I popped into IKEA on my way home from New York City last week – I see it every time I drive up the turnpike and every time I’m like – I should stop in. For what though? Well the famous sensory Flisat table of course!
I’ve been eyeing this table for probably 2 years now, especially at the start of quarantine and the start of our sensory play journey. I saw it all over instagram and pinterest as the MUST have sensory play / playroom item. I’d been so curious what the hype is all about.
This table has been sold out – everywhere – for months, for years. So I settled in with using our play table with various trays. Our Target tray that went totally instagram viral after I started sharing it, my signature white baking dish, various trays from home sense and antique shops, even a wine crate. Absolutely anything can be a sensory tray! I had so much fun exploring sensory play with different trays on different surfaces and it really showed me while I longed for the FLISAT table, we didn’t need it to have a great time with sensory play.
As we have a play table already, and a train table, and live in a cottage, I also could not imagine where we’d fit the table, but landed on if I could find one it would be our outside table instead of me dragging our heavy play table outside and back inside almost every day the last 18 months – we LOVE sensory play outside. I also knew the FLISAT table wasn’t necessarily waterproof, which leads me to my waterproofing experiment.
So long story short, I popping into the IKEA, swung by the bin where the tables would be with fingers crossed and there it was, in stock! Stools I didn’t get as lucky with – but i was thrilled and brought it right home. I will have to say it took 3 minutes to put together and it was super light. On the way home I stopped in Lowes for a sealant as I knew I’d want to seal it before we get it messy.
How to Waterproof Your Ikea Flisat Table for Sensory Play
Important to note here this was a total experiment that worked well for us, I’ll share all the tips and tricks and what I learned.
I used this sealant and a plastic drop cloth outside for good ventilation. I plan to use our ikea table outside and feared water soaking into the wood and getting mold and mildew overtime and wanted to protect the the wood as long as possible. My goal was to find a sealant where the water would bead up versus soak into the table. I found the spray at lowes and here’s what a learned while using it.
Make sure your table is clean and free of dust and dirt prior to spraying
lay down a drop cloth underneath
spray from at least 12 inches away ( seriously! ) I did not, and the sealant pooled up and was oily – the coat should be extremely light, I knew something wasn’t quite right when it was very shiny and wet looking so after about 3 hours I used a rag to wipe it down and I’m glad I did. After reading some reviews online leaving it oily like this can ruin the surface you sprayed and it can stay sticky and tacky. If you spray the table from within the 12 inches this will happen to you! I was thankful to have saved it from this disaster.
Wait at least 24 hours before a second coat, i’ll be waiting longer as it’s been raining.
I found the smell to be strong when i sprayed it but cannot smell it at all now even after brining it inside after the full 24 hours
So that’s it, again if you try this make sure the layers are super light from a distance and wipe away residue as it shouldn’t look shiny and wet at all. Surface may become oily ( from the reviews I read) – we haven’t had any issues though and the water beads up beautifully.
Now that our table is waterproofed it was time for some sensory play!
I was most excited to create inserts for the trofast bins. I went on an insert spree cutting up cardboard and making some fun inserts for Q. Here’s how they turned out and how I’d rate each activity from his honest interest. Q is is almost 3 years old.
The Hive Insert
I made air dry clay bees – recipe can be found here , I used a bee cookie cutter and these paint pens. I had made this bee activity for Q and decided to cut the hive down to trofast bin size. I set the hive in the tray, set out 1 small bin of beans and 1 small bin of rocks, added some flowers, moss, and the air dry clay bees ( took 2 minutes!) and invited Q to play.
I’d rate this one 9/10 – Q really loved the beans bin the bees were in and was excited to be painting the bees with me. He loved the simplicity of the activity which led to some fun counting and flying the bees into the hive. He didn’t dive into the rocks bin all that much – next time I’d just do one large bin of the bees with all the beans!
The Barn Insert
I’ll go ahead and rate this 10/10. Q is really into farm play right now and this was right up his alley. I used acrylic paint to paint a barn onto the cardboard, I left a small rectangle where I added packing tape to write on erasable numbers and cut three sides of the barn door so he could open and close the door to add in animals.
