and everyone had clean clothes waiting inside so  all that rain was just a bonus 🙂 It created some muddy puddles and the tarp became a slip and slide;

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and the mud table got soupier;

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Then, one of the children notice that the first tomato has begun to grow.  Three of the children decided to ‘watch’ it for nearly 20 minutes ‘waiting for it to turn red’.

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I think maybe it will be ready when they return in two weeks – after my vacation.  I wonder if they will remember to check, or will they be too interested in exploring all the other new things – my ‘vacation to-do list’ is two pages long.  I love vacation time but the return of the children is so exciting too!

Glue

I both love and detest glue.  I love its potential as a tool for crafts – to adhere two or more items together.  However, there is a long list of annoying things about glue.

Sometimes it is too wet – damaging the paper or taking too long to dry so the children get frustrated and often give up before they successfully complete their project.  Glue is easily spilled and difficult to get it from the container to the spot you want it to be.

Sometimes it is too dry – clogged squeeze bottles, shriveled up glue sticks, glue pots containing rubberized mounds of  old glue.  I find it nearly impossible to have good glue available for the children to use independently whenever they want it.  At least 75% of all the glue I buy gets wasted – thrown out without ever getting used for crafts.

Cleaning up glue is another frustrating task.  Using water just thins it out spreading it further and further until the entire table is coated.  A dry paper towel sticks to the glue on a table more permanently than any of the craft supplies we tried to attach.  Clean-up is more time consuming than set-up and creation combined.

In an effort to find a solution to my issues with purchased glue I’ve tried several homemade glue/paste recipes.  Most have failed to provide good results – often easy to work with but the crafts simply fall apart after the glue dries.  However, recently I tried this recipe;

• 1 1/2 Cups Water
• 2 Tablespoons Light Corn Syrup
• 1 Teaspoon White Vinegar
• 1/2 Cup Cornstarch

Pour 3/4 cup of the water into a medium sized pot along with the corn syrup and vinegar. Bring this mixture to a full boil, stirring often.
While you are waiting for that mixture to boil, mix the remaining cold water and the cornstarch together. Beat well to remove all of the lumps. Slowly stir the water and cornstarch into your boiling mixture, stirring constantly. Bring this mixture to a boil and let it boil for 1 minute. Remove the pot from the heat and let cool.
Once cooled, put the glue in a covered container and wait at least a day before using.

The resulting jelly-like product was easy for even the youngest artists to scoop and spread;

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Everyone was impressed by how easy this glue was to work with;

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It is so sticky that layers upon layers of papers were quickly adhered together;

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Even when only part of the paper touched the glue gravity wasn’t strong enough to release it after it dried – and it dried quickly too;

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Stored  in a covered container, the homemade glue was still sticky and spreadable the following week but I wasn’t certain how long it would remain ‘good’ so I decided to use all the remainder in our sensory bin.  I gathered a bunch of other leftovers – shredded paper, sand, powdered paint, potpourri, etc.  The toddlers were curious and examined the dry ‘ingredients’.

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I envisioned that once the glue was added we would be able to use the mixture much like clay and form it into shapes.  However, the children were hesitant to touch it now.

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It was so very sticky that mounds of shredded paper was instantly stuck to the hand of anyone who dared to touch the glue.  It was an extreme sensory activity.  One by one the children began to mix the items together in the bin – very hesitantly – mostly just trying to bury the glue.

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It wasn’t until I added a bit of water that the children became less reluctant to participate.  Even then they didn’t really seem to like the incredible stickiness.  They were however fascinated by the potpourri – picking out the bigger pieces and peeling apart the layers.

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Not what I was expecting but very interesting to watch.  Still, the best was yet to come.  This glue, as sticky as it seems, cleans up in seconds.  I was so very impressed.  A quick rinse under running water and it is completely gone!  No sticky hands. No messy containers. No residue on the table.  Nothing.

Easy to make.  Easy to use. Easy to clean up.  Wow!

The Christmas Bin

I have a couple of big bins that I call sensory bins.  Mostly we just use them for mixing stuff for messy play.  Recently I added a bunch of Christmas items to the biggest bin.

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There are so many decorations that have wonderful sensory qualities but wouldn’t be acceptable to have as loose parts in the playroom with infants & toddlers (and cats).  Putting them in a sensory bin gives the opportunity for exploring these materials in a safe, contained, easy to supervise manner.

I included some of our tubes which were used as funnels for dropping other items through.  The bead chains were a challenge because if you let go before you got them in past the half way point the weight of the chain pulled the whole thing out.  It was frustrating but with a little trial and error and a lot of persistence there was success.

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Many of the children enjoyed wrapping and tying the long strands.

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Decorating the tubes was very popular – sometimes you couldn’t even see the tube after it was decorated.

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I was going to add scented items to the bin but it still smells like the sweet grass we had stored in it last year – Mmmm.  I did add some bells, they don’t make much noise if you hold them but sound great as you dig through the bin.

So many colours, shapes, and textures to explore. These star shaped springs were fascinating.

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The older children enjoyed collecting and sorting all the tiny, little rubber shapes (erasers – hundreds of them).  It was like a tactile seek & find.

