Sensory Balloons

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We’ve done sensory bins and we’ve done sensory bottles. I love sensory activities (obviously) so I wanted to keep going.

If you search on Pinterest, these can be called “sensory balls.” I couldn’t bring myself to call them that – because I’m 10 years old.

Anywho, I bring you Sensory Balloons.

Like most of my activities, you can find these contents at the dollar store (The Dollar Tree, to be exact.)

If you check out my other post about sensory bin filler ideas, a lot of those little things can be put into balloons for sensory balloons. Here’s what we chose:

*Black beans
*Cloud dough
*Play doh
*Rice
*Water beads

You also should grab a funnel because it will help you a lot – trying to do this without one is pretty frustrating. Just make sure you grab a funnel with a big enough hole for the beans.

The beans, cloud dough and rice went in best in small amounts. The play doh we just rolled into “snakes” (or, if you’re 10 years old like me, poop) and dropped them into the balloon. When they startΒ  to reach the top, blow up the balloon a little and then let the air out. Smush all the play-doh together at the bottom of the balloon. Then keep adding.

The water bead one was done one by one, but that’s only because I didn’t have a funnel near me and I’m lazy πŸ˜‰

Dylan also wanted to make faces on his and who am I to tell him no? Go to town, bud.

I think I might actually make a few to sit at my desk – they are good stress relievers.

This little lady ran off with them while I was trying to snap some pictures. Trouble written all over her face. Don’t let her fool you.

If you try these out, please let me know in the comments!

And as always with my activities, please be smart πŸ™‚ After I filled the balloon, I put it inside another balloon to be extra safe.

Sensory Bin Ideas – All From The Dollar Store

Hey there hey!

If you have read my stuff for a while, you know that I love sensory stuff. I always have, even before I had kids. When I taught, sensory was my favorite center.

I also am slightly obsessed with the Dollar Tree. That is always my go-to when I need stuff (that they sell). My friends usually come to me first when they wonder if The Dollar Tree sells something in particular. What can I say? I’m cheap and everyone knows it.

I did a post a while back with sensory bins. I went through the aisles of The Dollar Tree and grabbed anything I could find that I thought would be good in a sensory bin. Thus, my first sensory bin post was born. And I can’t look back on it anymore because it makes me so sad to see D’s chubby little toddler hands! WAHHHH!

I also did some sensory bottles for the babe when she was tiny. We actually still use them!

You can also find the bins from The Dollar Tree – this is what I use

I had on my list to make a big giant list of all things sensory (and you can download the printable list at the end) so people can keep it on them and take it out when you need to. It’s a whole list of sensory bin ideas. You can take anything from column A (fillers) and add it to anything in column B (tools/toys). And they are all available at The Dollar Tree! (disclaimer, they are all available at MY Dollar Tree in Villa Park, Illinois) πŸ˜‰

Here we go!

Column A

*Decorative shred
*Sand
*Rocks/pebbles
*Balloons
*Crepe paper
*Buttons
*Cut up drinking straws
*Pipe cleaners
*Tissue paper
*Rice
*Pasta
*Dirt
*Clean mud (shredded bar soap, torn up
toilet paper and water)
*Water beads
*Shaving cream (will need new each time)
*Hair gel
*Popcorn kernels
*Dry beans
*Wrapping paper
*Salt (table, sea or
Epsom)
*Play-doh
*Tinsel/garland
*Battery powered Christmas lights (seasonal)
*Pom poms
*Fake leaves (seasonal)
*Feathers
*Easter grass (seasonal)
*Marbles (NOT FOR LITTLES!)
*Pony beads (NOT FOR LITTLES!)
*ABC beads (NOT FOR LITTLES!)
*Raffia cord
*Ribbon
*Cotton balls
*Bird seed
*Foam shapes/letters
*Oatmeal
*Construction paper
*Soapy water
*Fake snow
*Coffee grounds
*Dry cereal
*Baby oil
*Yarn
*Googly eyes
*Frozen veggies

Column B (tools/toys)