I set out the barn insert into the large tray and added these animals into one small bin, and then my fall pasta into the other one. I also added in small hay bales from dollar tree and small barn from Target. This play was a HUGE hit for Q. We practiced counting and sorting animals and then he stayed and played for a long while here.
The Apple Tree Insert
Another 10/10 rating. Q went back and forth to this table all afternoon. I painted two trees onto the cardboard and used a box cutter to make slots. I set the insert in the large bin and in the two smaller bins I set out green rainbow rice with faux apples and white beans with red popsicle sticks I had snagged on clearance from Michael’s after the holidays.
Q loved placing the sticks in and out of the tree while we pretended they were apples. The rice and beans as fillers were also huge hits and he brought some of his toys over to play here as well .This is a great counting activity and fine motor skills strengthening.
The Sunflower Insert
This was one where I had an idea and Q had a completely different idea. I painted sunflowers onto cardboard and used a screw driver to make small holes in each flowers. Then I cut the sharp sides off tooth picks and set then out and imagine a fine motor activity to place into the sunflowers.
I set out in the small bins beans with sunflower painted pasta and dyed fall rainbow rice in the other. Q was really excited about this fall rice mix and ran for his trucks. He also was more interested in matching the sunflower pasta to the painted sunflowers- which was a fun activity! He stuck a few toothpicks in, but wasn’t super interested. I’d rate this one 6/10, he really did love that they were sunflowers and this rice mix.
The Bear Insert
Q loves bears. His second birthday part was bear themed! I knew I wanted to create a “feed the animal” activity and chose to make him some bears. I painted bears onto cardboard and used a box cutter to cut space around their mouths. I set the insert in the large tray and set some bear stuffed animals into one small tray and corn kernels into another.
The corn kernels were a nice fine motor activity to pinch the individual ones to feed to the bears. He also fed the stuffed bears. Overall he enjoyed the one, also was really into the corn kernels so I’m excited to set out a whole tray of them for him. I’d rate 6/10.
The Caterpillar Insert
Q was excited about this one. We had seen a green one the other day so I knew I’d create some insert for him. I decided to make it a pom pom drop! I painted two caterpillars onto cardboard and placed the insert in the large tray. I reused the green rainbow rice and added some large bugs into one small tray and reused the white beans in the second small tray and added in some pom poms.
It hit me while he was playing i should have make this a color matching drop – so I’ll be up-cycling this to that! He really was loving dropping the pom poms in and spent a long time here going back and forth – i’d rate is 8/10.
The Counting Insert
So this was an interest without a space for Q to drop something into – he was a little confused by it after an assortment of activities with spaces to drop onto- but he figured it out. Counting has been part of our play for a long while and he’s really grasping 1,2,3 and recognizing quantities. I painted numbers onto cardboard with quantities next to each. I added some of my hand painted matching disks to the bin of white beans and in the small bin I added dyed fall pasta and fall loose parts from my favorite Chickadees Wooden Toys. (Use SCOTTCOTTAGE10 for 10% off !) . He had fun counting and exploring the loose parts. I’d rate this one 9/10. .
The Seasonal Tree Insert
This is one we can use over and over again and it was as simple as painting a tree onto the cardboard. Again Q was looking for a drop in activity, but quickly found it fun adding leaves onto the tree giving us the opportunity to talk about the fall season – we love fall around here! I simply reused the small bins from the counting play. I’d rate this one 5/10 – he liked adding on the leaves but overall wasn’t super interested past that.
I’d highly recommend this table.
Unfortunately it’s sold out at IKEA, they do have some for double the price on amazon. I hope they will be stocking some soon. As Q gets older I find he brings most of the ideas to the table and out set ups become simpler as his imagination really does the rest. This table allows to keep in sensory bins and just cover them up at the end of the days. This will be such a fun table for outside play. I hope my waterproofing tips help, we love messy play and I feared destroying this table quickly.
We were on the road for 46 days, from NJ to California and then back across to NJ – with a 2yo in tow. The main stops were Lead, SD, Eureka, MT, Silverton OR, Brookings, OR, Glen Ellen, CA, San Francisco, CA, San Diego, CA, Williams, AZ, Teasdale, UT, and Breckingridge, CO.
