Archive of ‘Inside Play’ category

Rose Scented Rice Valentine’s Day Sensory Bin

It’s been awhile since I’ve posted, I know! Life got in the way of creating fabulous blog posts. Lucky for you guys, I made a massive list of posts I wanted to create in my absence, so I have plenty of material waiting to be created. Hopefully there won’t be any more long breaks around here!

Things have changed, we’re in our new house, the new baby is here and we’ve adjusted to all of it! I’m excited to start sharing with you guys again! Since Valentine’s day is fast approaching, I thought I’d kick off blogging again with a great idea for the holiday. This activity had my first-grade niece asking me if I had any more cool creations while she was here the other day it was so much fun, while my 4-year-old nephew and Peanut were elbow deep in it.

Rose Scented Valentine's Day Sensory Bin

*2 bags of uncooked white rice
*Food coloring
*One gallon ziplock bags
*Rose Absolute Essential Oil
*Various valentine’s day items, such as:
Rose Petals
Felt Roses
-Plastic heart shaped bracelets
-Anything you have around the house that relates to Valentine’s day or roses!

This activity does take some preparation, but it’s worth it in the end! The day before you want to introduce this sensory bin, prepare your rice. It’s simple to do, you just need some time for it to dry or your little ones will end up with fingers dyed the color of your rice.

How to:

1. Select your food coloring. I used one food dye to get the dark pink and light pink in this sensory bin, I just used a different method of dying for both.

2. Dye our rice using one of two methods:

Dying method #1:

Dry Rice Dying Method
Step 1: Add 10-12 drops of food coloring to an empty one gallon ziplock bag.
Step 2: Add one bag of uncooked rice to the ziplock bag.
Step 3: Add 10-20 drops of essential oil and drizzle a bit more food coloring to the top of your rice.
Step 4: Seal the bag and shake until your food coloring & the EO is mixed in and the rice is dyed.
Step 5: Lay the rice out on a cookie sheet or some parchment paper. Spread it out to a thin layer and dry over night.

Dying method #2: To create the lighter color, dye your rice using vinegar.

Vinegar rice dying methodStep 1: Add about a cup of vinegar to an empty one gallon ziplock bag.
Step 2: Add 10-20 drops of food coloring to the vinegar along with 10-20 drops of essential oil. Mix the vinegar until the food coloring is evenly distributed.
Step 3: Add one bag of rice to the ziplock bag. Seal and shake.
Step 4: When the color is evenly distributed, use a fine mesh strainer and drain the rice over the sink. Let sit for 10-15 minutes so the excess vinegar can drain off.
Step 5: When the vinegar is drained, spread on a cookie sheet or parchment paper in a thin layer and dry over night. Mix rice up from time to time, if possible, to ensure it drys evenly.

3. When your rice is good and dry, add it to a shallow, long tub. Add your Valentine’s goodies, and let your littles have at it!

Rose Scented Valentine's Sensory Bin

4. Tip: Place your tub on a table cloth so the rice stays a bit more contained. When your kiddos are done playing, gather the rice in the middle of the table cloth and put it back in the sensory bin!

5. When you’re done, the rice can be saved and used again as often as you feel comfortable!

What was said while we played:
Peanut’s vocabulary has exploded since the last time I posted! We talk about all kinds of stuff and she give me all kinds of great responses! When she dove into this activity she kept telling me, “Me having very fun, Mommy!”

I asked her, “What color is the rice?”, “How does it smell?”, “What are you doing with the rice?”, “What else can you do with it?” I also let her ask me questions about what she was playing with. She did ask me what it was when she first started playing. She spent a lot of time repeating the color back while she was playing and also picking up the small roses and telling me what they were, once I had identified them for her.

Attribute Apple Sorting for Toddlers

Attributes are an important part of math in elementary school, so when I saw these Learning Resources Attribute Apples
the teacher in me was jumping up and down. Not only would they be fantastic for a variety of activities for Peanut while she was little, we could continue to use them for years to come!

Attribute Apples Color Sorting for Toddlers | Eat Clean Play Hard

Learning Resources Attribute Apples
Or, if you don’t want to buy the attribute apples you can use real apples in 3 different colors

There are three colors of apples in the Attribute Apples, which is what we focused on for our activity. And conveniently, the box for the apples is divided into three compartments to sort the apples. I dumped the apples out on the floor and let Peanut explore them for a few minutes. We talked about what they were, she pretended to eat them and we talked about how yummy they were. Then, I pointed out their colors and stuck one apple of each color in a compartment, naming the color as I did so. Then, I picked up an apple and asked Peanut where it went. She happened to place the apple in the correct compartment, so I got all excited.