*Fake flowers
*Measuring cups
*Measuring spoons
*Cars
*Spatula
*Silicone pasty brush
*Serving spoons
*Nesting bowls
*Fork/knife/spoon (play versions)
*Plastic food
*Chalk
*Kid scissors
*Cups
*Party favor cups
*Magnet letters
*Fake money
*Stickers
*Plastic bugs
*Plastic snakes
*Easter eggs (seasonal)
*Rubber ducks
*Ice cubes
*Plates
*Baby bottles
*Socks
*Tweezers
*Toothbrushes
*Toothpicks
*Small ceramic pots (seasonal)
*Gardening tools (seasonal)
*Potato masher
*Sand toys (seasonal)
*Large blocks
*Gardening tools (seasonal)
*Superhero/Disney figures
*Dinosaurs
*Funnels
*Whisk
*Sponges
*Cookie cutters
*Small plastic storage containers
*Slotted spoon
*Tongs
*Water balloons (seasonal)
*Cleaning brushes

PHEW! You can print out the list here.

I had way too much fun creating all of that! Use your noggin when it comes to things that are age appropriate, alright? alright. Have fun!

Sensory Sniffing Jars

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If you are a regular reader around here, you know that I love sensory activities. I will spare you with the details as to why because I’m pretty sure I’ve shared that 100 times.

I took a little break with sensory activities because I felt like it was all I was doing. It took over all of my educational posts. I was a woman obsessed! It’s just so fun to watch the looks on kid’s faces as they cram their hands into some gooey substance or the way their nose turns up with they smell something super gross!

Oh, sorry…I said I would spare you my reasons.

I haven’t really done a sensory activity with the sense of smell. I’ve done plenty with touch.

The Dollar Tree has these little snack containers in their food storage section. I have absolutely no idea what you would store in them because they are so tiny. But naturally, I snagged them up thinking I would use them at some point in my life. I mean, it was 10 containers for $1!

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I remember doing a sensory activity when I taught with little jars and holes in the cap. We put different extracts onto cotton balls and plopped them into the jar. The kids loved them! We diffuse oils around here from time to time (read: when I remember to fill it) so I decided to recreate this project, but with oils. BOOM.

I took the little containers and a razor and sliced a small square hole out of the top. I put cotton balls inside each container (2 cotton balls per container) and dropped some oils onto the cotton balls. Some cotton balls got 2 drops, some got 10 drops.

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Of course since it was actually supposed to be an infant project, Dylan stepped in to “help” and then couldn’t get enough of them. He would sniff one and then try to tell me what it was.

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Reagan tried to eat them. Because she’s 1. She honestly had a lot more fun stacking them then actually smelling (read: eating) them.

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We used lime, orange, lavender, blends, cinnamon bark (yuck)….we had a lot of fun putting it together.

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Sensory Bottles from The Dollar Store

I took a long break from sensory activities because I felt like that’s all I was writing about. But I couldn’t stay away any longer.

When we went on our road trip to Denver in July to see my brother, I was on Reagan duty in the way back seat. We had already done a trip to Georgia so I kind of had a feeling about how she was going to be.

Well, she was worse. She was so over being in the car and I don’t blame her. I normally don’t mind the car but, like her, I just wanted out. On one leg of the trip she was so mad. We handed her a Sparkling Ice water bottle (because my 13 year old brother is obsessed with them) and it kept her busy for a (relatively) long time. The size was perfect for her and she could fit her hands around it. So I got an idea!

I asked my mom and brother (which basically means my mom) to start saving them for me. Remember last summer I did a blog post on some sensory bins for Dylan before the baby came? Well I have been meaning to make sensory bottles for Reagan and I thought this was the perfect opportunity.

I took a trip to my beloved Dollar Tree with the small opening of the bottles in mind. I grabbed googly eyes, sand, small rocks, marbles, baby shampoo, rice, pasta, pony beads, hot glue gun sticks (glitter glue), alphabet beads, beans, vegetable oil…I was like a kid in a candy store! Which is basically a DIY blogger in the Dollar Store. Or Hobby Lobby.

