My go to sensory play options, that keep most children engaged and entertained for long periods of time. I’ll set out a few recipes for you below. On sunny days I tend to do most messy play outside (easier clean up), besides playdough though. On wet days, if you're brave enough, I bring our messy play to the kitchen floor with a mat underneath.
Who doesn’t love a bit of play dough and this is the easiest, softest, fun playdough to make. Get the kiddo’s helping to measure it out and make it with you. By doing this they are also learning other skills, (like practical life skills, mathematics with measurements etc.), without being ‘taught’ if you know what I mean. You can half the ingredients for a smaller amount or double it for extra playdough.
Mix all the dry ingredients then add the wet ingredients and stir until thickened and begins to form a ball. Then I flour the bench/table surface (to stop sticking) and roll it all out with your hands, kneading, turning and folding it into itself as you go. (I do this at a reasonably warm stage).
- 2 cups flour
- ¾ cup salt
- 4 teaspoons cream of tartar (this makes the playdough soft, and silky & I’ve been known to put a little extra in too)
- 2 cups hot water (I used boiled from the jug – just be aware it’s hot initially mixing it up so get the little ones to wait until it’s cooled down)
- 2 Tablespoons vegetable oil (any oil, coconut oil is also fine)
- Food colouring is optional. (Less for softer colours, more for brighter colours)
- You can also add a few drops of essential oils or food scents as another sensory option. (Be sure you know what is safe for your children and their age, but lavender is a good all-round option).
- Glitter/confetti are other options you can add.
Cloud dough ~ A different take on a traditional play dough recipe, this dough is so nice to play with but can be a bit tricky to get the right consistency. If it’s too dry it can become crumbly but too wet and it’s too sticky. I found the more we played with it the better ours became.
Mix all together and knead it out on a piece of baking paper. (You can use gloves, so your hands don’t stain from the food colouring). If the mixture is too sticky then add another tablespoon of cornflour.
- 1 cup Cornflour
- ½ cup Hair conditioner (any old ones sitting in the back of the cupboard work fine)!
- Food colouring (same as play dough depending on the colour you want).
Soap flakes Slime ~
Mix everything together – I use an eggbeater just to get it made faster and get a more consistent texture rather than clumps or flakes. Pour it into your play safe container and have fun!
- 1 cup soap flakes (we use Lux soap flakes)
- 4 cups hot water (or warm/cold water still works fine too)
- Food colouring
- Add anything to the slime – plastic toys like animals, containers, spoons, scoops, etc.
This is one of my favourites! It has a hard consistency if you tap it but is smooth and runny if you run your fingers through it, creating the perfect introduction for children to simple science concepts like cause and effect. Add a bit more cornflour if the texture is too runny and a bit more water if it’s too hard but only judge this once it is completely mixed together. (In the picture below, we added our colour after mixing to try out colour mixing and for a different effect).
- 2 cups Cornflour
- 1 cup Warm water
- Food colouring
Water colours ~ Mixing and pouring water, has my daughter amused for hours. She spends lots of time outside on a sunny day, mixing colours, making cups of tea and in general just exploring the magical movements of water. Use any tools you like, from scoops and spoons to containers and colanders/sives. We have some droppers that get used for mixing colours to create a new colour.
- Warm water (I always use warm water where possible as it just makes it more comfortable than cold unless it’s a super warm day then cold is fine).
- Food colouring (one drop per colour is plenty)!
You can also just do any old plain water and throw in some fruit in a bowl – my daughter loves this for her cups of tea because she gets to drink it, it’s flavoured and because it’s a different way to play – she thinks it’s super special!
Gardening ~ plant a new garden, take care of an old one, replant new season veggies, whatever you have around your place, let the kids join you. Baby can get some fresh air in a pram/baby carrier with you and your toddler/children can join in some dirt play at the very least! We have created an outdoor garden (in a small black bin) which is my daughter very own. She can do what she likes in her garden… Pull weeds, play with dirt, water it until her hearts content. We also take the scrap veggies/weeds to our cows but the opportunities here are endless if you are into gardening! (You could look to creating your own compost or look at making a worm farm – these are whole other ideas in themselves, and I recommend researching first but still possibilities, especially if your slightly older children are seeking out responsibility). We also have an indoor plant that belongs to my daughter that she ‘looks after’ and often grow some new seeds indoors before planting.
Pretty self-explanatory really. However, you can find a new playground you have never been to, do a playground hop and go to several in one morning/day or just spend some quality time at your local.
My daughter loves a good picnic. On a fine day, we set one up at home with her tee-pee tent and our picnic blanket. You can do this at home or choose a nice spot at a park or beach too!
Walk ~ scavenger hunt
Getting out in nature is so good for the soul. Children love this and often if I find my daughter gets a bit grouchy indoors, then we know it’s time for a little outdoor play. Fresh air is so good for brain development & sleep cycles, and with your little babies, it can be great to rug them up, pop them in the pram or baby carrier and take them along with you and the older children.
