Archive of ‘Messy 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.

Basting Water Fine Motor Activity

Using a baster is a great way for little ones to build hand strength, plus they love them!

Basting Water Fine Motor Activities for toddlers


  • 2 bowls or plastic containers 
  • A kitchen baster

Had it not felt like 104 degrees outside, we might have taken this activity outside. Since it was way too hot to sit outside if you weren’t in a pool, I laid out the messy mat table cloth and set up the bowls. I simply filled one bowl about half way with water and set out an empty one.

Basting Water Fine Motor Activities for toddlers

I had Peanut come over and sit down next to the containers. I showed her the baster and then helped her squeeze the water into the baster and into the empty bowl. Then I let her do her thing. Basters are hard for little hands to squeeze, but she was trying so hard. She’d get a little bit in and try to put it in the other bowl. I could see her little muscles working and I loved it.

Basting Water Fine Motor Activities for toddlers

After a while she just started mixing the water with the bulb and then switching it over to the open end and mixing for a while.

What we talked about:
“This is a baster. Mommy uses it for cooking, but you’re going to play with it today.”
“That is water.”
“Squeeze it like this.”
“It’s hard to squeeze, isn’t it?”
“Good, you got the water in the other bowl!”

This activity was simple and easy to set up, but a great workout for those fine motor muscles!

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!

Dishwashing Water Table for Toddlers

Peanut is a water baby. She would play in water for hours if I would let her. Water tables are a great way to get in some water play, even if your water table is just a big plastic tub!

Dishwashing Water Table for Toddlers

I got lucky one day on my way home from work. I drove by a daycare that was going out of business. Outside the building they had all kinds of preschool equipment lined up for sale. Climbers, water tables, picnic tables, everything! And even better for me, everything was on sale for cheap. I was able to pick up a water and sand table, similar to the one below, for $20 that was in great shape! You can get a smaller table for around $30, but they’re usually fill of toys the manufacturer thought would be good in a water table and you can’t fill your table with your on toys. I recommend watching Craigslist or the news paper to try to find a water table for a great price. Otherwise, you can just get a large tub for water play.

Water Table or large tub
Plastic cups
Plastic plates and bowls
Plastic spoon and forks
Tear-Free Bubble Bath

Dishwashing Water Table for Toddlers

I opted to use bubble bath for our dishwashing liquid so if Peanut happened to get any in her eyes, it wouldn’t hurt. I filled the water table, stripped Peanut down to her diaper, and tossed everything in. Peanut couldn’t wait to get into the fun. She spent forever getting her dishes sparkling clean.

Dishwashing Water Table for Toddlers

She even tried to get herself clean a few times, as you can see. She even ended up getting the dog bowls by her self and “cleaning” them. Then she started putting dishes on the ground and dumping water into them. Well, really more dumping it all over herself and trying to pour it in a dish.

Dishwashing Water Table for Toddlers

Vocabulary used during play: 
“Look at all those suds!”
“Use some soap to get your dishes clean.”
“You’re dumping the water everywhere.”
“You’re all wet!”
“There are lots of bubbles.”

It was easy to set up this activity and I think Peanut would do it every day. This one is great for hot days and to keep in your arsenal! I think I might even pick up a scrub brush from the dollar store for her to use next time!

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!

Sandbox Play with Kitchen Tools

Kitchen Utensil Sandbox Play for Toddlers

Peanut loves to watch me cook in the kitchen. I know she wants to help so badly, but there aren’t a lot of tasks she can do yet to really get her helping. I wanted to create a play activity where she could explore some of the utensils she saw me using in the kitchen. Combining her love for the sandbox and some old kitchen utensils made an activity she didn’t want to give up.

A variety of old (toddler-friendly) kitchen utensils or grab some from the dollar store
A sandbox full of sand

Kitchen Utensil Sandbox Play

When I collected my utensils, I tried to keep in mind what she’d be doing with the tools. I wanted thing she could use to dig, pour, sift, and manipulate the sand. I also wanted her to be able to use the tools as they were designed in the kitchen, as though she was cooking. Peanut ended up with a sugar shaker, measuring cup, wooden spoon, whisk, and ____________.

Kitchen Utensil Sandbox Play

We came outside and I simply tossed the kitchen utensils in the sandbox and she was off and running. I named each item and showed her a brief model of how to use it if she wasn’t quite sure. Once she had the stuff figured out, she was done with me! She’s such an independent player! She dug and mixed and cooked until I decided it was too hot to stay out much longer. Then, I just tossed the kitchen utensils in her outdoor bucket to play with again later!

Wet Oats and Noodles Sensory Play

Wet Oats and Pasta Sensory activity for toddlers

This post from Fun-A-Day! was the inspiration for this activity. While the activity on her blog looked super fun, we went a little more simple for our toddler sensory activity.

Wet Oats & Pasta Sensory Activity for Toddlers

Old-Fashioned Oats
Dry noodles of any variety (we used macaroni)
1-3 spoons
A medium-large sized bowl
table cloth (if you’re doing the activity inside and want to contain the mess)
Recommended: a long sleeved art smock

This messy sensory activity was very easy to set up! If you need a quick, engaging activity where you don’t mind a big clean up, this one is great in a pinch since you probably already have the supplies in your pantry.