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We are all really enjoying this bin.

 

Lumpy Dough

Play dough and other sensory materials are very popular with children of all ages.  I like play dough because unlike paint and many of our other sensory activities there is little set-up time required for play dough.  I always have a batch of prepared play dough stored in my refrigerator.  The fact that it is cold at the beginning of the activity and warm at the end is an added sensory experience.

The recipe I like to use most often is;

  • 1 cup flour
  • 1 cup water
  • 1/2 cup salt
  • 3 Tbsp cream of tartar
  • 2 Tbsp vegetable oil

Combine flour, salt and cream of tartar in a medium sized saucepan.  Add water and oil: cook over medium heat stirring constantly.  When mixture pulls away from side of pan and forms a large ball, remove from heat and let cool.  Knead dough, divide and add food colouring if desired.

I do usually add some time of colouring to the dough and sometimes I add herbs, spices or some other scented material as well.  I have plenty of tools to use with play dough – knives, scrapers, icing decorators, cookie cutters etc but I find that many of the children become so focused on tool ‘ownership’ that the play dough gets forgotten.  Since this is a ‘process’ activity there is never a required product so I rarely offer tools unless the children specifically ask for them.

I chose not to add any colouring or scents to the latest batch of play dough.  Instead, I started the activity by introducing foam ropes and tissue paper.  The children then got to rip the tissue paper into tiny pieces and cut the foam rope – this was more challenging than I anticipated.  The foam was so dense that none of the children’s knives could cut through it.  Scissors worked but the cut pieces tended to fly everywhere – amusing to some of the children but annoying to anyone (me) trying to collect all the pieces.

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The children then had the opportunity to mix the foam and paper into their dough – three very different textures.

15-10-LD02Some chose to add their ‘decorations’ one at a time while others did so by the handful.  Some used tools and played with their play dough as usual during the decorating process.

15-10-LD03Interestingly several of them mixed the paper and foam pieces in the dough and then meticulously picked them all out and then mixed them in again.  In fact, we have played with this dough several times since we first made it and ‘undecorating’ it has been a very popular activity – fantastic for fine motor skills.

15-10-LD04By far my favourite response to this activity came from the school-age children.  When they arrived after school and went to wash their hands for snack they saw the post-activity play dough on the counter.  They were super excited about having ‘cookies’ for snack – followed by a little disappointment that it was just play dough.

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Water Day

Every summer I schedule at least one ‘Water Day’.  Of course water play is not limited to just Water Day.  Water is one of the ‘loose parts’ that is seasonally available through spring thaw, rain, and water collected in the rain barrel.   Some of the children choose to incorporate water into all their daily outdoor play activities whenever possible.

However, Water Day is never a spontaneous activity – it requires planning, plenty of set-up time, and the right weather conditions – hot enough so soaked children do not get a chill.  On Water Day there is water everywhere in the yard which actually makes it a little difficult for me to take pictures but I still try.  Here are a some that I took on our most recent Water Day.

The water table;

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15-07-water05 15-07-water06 15-07-water07And above us the mister hose covers the yard ensuring no one can avoid getting at least a little wet;

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The Delightful Mistake

I wanted to do some type of play dough/sensory activity with the infants and toddlers but didn’t have the time to make a batch of cooked dough.  However, I did have some flour and baby oil to make cloud dough – such an easy recipe.

I starting adding flour to a bowl containing the baby oil.  At first it was a little too sticky and wet so I added more flour.  Then it was too dry – this was a problem because I had no more baby oil left.  I considered other liquid options.

Vegetable oil would work but it would make the dough turn yellowish and I was hoping to keep it white for now.  I wasn’t sure what plain water might do to the texture of the cloud dough and I didn’t want to experiment at the moment due to the limited time I had.

I decided to check the cupboards to see what other liquids I could find.  First I had to wash the dry flour mixture off my hands though.  As I rubbed my hands together with the soap and water I made a discovery.  The white cream soap could be the perfect liquid for the dough.

It took a little trial and error to get the texture just right.  Too dry – add more soap.  Too wet – add more flour.  I was slightly concerned that it may just be an endless cycle but it didn’t really take long to get the perfect consistency.

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At first the toddlers only poked at it.  Even with rolling pins and play dough tools they still prefer to simply poke the dough or tear off little pieces.  I provided some tissue paper for them to tear up and add to their dough.

This was why I wanted to leave the dough white.  I know when we use glue with tissue paper the dye from the paper tends to transfer onto hands and other surfaces.  Usually I find this a little annoying but this time I thought it could be helpful.  I hoped that as the children mixed little pieces of tissue paper to the dough the dye would spread through the dough.

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It didn’t.  I guess that the dough wasn’t wet enough to release the dye from the paper.  The little flecks of colour still looked pretty and the children enjoyed adding the little paper pieces.

We also discovered that the addition of the cream soap instead of more baby oil made the dough stretchy.  Wonderfully pliable without falling apart even when the infants waved it about;

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Then I gave them each a small container.  Their favorite activity is putting stuff in containers and taking it out again.  This amused the little ones and extended the activity for much longer.

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Even though it didn’t necessarily go as planned it was still a wonderful engaging activity.