Earlier this week, we posted our top 10 arts and crafts supplies (and projects using them) and we promised to post our favorite sensory play items. There are actually a ton of legit reasons to engage your kiddos in sensory play, but we do it because we like to get messy and use our imaginations. And mom has certainly found it to be a helpful way to keep us cool during the late afternoons this summer.
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(1) Water Beads -- By far our most favorite sensory play item, water beads are actually used commercially by the floral industry. Involve your kiddos in soaking them and watching them grow. We like to sort and pour them, but cutting and squishing them is really tops. Kane used them recently in his imaginary kitchen to make "fruit salad" by cutting up "the fruit." We've purchased them from several different stores on Amazon.com, including this set.
(2) Water Table -- Cami received a super awesome sand/water table for her birthday this year and we use it almost every day. We love to use ours for playing with water beads and ice, but some days all we do is play with water. We've set up pretend kitchens, zoos, and pirate battles. And, a tropical water table never hurt anybody.
(3) Light Box -- Mom made us small lightboxes for Christmas last year and although we generally use them more during the winter (it's just easier when it's darker outside), they've seen their fair share of playtime this summer. Two of the sensory ideas we request most for the light box are baggie painting and water beads.
(4) Textured or Scented Playdough -- Plain old playdough is a pretty good sensory experience all on its own, but we like to mix it up and add texture and scents. We had a ton of fun making applesauce cinnamon dough and you can't go wrong with chocolate. We love to pretend we are running a restaurant or bakeshop with our scented dough and use cookie or pastry cutters, serving dishes, and birthday candles to do it up right. And, while it's not technically playdough, we had a real blast with the cloud dough we made.
(5) Colored Rice -- This isn't mom's most favorite, because it inevitably gets everywhere and tracked throughout the house, but we both will spend a lot of time playing with it. Mom usually puts it in a large plastic container and adds some different kitchen accessories or toys for us to use -- like this or this.
(6) Colored Spaghetti -- We've colored spaghetti to use in a sensory bin and used plain spaghetti for painting as well. It can be a little difficult with little toddlers who inevitably try to eat it (it IS food), but they also love the squishy, slippery feel of it. Give it a try!
(7) Ice -- For some reason we are fascinated with ice and both crowd the ice maker fort the shot to snag a runaway cube. Our favorite ice activities include watching the reaction between ice, salt, and water colors and playing with colored ice shapes in our water table.
(8) Jello -- Mom cannot figure out why kids love jello so much. She recalls begging her mom to get her one of those grocery store jello molds when she was a little girl and then being totally grossed out by it. So now we use it for all kinds of things other than eating it, including our recent attempt at jello sculptures. But wouldn't it be fun to fill up a bathtub or small pool with jello? Hm....
(9) Shaving Cream -- We love to make bathtub paint out of shaving cream and our attempts at shaving cream marbling usually turn into a shaving cream free-for-all. But mom also frequently just fills up a few small buckets with the stuff and lets us have at it. But, keep in mind, the stuff cheap enough to use nilly willy, smells, well, cheap. And, we haven't tried it yet, but have heard that shaving cream and some water beads in a bin make for some super sensory fun.
(10) Giant Squish Bag -- The least easy to make sensory supply on our list, the giant squish bag was loved by all who played on it (for the 20 minutes it lasted). Giant squish bag, we will make you again and we will kick your A the next time. And if you don't want to try and make one, but have a back yard you're willing to lend, let us know. We'll be there with plastic sheeting and bells on.