Wet Oats & Pasta Sensory Activity for Toddlers

I dumped a couple of cups of oats and some noodles into a bowl and added some water. I let the mess sit for a few minutes so the oats could soak up the water. At first I hadn’t added enough water and the oats were still pretty dry. I just added more and waited a couple of more minutes. When my mixture was right I set out the spoons and the bowl of “mush” on the table cloth and suited Peanut up in her smock.

Wet Oats & Pasta Sensory Activity for Toddlers

Oh, Peanut and her inability to get messy. She touched it once, looked at me with her hand in the air and said, “Yucky.” So, I showed her how to use the spoons to play with it instead. We mixed and stirred and folded the “mush” and eventually she got so caught up in it she forgot how yucky it was and started using her hands.

Wet Oats & Pasta Sensory Activity for Toddlers

Vocabulary we used while playing:

When she decided she was done, there was quite a mess on her and the table cloth. Here’s my hint for clean up: wash the smock right away but leave the table cloth to dry out. When it’s try, the big chunks shake right off and you can wipe the rest clean.

Shaving Cream and Shells Sensory Activity

When I saw this post from A Mom With a Lesson Plan I knew I wanted to try it with Peanut. We’d already played around in shaving cream before so I was looking for something to add to the activity. This seemed perfect: simple but fun!

Artificial Shells, medium to large size, can be purchased here
Shaving cream
A table or container to play on/in

As I stated before, our plastic bins are packed away currently so I had to find a place Peanut could play without getting shaving cream everywhere it didn’t belong, but could also explore the activity sufficiently. So, we did this activity in her high chair. It kept the mess in one place, but Peanut was still able to get her hands on it.

I have to admit, no matter how often I urge Peanut to get messy with new or seldom introduced materials, she still isn’t’ a big fan. She won’t dig right in and needs some encouragement to really give it a try. I thought adding shells for her to search for in the shaving cream would create motivation to get into the cream, it wasn’t a big help.

I have to admit, my mom did this activity with Peanut while she was up for a visit. So, her behavior is second-hand, but she mostly swirled the shaving cream around with her index finger. I plan to play with shaving cream a bit more often to see if we can’t get over this avoiding messes thing!

Hopefully your kiddo will explore a bit more with this activity. Let me know about your experience with it. How did your child react?

All Natural Scented Homemade Play Dough


I have a confession. I’ve never let Peanut play with play dough before this. I was always afraid she’d eat it…well, I was right, so I was glad I remembered this recipe for DIY play dough from my preschool teaching days. It took me a while to get around to making it wondering if most of it would get ingested or if Peanut would actually play with it. But, I finally did it!


1.5 cups boiling water
2 cups flour
1 cup salt
a few drops lemon oil
2 tablespoons oil, extra if dough is crumbly
20-30 drops lemon essential oil or essential oil of your choice
A big bowl
metal spoon
play dough toys or old kitchen utensils, safe for toddlers of course!


Start by boiling your water. Mix flour, salt, oil, and essential oil in a large mixing bowl with the metal spoon. When the water is boiling, add it to the mixture and mix with the spoon until the dough is cool enough to knead. Knead with your hands until it becomes smooth, soft, and pliable. Add a splash of oil or water if the dough seems crumbly. Knead that in for a while before adding more, if needed. You can also add more essential oil if the fragrance is not strong enough for your taste.

All Natural Homemade Play Dough

Then, set dough on the counter in a large ball for 2-3 minutes to cool a big longer. Set up your play place and play dough toys during this time. When the dough is cool enough for your toddler to play with, let them have at it.

All Natural Scented Homemade Play dough

Peanut particularly liked sticking things in the dough. I had to really prompt her to squeeze or squish the dough, but she stuck just about every toy in front of her into the dough all by herself. We talked about squishy, squeeze, sticky and how it was something to play with not to eat. :) I also encouraged her to smell it, carefully, since she sticks things she’s smelling very close to her nose.

All Natural Scented Homemade Play dough

When play time is over, store the play dough in a plastic bag. When you go to play the next time, if it’s a bit dry, wet down your hands and knead the dough for a couple of minutes and it should come back to life. You’ll know when the dough has reached the end of its life when it is very crumbly and can’t be revived with a bit of water.

Bubbles! (Tons of them!!!)

I am well aware that you are perfectly capable of playing with bubbles. I don’t have much to tell you about bubbles other than they are great for babies to work on tracking. They’re great for toddlers to work on gross motor skills as they chase them and attempt to catch them.

Gazillion Bubbles Typhoon

The most important thing I have to tell you is to buy this bubble machine. Holy cow. This thing is amazing!! A friend brought theirs to a splash play date we had and Peanut was amazed….frankly so was I. The packaging says it lets out over 1,000 bubbles a minute and it absolutely does. It would take 20 kids to catch all the bubbles this bubble machine puts out. Not to mention it runs for hours on one tank of bubbles. We found ours for $19.99 at Target. This thing is going to be years of fun! Gazillion Bubbles Typhoon…

Go buy one!

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