Attribute Apples | Eat Clean Play HardShe didn’t get all the apples in the right place and I tried to help point here in the right direction when I saw she was going to make an incorrect choice. We haven’t done much color sorting yet, so I knew this would be a challenge for her. I really want to work on more color sorting as we work towards learning our colors.


Remembering she’s only 19 months old, I only had her work on sorting for a few minutes (less than 10!) and then let her play, putting the apples where she please and dumping the container over and over. I really do like the Attribute Apples. They’re plastic and will be great for several activities, durable, and super fun!

What was said while we played: 
“There are three different colors.”
“That apple is red.”
“What color is this apple?”
“Where does this apple go?”
“Are apples yummy?”
“Oops, does that apple look like the others?”

Hula-Hoop Ball Roll For Toddlers

What toddler doesn’t love balls? I think “ball” was one of the first 5 words Peanut and all her friends said. They’re just so much fun! This activity incorporates a hula-hoop to trap the balls in and work on refining those gross motor skills.

Hula Hoop Ball Roll For Toddlers


  • A variety of balls, various colors, sizes, textures, and bounciness
  • A hula-hoop

By tossing the balls in the center of the hula-hoop I tried to create a barrier for them that Peanut could attempt to keep the balls in. I knew this was going to be a challenging task, since she’d probably run right up to the hoop and try to fling all the balls around as hard as she cool….which is exactly what she did.

Hula-Hoop Ball Roll for Toddlers

So, I had her chase down the runaway balls and bring them back in the hoop. Then I modeled a gentle roll for her and showed her how it stayed in the hoop. She tried, with a bit too much gusto and the ball still escaped. But, we continued to work on it and eventually she was able to keep the ball she rolled in the hoop sometimes. She liked aiming for other balls and making all of the balls move around in the hoop at once and she also enjoyed chasing the runaways down, claiming they were “crazy!” with big giggle. Peanut also liked picking up the hoop and shaking it around to make the balls move.

We switched out what balls were in the hoop from time to time to see how they acted differently when she rolled them and the balls ran into each other. Some proved impossible to keep in the hoop (even for me!) and some were so bouncy they’d hop right over all the other balls and out of the hoop. Changing the balls out little by little allowed this activity to keep Peanut engaged longer than simply throwing all of the balls in at the same time. Different combinations made for different kinds of fun!

What we talked about in play: 
“There are a lot of balls in the hoop!”
“What color is that one? It’s blue.”
“The red one got away! Go get it and bring it back!”
“Gently roll the ball, like this.”
“That was a nice roll.”
“Look at all the balls rolling around in there!”
“That was a crazy toss!”

This was a simple activity that worked at hand-eye coordination, gross motor for the whole body, and our colors all along the way!

P.S. I also learned, with quick moving activities like this I should use my DSLR instead of my iPhone….all my pictures came out blurry so I don’t have many to share with you, sorry!

Relaxing Lavender Rice Sensory Bin

There’s just something relaxing about playing with rice. I used to catch myself playing in our rice bins while teaching preschool, just because I enjoyed it. Adding lavender essential oil to your died rice creates an even more relaxing sensory activity.

Relaxing Lavender Rice Sensory Bin


  • 2-3 standard sized bags of white rice
  • 2.5 gallon Ziploc bag
  • Purple food coloring
  • 20-30 drops of lavender essential oil
  • Sea shells
  • A small, cloth bag
  • Bin for playing in

The night before you want to do this activity, die and scent your rice. It’s very simple: put all of the rice in a large Ziploc bag, add a generous amount of food coloring, zip the bag, and shake up the rice to distribute the food coloring. If you didn’t reach the desired color you wanted, add more food coloring and mix again. When your rice is the desired color, add 20-30 drops of lavender essential oil and mix the rice again. When everything was mixed in, I opened the Ziploc bag and let it dry over night. The next morning, I dumped the rice into our sensory bin and added the sea shells and cloth bag.

Relaxing Lavender Rice Sensory Bin

I presented the bin to Peanut on our laminate floors, incase some of the rice found it’s way out of the bin (which it did). At first she poked around at the rice for a while. Then, I showed her she could burry the shells in the rice and she began copying what I was doing. Eventually I showed her how she could take a hand full of rice and fill the bag or scoop up some rice with the shells to fill the bag.