Oh, full disclosure, I am not sure if you can get food coloring at the Dollar Tree – I don’t think you can. I colored my water with food coloring that I already had at home.

When I started work on them, I took the labels off first. It is much easier to clean if you tear them off in one piece. You are going to have some sticky residue left over, so I used nail polish remover with a cotton pad and then when that dried, I used coconut oil to get the rest of it. Some of it was super stubborn and didn’t all come off, but it wasn’t sticky anymore and that’s all that really mattered to me.

When you’re at the Dollar Tree, for the love of all that is Holy, please buy a funnel. It will save your sanity. You can get them in a pack of 3 for (yep, you guessed it), $1. πŸ˜‰

Here is what I put into mine. You can mix and match any of those items. I focused on sound for these for Reagan because she loves to make noise.

 
Here they are, from left to right:

-Pasta and alphabet beads
This one is great for both kids because Dylan can tell me which letters he sees while they are playing with it together.
 

-Water and hot glitter glue
I loaded up my hot glue gun (every house should have one of these. They should come standard in tool kits) with the glitter glue sticks and melted it onto my silicone craft mat in different shapes and sizes. Once they were cooled off, I peeled them off of the craft mat and popped them into the water. (yes, I realize they resemble sperm).

-Water, food coloring, baby oil and glitter.
The water, oil and glitter all separate but look super cool when you shake it.

-Black craft sand and googly eyes.
This one is really cool for Halloween! She loves the sound this one makes.

-Water, food coloring and marbles.
This one is kind of heavy which is nice because it gives it another sensory experience. It makes a lot of noise and is fun to watch.

-Dry rice and pony beads
Very colorful and makes a cool, loud noise!

-Water, food coloring and baby oil
The baby oil and food coloring separate nicely and like the first bottle, it looks really cool when you shake it up.

-Colored rocks, water and food coloring.
This one also is heavy which is nice and makes a loud noise. It looks cool when you roll it, too!

-Water, food coloring and baby shampoo.
When it’s not shaken up, this one just looks like plain old pink water. But when you shake it, it creates a really cool lather in there.

You can also dye the pasta and rice (I have a tutorial here) if you are feeling super creative. You can alter these to your children’s ages. More letters for older kids, less colors for super young babies. Like most of my projects, have fun with it!

Looking for more sensory activities?

Alphabet Blocks

Happy Friday!

I’m just going to jump right into it today.

Dylan has been having a blast with his big Duplo blocks. He grabs the big bucket and drags them into my craft room and goes to town. He builds trains, spiders, buildings, cars, “shooters,” airplanes…you name it, he’s built it. He even uses the bucket as part of his play. It’s usually a body of water – ocean, lake, river, whatever.

I have been wanting to do letters with him as he starts preschool in a few weeks (right after Labor Day) but he has no desire. So I thought back to my preschool days. When lesson planning, I always catered to the boys because they were more stubborn. I would be more likely to see boys doing a “girl activity” than girls doing a “boy activity.” So I used the blocks to my advantage a lot.

I took out his Duplo blocks and measured them and then created rectangles for the 2 part blocks. I printed this out and cut them up and taped them to the front of each block (I didn’t have a lot so I used both sides of the blocks for the letters – uppercase on one side and lowercase on the other side).

At first, I’m not gonna lie, he ripped them off and told me he didn’t want them on his blocks. So, obviously not on my side. But I put them back on and he was playing with them. He wouldn’t stack them according to their letter and picture, but I did catch him repeating the letters as he picked them up or saying the picture.

In my book, that’s a success.

You could really do anything on these. Animals, people…tailor it to their age group.

You can download the letter version here for your own use.

Looking for more activities that help with letters? Check out this simple DIY Letter Flip Book!

Emotional Regulation Children’s Books

Emotions are tough to deal with when you’re a kid. They’re even tougher to deal with when you’re the parent – am I right? At least that’s how it is in our house.

True story, I was screamed at one time because I was asked for juice, but upon presenting said juice to my master (ie, 4 year old), I was informed that the cup I brought was the wrong cup. The cup I gave him was wrong because “I can’t see the TV when I drink out of it. I need a skinny cup with a Superhero top.”