Now, we’ve done long car rides before 6 hours to Vermont and back in the fall but nothing would quite prepare us for 200+ hours in the car with a toddler over 6 weeks.
I’ll start by saying Q was great, seriously overall great, and it was way more intimidating imagining it versus actually living it. Being prepared and having everything we need was key.
The Road Trip Was Booked Some What on a Whim
We realized the timing was ideal with both us us working remotely full time, we’d never been in a position to take off 6 consecutive weeks, so the timing was just right!
It came to me while doing laundry – does any one else get lost in their thoughts while folding laundry? Driving across the country has been a bucket list trip since college, I studied photographers who captured the USA and dreamt of what it all looked like.
It’s always felt funny to live in a country and not have seen so much of it. We’ve gone to a lot of places, but I felt we never really have seen it. So the idea was planted, I laid it out to my husband Ken (with a don’t think I’m crazy warning) and he was immediately onboard.
The Plan in Motion
The first step was to plan, to mark off the places we wanted to see the most, see how they lined up to plan the route, then plan by way of airbnb’s located near sites we wanted to see. Top of our list was the Badlands, Montana, driving down the CA coast, and Arizona. Everywhere else fell into place. As we drove we would reminisce on things we’ve liked the most and places that surprised us. I’ll go into a full post on our route!
Wrapping My Head Around 10,000 + miles in the car with a toddler
So the route was planned, airbnb’s were booked, and now to tackle wrapping my head around this amount of car time with a young toddler. It’s easy to go to Pinterest , type in car ride activities and try a bunch. However I know Q’s interests and wanted to tailor activities and toys specifically to him.
Our first few days on the road trip were the ones I was most prepared for, activity wise.
We had two 10 hour rides and one 7 hour ride, so 27 hours in 3 days in the car. I wanted to be the most prepared for these as I knew it would be a bit of a shock to Q in general.
In preparation I spent the 3 weeks prior talking to Q about the road trip we’ll take, the time we’ll spend in the car, the places we’ll see which helped when the day arrived.
I had an assortment of activities that can all be found here. What I learned quickly was he was most interested in something new each ride.
I read a lot of blogs about road trips with kids.
However the ones I had read were tailored to singular 10+ hour rides, not 200+ hours over a short period of time – hah – and trust me there is a difference.
The first few days I was also very mentally prepared for it- I knew exactly what we’d do to keep busy but as the trip went on my mindset changed- and so did his. I should also mention we’ve done the entire trip completely screen free. We’ve been screen free for 9 months, for no reason other than we got busy over 3 days last December and he forgot it existed – seriously – never asked to watch it again, so here we are. Screen free!
Car ride one was full of activities and Pinterest hacks
They were all activities that I’ll absolutely go back to for singular long car rides to come- but the activities didn’t withstand the entire road trip.
What worked best along the entire trip were books and small new items that he picked out himself or that I surprised him with, and honestly starting off the rides with nothing he’d typically sit for an hour or two just relaxing.
These are the Road Trip Activities and What Worked the Best:
Seen here– this was GREAT for 10 hour day 1 and day 2, but more so for day 1. After day 2 he completely lost interest in it. Again, great for a singular long trip or two, but not for cross country.
I made the matching magnets by scanning in the book, selecting around the trucks, adding to a white sheet, printing out the sheet and glueing to wooden disks and then glueing magnets to the backs.
The duplo sheet I cut to size with a box cutter and sanded the edges.
Baking Sheet Activities
This was also amazing for day 1 – he was really interested in it and I made a few activities with it – but he lost interest after 10 hour car ride #2.
I made this activity by saving a box some CAT toys came in, cut them out and hot glued magnets to the back- easy!
Mess Free Coloring Hack
This was one I broke out most often, really saved us on a 10 hour drive from Montana to Oregon – I’d say successful for a cross country trip, but even more so for singular trips.
I simply glued magnets to the back of clear folders from Target and would slip in coloring sheet pages, have him color with this paint brush markers, then wipe it clean with a baby wipe. This way I could reused the coloring sheets over and over again and Q felt like he was painting.