Relaxing Lavender Rice Sensory Bin

We squished the bag when it was full of rice, smelled the rice in the bin and bag. We talked about what color the rice was. After a little while, I just let Peanut play and relax with the scent and feel of the rice. She played quietly for quite a while, only becoming disturbed when she accidentally discovered the fun sound the rice made when it hit the laminate floor. Then I decided play time was up.

What we talked about: 
“Does that feel soft?”
“There are lots of little pieces, aren’t there?”
“It sounds nice when you mix it.”
“That smells delicious.”
“The bag is squishy.”
“That’s a shell. Can you find the one I buried?”

This is a great sensory bin to keep around for a late-night play experience. The lavender essential oil can calm a crabby kiddo down no time and get them ready for peaceful sleep. Keep your Ziploc bag you mixed your rice in to store the rice when not in use. Dyed rice is definitely not a one-time-only use sensory bin filler. Use it again and again!

DIY Easy Book Page Puzzles

Identifying things that go together is a great skill for toddlers to work on. Using pictures they’re familiar with, such as simple illustrations from their favorite book can make this task easier, since they already know what the image looks like.

DIY Easy Book Page Puzzles


  • Printer
  • White card stock
  • Your child’s favorite book with simple illustrations, such as Brown Bear Brown Bear by Eric Carle
  • Optional: Laminating machine

Ahead of time, print and cut out your pictures and cut them in half. Young toddlers don’t need the complication of having a lot of pieces. However, if you were doing this for an older child, you could cut them in to different pieces or even shapes. I was able to find Brown Bear Brown Bear pictures online at, so I didn’t even have to take the time to scan the pictures, just print them right out. Also, if you happen to have a laminator, I would highly recommend laminating your pieces. Peanut had half of our pictures scrunched up by the end of the activity and I had wished I laminated the pieces.

DIY Easy Book Page Puzzles

To start, I spread all of the pictures out on the floor so Peanut could see all the pictures. Then, I asked her to find the puppy, which I knew she’d be able to identify. When she found the puppy head I I asked, “Where’s the rest of the puppy?” Then, I helped her find the back of the dog and put the picture together.

Then, we continued with the other animals. Sometimes Peanut would identify an animal on her own and then we’d hunt for the rest of the picture and sometimes I would have to point out a picture, name the animal, and help her find the rest of the picture. If Peanut was having trouble finding the pictures that matched, I’d help her out by picking up a few different pieces and asking her if it was the rest of the animal we were looking for. Obviously she wouldn’t get it right every time, but she would get really excited and scream, “Yeah!” when we realized a picture was what we were really looking for. Then she’d grab the piece from me and try to  put the pictures together (which is where a lot of our scrunched up pieces came from).

DIY Easy Book Page Puzzles

As we built the pictures, I set them aside completed in a long row so we could see all of the work we’d done. When we were done I also asked Peanut what each animal was and the sound it made. Peanut had a lot of fun and even when I thought she was done she wanted to play with the pieces more.

Vocabulary used in play:
“This is a puzzle!”
“Which animal is this?”
“What sound does the (dog, cat, horse, etc.) make?”
“Does that look like the right picture to go with this one?”
“Where’s the rest of the (dog, cat, horse, etc.)?”
“Do these go together?”
“That looks silly, I don’t think that’s the right picture.”
“That looks like a dog, I think we found the right picture!”
“What an awesome job your doing of looking for the right picture! You’re working so hard!”

Had a laminated the pieces, I would have put them in a plastic bag and kept them as a busy bag activity for when I needed something to keep Peanut occupied without my help.

Powdered Paint Splash Art

Playing in water is a toddler favorite. This process art project is a great way to let your kiddo play in the water while making beautiful art!

Powdered Paint Splash Art

When I set out to find my materials for this activity I got even more excited about giving it a try. I found a line of all natural paints from Glob Colors that I had to get. I placed my order, got my paint, and was ripping into the package while Peanut was down for nap so I could see what it was all about. They smelled delicious, so I couldn’t wait for Peanut to create some art!

Powered Paint Splash Art


Powered Paint Splash Art

I tried this activity two ways with Peanut. The first go around I put a bit of powder in her hand and let her drop it on the paper. I gave her a bit of each color and she flopped down, sometimes spreading it around with her fingers. I made sure she smelled each one, since the Glob paints have some yummy natural smells to them. When she had a bit of each color on her page, I gave her some water and showed her how to drip a bit onto the paper, making the powder turn to paint. She spread the water around a bit, too from time to time, mixing some of the colors together.