Oh, hell no.

I lost it. Needless to say, the juice was promptly put back into the refrigerator to try again tomorrow. So now I was being followed by the angry 4 year old while he screamed “I’ll drink the juice, I’ll drink the juice!” Too little, too late. So after the TV was shut off and he was asked to clean up his toys, the rest of the night was pretty much downhill and I decided we were ready for 4 year old boot camp.

As he followed me around the house, I cleaned (with the little one crawling around following me which is pretty much what she does anyway) because it was all I could do to keep from laughing at his requests (“I don’t want water! I want something funner! The only thing that will cheer me up is juice! My knee told me my legs are broken! I can’t clean up my toys by myself! I can’t stand up” etc etc).

After the meltdown(s), I actually sat down with him and asked him how he felt. Frustrated, sad, upset, angry, what? He seemed very confused so I thought about writing a post about emotion regulation books for littles who are learning about their emotions. If your little is struggling with handling emotions, these are a good idea to teach them about their emotions. It’s not enough to just ask them “are you angry?” because they don’t necessarily know what that means or what that feels like. That’s why we have children’s authors πŸ™‚

I’ve highlighted some of our favorites (that our library had) and broke them down a little bit for you.

The Pout-Pout Fish by Deborah Diesen
This book is about a grumpy fish who is just a miserable ocean dweller. He doesn’t have a reason to be awful – at least they don’t give it in the book – and I like that. I like that they’re saying sometimes it’s ok to not know why you’re upset. Everyone tries to cheer him up and ask him why he’s so mad. He doesn’t have answers for them. Finally, a mysterious fish (think “pretty blonde in a sparkly dress”) approaches him and simply gives him a kiss. All of a sudden, he feels better and starts spreading the love. I like that. All he needed was some love!

Finn Throws A Fit by David Elliot
This book pretty much describes life with a toddler. A kid is pissed with no reason why (must be friends with Pout Pout Fish) and then after he completely destroys the house like a hurricane, he decides to calm down and eat his peaches. And the parents are just hiding for their lives until he finishes. Case closed. Like I said, daily struggle in life with a toddler.

Glad Monster, Sad Monster – A Book About Feelings by Ed Emberley & Anne Miranda
Love this one. It covers most emotions and what you want to do when you feel those emotions. It also explains what makes the monsters feel this way, which I think is so important because it connects an activity / occurrence with the feeling. And also that all of these feelings are ok. It also comes with some masks that you can tear out and use and a little pocket in the back of the book to store them.

When Sophie Gets Angry – Really, Really Angry… by Molly Bang
This one (like the others) is about anger AND how to deal with it. Sophie gets ticked off because her sister steals a toy and mom takes her sister’s side (I got you, Sophie. I hate that too) and when she’s stomping off, she trips over a truck and gets hurt. THE WORST! So she goes for a walk and sees some calming things and returns home all good. I am not sure I would encourage walks all alone, but you get the idea.

The Feelings Book by Todd Parr
This one was suggested to me by a friend who is a social worker (thanks, Kim!). They describe different feelings (including feeling like a kissing a sea lion…which I want to do daily ;)) and how you should share your feelings with people you love. This is so important! I want my kids to know that they can tell me what they’re feeling, especially when we’re having a hard time connecting and understanding what is going on with them.

So, take your pick and let me know how they do in your house. Or let me know if you use other ones!

Dialogic reading: How to Facilitate Extra Conversation With Your Child During Story Time

One of my most favorite parts of teaching (besides watching their little brains expand and of course sensory play) was circle time. Circle time requires lots of skills for preschoolers. Following directions, listening, reading comprehension…to name a few πŸ™‚

Reading comprehension is a big part of that. Circle times often centered around a book. Depending on the curriculum, it could be the same book each day for a week or a new book each day. I really enjoyed doing the same book all week. Why? Because kids learn by repetition. By Friday, the kids can recite the entire book. But each day you’re doing something different with the book.