In particular sound books- I found sound books to be BY FAR the most successful cross country road trip item ever. Seriously. I packed about 10 books thinking this was insane to pack so many and day three on the 7 hour ride we were at a Barnes and Noble buying more. I thought the sounds would drive us insane but we barely notice them and he absolutely loves them. I ordered a few more to one of the houses we stayed at halfway through. We have about 25 in the car now I keep right behind the middle counsel and hand to him when he asks for one. Seriously all. The. Books.
I’ve linked all his favorites to my Amazon storefront!
Now, these can be little toys from dollar tree, or big, anything that they love. All the new toys were car themed as that’s Q’s favorite thing in the WORLD. We’d also pick things up along the way and from gift shops. I knew we’d spend between $1 and $20 at each big stop on something either he picked out or I would to hide for another ride.
He also found souvenirs interesting!
Snacks killed hours of time, new snacks, old snacks, all the snacks.
Here’s a tip – before we left I bought a lot of 12 pack ones and he really preferred new snacks so picking up snacks from gas stations along the way made a lot more sense and we’d end up leaving snacks he was no longer interested in to the homes along the way.
Car Ride Essentials
A Great Car Seat – this is ours, is safe to keep rear facing until 50lbs which is exactly why we chose it!
Baby Wipes – Wipes in the front seat, the back seat, the trunk, in my purse, in our hiking back pack, in our suitcase.
Hand Sanitizer – large ones in the car, small ones in our backpacks.
Extra Sunglasses – I can’t tell you how many times I lost my sunglasses in the car, the stroller, the houses. I did always find them but in a crunch having a cheap pair (even from dollar tree) was a life saver in the car.
Laundry Bags – I picked up 2 large mesh ones from dollar tree and two of these from amazon. I honestly could have used 2 more. I ended up using the amazon ones to pack his pillow, blanket, sheets and the mesh ones for our laundry as we went! They were just perfect.
More Car Ride Essentials
Empty Reusable Bags – I can’t tell you how much I love these reusable bags. I brought 3 with us and could have used more. One store my husband’s computer screen for work – just an odd item to pack, one held sensory play items, and another was my beach bag/ random item bag / shopping bag. I can’t tell you how important it is to have great reusable bags on hand on cross country trips!
Garbage Bag Hack – This was my favorite hack, turn a cereal container into a mini trash can ( and then it has a lid!)
Arm Grabber – I can’t tell you how many times something dropped off the side of his car seat and I used this to save the day.
Water – More water then you’d expect – trust me!
Eating On The Road Essentials
Small cooler – This was a must have. It was used every single day, we often would pack meals for the 10 hour car days, bring milk/ butter / cheese with us, and having some cold water is nice along the way.
Mini Cooler – Another must have, I often didn’t want to throw. the big one in my hiking back pack or stoller so a mini size was perfect.
Reusable Water Bottle – This autoseal bottle was our favorite, we had two and could have used two more ( trust me)
Kids Reusable Water bottle – We brought two kinds, this and this one. I found the stainless steel one to be better as Q likes his water very cold and it stays colder much longer.
Road Trip Toddler Packing Essentials
Portable Crib – Q is almost 3 and still sleeps great in his pack and play.
Portable Crib Mattress – This makes it even more comfortable for sleeping 46 nights on!
Duffle Bags – I found this to be the best way to pack, my husband got one, I got one, and Q got one.
Packing Cubes – This is the best way to organize within the duffle bags. Then I could easily grab out a swim suit or socks, without digging through the entire bag!
Baby Monitor – i love our baby monitor, and it’s come all over the world with us with ease. Best part is when we ordered it it came with a rebate to receive an additional camera for free! No sure if they still have this promo though.
Sound Machine – This has also traveled the world with us!
Potty – I have to tell you how many people would get a laugh when they’d see our potty in the trunk – this was a must have thought for a newly potty trained toddler. Also just made life easier at rest stops to have him go right there versus bringing him inside. I also brought a foldable version which I’ll list below as I used them both and was SO thankful to have them. This also leads to my ALL TIME FAVORITE hack – place a diaper into the potty before your toddler uses it for SUPER easy clean up – seriously the best.
Portable High Chair- I love this thing – we’ve used it since Q could sit up on his own and it just folds up so small.