Powered Paint Splash Art

The outcome was awesome! It was such a pretty piece of art, especially for toddler process art! Usually I let Peanut create until she feels as though she’s done, but it was so pretty I picked up the paper after she started getting crazy with the water so I could keep the picture. It was way too good to let her ruin it! :)

Powered Paint Splash Art

The next time around, I put the paints in separate containers and showed Peanut how to put a pinch of paint on her paper. She did the same sort of thing; she dropped paint on her paper and spread it around a bit. I did only offer one color at a time since our paints were new (and a bit expensive!) and I didn’t want them mixed up into one crazy color just yet. Once she had a good amount of color on her page, I handed her the water again and let her create until she threatened to ruin her beautiful work.

Powered Paint Splash Art

The second turned out just as good as the first! I’d say having the colors in seperate containers felt a bit more organized and a bit more like Peanut was doing more of the work, but either way works fine.

Vocabulary used in play:
“Open your hand.”
“Hold your palm flat.”
“Sprinkle it on the paper.”
“Take a pinch.”
“Rub it around.”
“Splash the paper.”
“It’s so beautiful!”

I can’t wait to do more with these paints and plan on ordering more of Glob’s products to try out! Not only did they create a great picture, I didn’t have to worry about Peanut messing with nasty chemicals in her art experience. I highly recommend ordering these exact paints for the project!

Toddler Texture Dance Party

Peanut LOVES to dance. Recently I caught her dancing to the noise of hammering. So, I’ve been trying to think of new things we could do with her obsession of dancing. She already danced to all kinds of music and we do our best to teach her some new moves…finally, it hit me…let’s dance on stuff!

Toddler Texture Dance Party


  • Sand paper
  • blanket
  • felt
  • magazine or paper
  • shaggy rug or scratch rug
  • Damp towel
  • Changing pad or pillow
  • Any other fabrics or materials you have on hand that won’t hurt little feet!

Toddler Texture Dance Party

I set out our textures out on the floor near each other. Then, I turned the music on and we jammed! Peanut started busting moves right away and I had to bring her attention to the fact that she was dancing ON something. She’d get so busy dancing she wouldn’t move from one texture to another, it was like the texture she was on was her stage and she had to stand there!

Toddler Texture Dance Party

When I would encourage her to move to a new texture, she’d move and then stand there for a few seconds figuring out what was under her feet before she picked up dancing again. She enjoyed the most foreign textures (sand paper, the wet towel) the most and would stomp away.

Toddler Texture Dance Party

She spent a long time sitting on her changing pad (still dancing). She picked up the towel to fling around while she danced for a while. It was fun to watch her experience the different textures under her feet and see how she felt they needed to be incorporated into her dancing.

Toddler Texture Dance Party

The dancing continued for a while, until I think it hit her where the changing pad came from and she picked it up and carried it back to her room to put it away. Oh, my neat and tidy little Peanut.

Vocabulary used in play:

  • “What is that under your feet?”
  • “Is that scratchy?”
  • “That’s fuzzy, isn’t it?”
  • “Wow, you’re really moving those arms!”
  • “Keep boogying!”
  • “Oh, is that wet and cold?”
  • “Are you swinging the towel?”

All day I’ve had more ideas about what we could dance on next time: plastic wrap, a table cloth, a comforter, nearly anything!

Masking Tape Trail Gross Motor Activity

When it’s too hot to get outside (or too cold) getting gross motor play in can be harder than usual. This simple activity can provide your toddler or preschooler with important gross motor skills while keeping them in a comfortable climate!

Masking Tape Trail Gross Motor Activity for Toddlers


Painter’s Tape
Toy cars (We love these B. Wheeee-ls cars!)

To set up this activity I just stretched some painters tape over the floor in a large pattern. We did this on our laminate flooring, but it could be done on carpet as well. Playing on our laminate allowed us to use our pull and go toy cars without having to push them around.

Masking Tape Trail Gross Motor Play for Toddlers

The first thing I had Peanut do was simply walk along the tape and follow the shape. She immediately started saying, “Wee!” as she walked around and around. She’d get off course from time to time, but when she’d realize what she was doing, she’d get back on the tape. I didn’t except for her to be able to walk on the line backwards, but she attempted that on her own! She looked at me and giggled when she did it, letting me know just how clever she was. We also tried crawling along the tape, but I don’t think Peanut liked the hard floors on her knees. This would probably be one advantage of doing this on the carpet.


When she had enough walking on the tape, I broke out the toy cars. We pushed the cars along the tape for a while, racing them around. Then we started racing two cars with each other. This was the hardest part for Peanut. She could push the car right along the tape with her hand, but when she tried to pull the car back and release it, the car always went way off course. She was trying, but it really was hard to do.