On Monday when I would introduce the book, I read it using dialogic reading. Dialogic reading is a great way to get preschoolers more involved in what you’re reading to them. It’s asking follow up questions or precursor questions about the book. “What does it look like will happen next? Is that dog wearing swim trunks? Do dogs wear swim trunks? Where do you think he’s going in those swim trunks?” You can expand on their answers and ask more questions. You can rephrase their responses to gain more information and insight from them. In a way, you become the listener, and he becomes the reader.

Dialogic reading helps challenge kids to think outside of the book. It assists with verbal fluency, conversational skills and abilities and narrative skills (story telling).

Even now as a parent, when we get a new book from the library, I never just read the words. I ask lots of questions to see what Dylan predicts from seeing pictures and me reading the text.
It’s also a really cool way to cater to 2 different ages when reading a book. You can take a younger book and make it more exciting for your older child by adding more prompts with dialogic reading.

Dialogic reading is broken down into 5 different types of prompts – CROWD.

Completion Prompts:
You read a sentence to your child and leave out the last word. These are very popular for books that have repetitive lines or rhyming lines. Your child completes the sentence.

Recall Prompts:
These prompts help the child remember what was just read or what was read at a previous time. So you could ask them in the beginning of the book “what does the caterpillar turn into after he eats all the food?” if he has read the book before. If he hasn’t read the book before, you would ask the question at the end of the book.

Open-Ended Prompts:
These are my favorite. We would call these “picture walks” of the book. These prompts focus primarily on the pictures. You could say “what is happening in this picture?” “Where do you think that little boy is going?” “What do you think the next food he eats will be?”

Wh- Prompts:
These are the questions that begin with “what,” “where,” “when,” “why,” and “how.” These are also focusing on the pictures. “What is that toy?” “What color is that?”

Distancing Prompts:
These are prompts that encourage kids to connect the book with their life outside of the book. “Remember when we saw that caterpillar yesterday in the backyard? Do you think he was going to turn into a butterfly? Do you think he ate salami?”

Distancing and recall prompts are for the older kiddos (4 to 5 year olds) and are often the more difficult of the 5, so don’t feel discouraged if your smaller ones don’t really grasp those.
Depending on the vocabulary of your little, you may want to feel them out with questions and see what they can and cannot answer.I challenge you to try it at story time tonight, then come back and let me know how it goes. I never read a book without prompting questions any more! Click here for your printable, or just grab it below! πŸ™‚ Have fun – can’t wait to hear from you!

First Day and Last Day of School Printable – All About Me

I like memories. If I could, I would bottle up every single moment of every single day and keep it locked up and allow myself to open it whenever I want to relive them. I am sentimental. I do not appreciate my children growing up.

:::Wipes away tears:::

So I try to do my best with finding other way to “bottle up” all of these memories. We do a yearly Father’s Day questionnaire for Daddy, Papa & Opa (Reagan will join when she’s old enough to answer). They all have a scrapbook we got for them last year when we started it. We add to it each year. It’s so fun asking Dylan all of the questions to see his answers.

I also have a birthday book for Dylan. I ask him questions on his birthday and he answers them. We will ask him every year on his birthday until he is 18. And he better answer me every single year. Or he will have to listen to me cry until he does. πŸ˜‰

So I decided to start a school year scrapbook because he is going to official park district preschool in September. WAHHHH! It’s a 2 day program and then next year is a 3 year program before kindergarten because he has a late birthday.

I thought it would be cute to do one on the first day of school and the last day of school. I wrote it out instead of digitally designing it because I’m working on my writing skills. Like I’m in 1st grade. My handwriting is terrible. This took a few tries and a lot of practice. But it’s a big accomplishment for me. πŸ™‚

Anyway, you can download them here and use them yourself!

Just print them out, write in their answers and then put them into a scrapbook or binder. Can’t wait to do Dylan’s first entry in September!

Do you like memories as much as I do? Check out the Father’s Day Printable!

2 Ingredient Moon Sand

Ohhh sensory play. Sweet, sweet sensory play.