Try making up your own rules for a scavenger hunt or check out these beautiful natural scavenger kits on our website ~ www.flourishmaternity.co.nz
Invest in a bubble machine – honestly bubbles make everyone smile!
The countless hours of fun chasing bubbles outdoors in the wind just keeps my girl super occupied. There are also bubble arts you can do with liquid dish soap mixed in water & with a drop of food colouring in a container. Use a straw and have the children blow into the mixture through the straw. Watch as the bubbles come above the container and then place a piece of paper on the bubbles to create a bubble picture.
Baking ~ Love a good treat for the family, well why not get them to bake one! I know this seems like an obvious idea to some but for those that don’t bake often it can be a real ‘special’ bonding time with something extra special at the end too. Great learning for children here but remember to explain hot surfaces and kitchen tools, and be sure to supervise children around them at all times.
Family movie ~ Grab some cookies, popcorn and some of our fudge (https://flourishmaternity.co.nz/products/russian-fudge?_pos=1&_sid=1f4e2b384&_ss=r) and relax in front of a family movie when the weather won’t allow your kids outside. With access to things like Netflix & Disney etc. these days, the limits are endless. Even baby can be taking a nap with you all while the other kiddies are quietly occupied. The hardest part to this one is deciding on a family movie that everyone is happy with & sharing these goodies!
Family games ~ Much like the family movie, this encourages family time. Grab out the games and dust them off like we used to when we were young. Be it a big puzzle, Monopoly, Game of Life, Hungry Hippos or even a good old game of SNAP with a card deck, get amongst it Mumma!
Puzzle pictured - https://flourishmaternity.co.nz/search?q=puzzle&options%5Bprefix%5D=last
Crafts ~ Set up a craft station with anything you have – glue, glitter, pens, paper, scissors. Obviously set up appropriate to the age of your children and/or monitor them with this sort of experience. (But even better, get amongst the fun yourself, explore the crafts with your children). I know this sounds messy but can be so fun – especially if the weather isn’t so ideal for outdoors. Here, we have cut out pictures off all kinds of boxes we have had, from presents to breakfast cereal boxes. You can use these cutouts for gluing or for completely different purposes like pretend food play.
Our DIY options for slightly older children are beautiful options to keep them busy, like this macrame rainbow or bookmark.
Painting of any kind is great! You can use normal children’s paints with any kind of tools (doesn’t have to just be paintbrushes, explore other options like cotton balls, q tips, bubble wrap etc.). And if you don’t have paint, use water and a paintbrush outside on a warm day on the concrete – it’s like magic and evaporates!
Emotions & Big Feelings
We all know that from a young age, children have big feelings and struggle to process, understand, communicate and express these feelings. School holidays can feel like the time that children of all ages erupt with big feelings. Even as adults feelings catch us off guard sometimes. The best thing we can do to support our children in learning about emotional intelligence, is to be there with them through it and afterwards talk and share what we know. And of course staying calm ourselves is important too! There are strategies and methods out there that best support how we can do this and you can also create peaceful places to go to for this purpose. You can check out our range here...
OUT AND ABOUT
Movies ($) ~ The actual movie theatre is something we haven’t explored yet with my daughter as she can’t sit through a whole movie yet. But hey, if you have slightly older children, send them off to the movies with Nana or Aunty so you can have some time out too. OR just pop along to the movies with them if it’s something you enjoy too!
Road trip ~ I remember going on so many road trips as a child with my folks. We had so much fun driving around, sometimes knowing where to and other times just a casual drive to wherever the wind took us. Haha! We would always find an ice cream shop or café at the end of each drive to make for a fun and random family outing. Sometimes, it really is the small things that matter!
Library ~ books, books, beautiful books. I am such a sucker for a physical book! Let your little ones explore your local library – often they have a toy section as well as the good ole books and some have a toy library for taking out items too. Grab a few books and have a good reading session together. This is a great way to bond, and reading is so good for children’s linguistics. You can of course grab a few of your own books at home and do the same if you don’t have a local library or can’t get to one! Even take some outside on a nice day and create a little quiet corner amongst nature.
Paid options ($) ~
There are so many paid options out there in your areas or close by, just use google to guide you! Rainbows End & the Zoo in Auckland, Hot pools in the mid-North Island, Indoor trampoline parks in most big cities, public pools, local museum, bowling, & holiday programs are some examples. We recently went to our local trampoline park and my 3 year old daughter had the best time! Be sure to check the events in your local area too, (social media community pages are good for this), as there can be some really cool things on in the holidays!
The learning opportunities within all of these play ideas are so many that I could write forever about them! There are also so many more ideas I could also fit into this 'care package', and for those looking for even more, we have a huge variety of other ideas on our previously 2021 lockdown blog with children at home, here...
I hope you find something here that you enjoy!