Masking Tape Trail Gross Motor Play for ToddlersWhen we were done, I started pulling up the tape and Peanut started trying to get her own piece of tape off the floor on her own. I had to help her a bit, but once she got it up from the floor this may have been her favorite part. I made a big ball of tape for her to play with, as I thought it would be a pretty good sensory add-on, but Peanut has recently become obsessed with throwing trash away and as soon as I handed her the ball she started saying “trash” and heading for the trash can. Oh, well. I guess we’ll try for the sensory part of tape later. Haha!

Masking Tape Trail Gross Motor Play for Toddlers

Vocabulary used in play: 
“Walk on the line.”
“Stay on the tape.”
“Keep going!”
“You’re walking backwards!”
“Crawl on your hands and knees.”
“Push the cars.”
“Let’s race the cars!”
“Pull it back. Then let go, like this.”

It only took me about 2 minutes to set up this activity and if you don’t have your house on the market you could leave the tape down for a couple of days if you wanted to so you could come back to it later.

Tissue Paper Butterfly Toss

These easy to make butterflies can provide fun for days, especially if you introduce a bug net to the play!

Tissue Paper Butterfly Toss and Catch for Toddlers


To make the butterflies:

  1. Cut tissue paper into rectangles about 2.5 x 3 inches or so.
  2. Stack 2-3 pieces of tissue paper together.
  3. Pinch the rectangle in the middle.Tissue paper butterfly making
  4. Wrap 1 pipe cleaner around the pinched middle.Tissue paper butterfly making
  5. Done!

I pre-made the butterflies so Peanut wouldn’t have to wait on me making butterflies to be entertained. To introduce the activity to her I simply grabbed the butterflies and tossed them in the air over her head. She thought it was hilarious! She thought it was even better when I told her she could throw them around.

Tissue Paper Butterfly Toss and Catch for Toddlers

She ran around picking up one or two butterflies at a time and throwing them the best she could. I would collect as many as I could and toss them in the air for her to try and catch.

Tissue Paper Butterfly Toss and Catch for Toddlers

The next day I decided we’d add our bug net to the mix, which added a whole new level of fun. Not only could we collect all the butterflies in the net, we could flip them all back out again. She tried scooping them up in the net from the floor, but could never quite get them. She ended up mostly picking the butterflies up to put them in her net.

Tissue Paper Butterfly Toss and Catch for Toddlers

Vocabulary used in play:
“Catch the butterflies!”
“They’re flying!”
“Throw them.”
“Toss them.”
“Catch it!”
“Get the net.”
“Put the butterflies in the net.”

These little guys are great to keep handy in a Ziploc bag in a kitchen drawer or somewhere near where you might need a quick distraction. The net required a bit more supervision so Peanut didn’t end up knocking a picture off the wall, but the butterflies themselves are a great independent activity!

2 Ingredient Cloud Dough for Toddlers

My inspiration for this activity came from Learn ~ Play ~ Imagine through this post.

Two Ingredient Cloud Dough for Toddlers

My un-messy Peanut had no problems doing this activity inside on the mess mat (a cheap plastic table cloth) with a tub to keep the dough contained.  I also suited her up in her long sleeved smock so we wouldn’t have to change outfits or worry about the oil staining her clothing when she was all done. If your little one tends to really get into messy play, it might be a good idea to take it outside.

Two Ingredient Cloud Dough for Toddlers

“Are you sure you want me to touch this stuff, Mom?”

Peanut ran right over when I placed the tub of dough on her mess mat. She touched it right away and then looked at me or reassurance. Once I got her really digging into it, she loved it. She kept saying, “ooo” when she touched it and liked the way she could flip it around.

Two Ingredient Cloud Dough for Toddlers

We haven’t had many sensory activities similar to this were we could talk about soft, so I really emphasized that the dough was soft. She liked that word and has been repeating it all day.

Two Ingredient Cloud Dough for Toddlers

I didn’t add any toys, spoons, or other utensils to this activity today. Since it’s our first experience with it, I just let her play. Toys and tools can be added later, after she’s had time to play with the dough itself.

Vocabulary used while we played:
“This dough is so soft!”
“Wow, it’s so fluffy!”
“It feels like a cloud.”
“You’re flipping it everywhere!”
“Mix it up!”
“Is it on your hands?”
“Touch it.”
“Boy, that is messy!”

The original poster said that she doesn’t replace her dough for months, so this is an activity you can come back to again and again!

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