Just when I think I am going to do an activity that does not involve sensory play, something comes to mind from when I was teaching. And I can’t. Pull. Away.

When we played with this stuff, Dylan of course turned it into good guys and bad guys (because he’s a boy. And 4 years old). But he asked me to help him roll them into balls so he could cut them open with the plastic utensils I gave him. He also really enjoyed making it with me. He loves to measure things out and count with me. He especially loves pouring the ingredients into the bowl.

Please pay no attention to our outfit choice. He woke up wet so he was running around in a shirt and new dry underwear. I told him if he wanted to go outside, he had to put pants on. So he kept his pajama shirt on. Whatever.

Something that he mentioned during this one though that he never has was how it smelled. I think he really enjoyed the baby oil smell. I also added a few drops of a “Cheer Up Buttercup” essential oil blend. It smelled really good with the baby oil.

We were watching my mom’s dog and my sister’s dog when we did this activity. My mom’s dog really loved eating it. Like, really loved eating it. It was gross. I had to put him inside because he was having way too much fun eating this flour. He’s a strange, strange dog that will pretty much eat anything and will fight you for it. Actually, he’s a lot like Reagan.

Ingredients:
*4 Cups all purpose flour
*1/2 cup baby oil
*Few drops of essential oil (if desired)

Mix everything together with a spoon or your hands. I found it a lot easier to control with my hands. If you need it to be a little more wet, just add more baby oil.

Reagan snacked on it also. I don’t recommend this. I kept taking it out of her mouth and trying to redirect her but it was a lost cause.

I promptly took it away and she got a sippy cup instead.  Obviously she’s bothered by it.

This was the aftermath – definitely an outside activity.

Ice Cube Painting

 
Dylan loves art. He loves coloring, creating, drawing, painting, sensory activities. He loves it all. I am hoping he shares that love with his sister. So we decided to do an art activity that both kids can do.

I used to love doing this with my preschoolers. It is a multi-level activity, being that we work on skills when we get the activity ready together (one of my favorite types of activities) and then we work on patience to wait for the water to freeze, and then we do the activity.

We started out with my trusty silicone candy mold. I love using this thing. I used it when I made my garbage disposal tabs, too. But I don’t use it for food. That’s like cross contamination!

We set up on the floor (the best work space, in my opinion) with the candy mold, some water in a measuring cup with a spout, craft sticks, aluminum foil, food coloring and a baking sheet.

Fill up the molds with the water – as much as you want to fill them. We did about 3/4 of the way full. If your kids are older than mine, they can pour it themselves, but Dylan still hasn’t mastered that dexterity and hand eye coordination yet. If you’re using the silicone pan, make sure it’s on a cookie sheet for easy transportation to the freezer.

Next, drop food coloring into the water. We did lots of different strengths and colors for each cavity. We mixed colors (we’re working on primary and secondary colors right now) and talked about which primary colors make which secondary colors.

Unfortunately for Reagan, she was pinned down in her little car for the set up of this activity. Sorry girl. Didn’t want another mess to clean up.

Obviously she was very upset about this.

After you have mixed the colors (you can use a craft stick or toothpick to mix them), wrap aluminum foil around the top of the mold. Take a toothpick (or sharp knife) and poke a small hold into each cavity. Take your craft sticks and place them carefully into the hole. They may not stand up totally, but make sure they are somewhat straight before you put the mold into the freezer.

Let them freeze until solid. Pop them out and give your little one a piece of paper. As they “paint,” and as the ice melts, it will leave a trail on the paper.

This is good for babies, too because it’s alright if they put it in their mouths. It’s just water and food coloring. I gave Reagan her pacifier during this though. She was in one of those moods.

I think people forget that activities like this one work on more than just painting. Reagan is working on her grasp, hand eye coordination, throwing skills (much to my dismay), so many things.

Dylan actually took it upon himself to finger paint with it also. He discovered that if you dip your finger onto the ice, you can paint with your finger. 9 times out of 10 he finds other things to do with an activity. I love that about him!

He also really liked using 3 and 4 at a time.

These are the kinds of projects that are truly about the process, not the end product.