All of these packing essentials helped us keep to our nightly routine as much as possible. Crib, Mattress, his blanket and pillow from home, sheets with a mattress cover and 1 extra sheet, monitor, sound machine, his favorite books.
Cross Country Adventuring Must Haves
Hiking Backpack for Mom – I carried all the water and toddler goodies on hikes, so it was important to have a backpack with great support!
Hiking Carrier for Dad – Ken loved this backpack carrier for Q!
Packable Microfiber Towel – We loved this towel, perfect to toss in my hiking backpack we used it at splash parks and after swimming in waterfalls and it dries so quick!
Sunhat – We brought 2 baseball hats and 1 sunhat – sun protection was essential
Reusable Bibs – We brought 3 of these, one to keep. inthe car, one in my backpack, and one to bring into the houses. They wipe clean and catch food! Brilliant!
Disposable Bibs- I was so glad to have these for super messy ice cream moments
Portable Potty – I was so grateful to have this in my backpack as Disneyland when Q had to go and had to go QUICK. He’s still figuring out the big potty and i’m so glad this fits so easily in my backpack
Wet / Dry Bags – I use one of these to store the portable potty in, along with baby wipes, sanitizing wipes, hand sanitizer, and extra garbage bags. The other is perfect to store wet clothes and swimsuits in
Mesh Bags – These are perfect for storing toys and especially beach toys and then just shake them out!
Fun Must Haves
Polaroid Camera – I adore my Polaroid camera, it was so fun to have some pictures instantly printed out too!
Sponge – I packed 3 and used all of them. Hotels don’t often have sponges and I was glad we had these on hand to wash off bibs and dishes
Laundry Detergent – While most homes had washers and dryers, most did not have laundry detergent so I was thankful I snagged some mini sized ones at Target!
Stamps – because, post cards!
Garbage Bags- Both large and small, every day at the end of the day I’d clean out the car from trash and get ready for the next day.
Ziplock Bags- Both large and small – perfect for snacks and storing odds and ends
Foil & Tape – So this may sound odd but this was my other favorite hack. Q sleeps so much better when the room is blacked out and this is the easiest way to do it. Each house we’d stop at I’d first blackout the windows in his room by using some foil and painters tape – so easy! . I’d recommend bringing two rolls of foil and two rolls of tape ( one as a backup) as a dark room was essential to us.
Rubber Gloves- I snagged these from dollar tree before we left, I knew I might need them and then we’re in The Redwoods Forest and Q steps in dog poop and I was SO thankful to have the gloves in the car to help clean it off. Also keep a spare pair of shoes in the car hah
Oven Mit- I loved this hack for putting warm hair items into to pack up, we were often going going and if I used my curling iron I was able to pack it right away.
Random Odds and Ends – Screw Driver, Batteries, shower caps. (for storing dirty shoes), baby proofing items ( you never know)
Lysol Wipes – lots of these!
Extra Masks – Our favorite masks are these, my husband has the XL, I wear the L, and Q wears the small. They fit great. I’d recommend having two each -they fall or get misplaced easily along the way for so many days!
So There is a Whole Lot of Cross Country Road Trip Information to Digest!
There’s plenty more to come too on the blog, the route we took, the places we stopped, our favorite toddler friendly hikes along the way, wine tasting ( screen free) with a toddler, restaurant hacks with toddlers, oh and my favorite sensory play across the USA and hotel boredom busters. Drop in the comments what else you’d like to see!
Taste Safe Water Beads Are Such a Fun Sensory Play Material.
I remember seeing them for the first time on instagram and buying them instantly on amazon. I tried them with Q, he was 16 months and well past mouthing anything – thankfully. After more research on them I realized how dangerous they could be if ingested, which brings me here to a taste safe solution!
All you need are three ingredients to make these taste safe water beads!
Here’s the Recipe for Taste Safe Water Beads
Bring water to a boil, make sure there’s enough water in the pot to full submerge the tapioca pearls.
Once water is boiling, pour in tapioca pearls I used about half of a 5 lb bag.
Let them boil for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Strain in a sieve and rinse well under cold water.
Portion into however many bowls for the amount of colors you’d like. Drop in a few drops of gel food coloring.
Mix well and let sit for 15 minutes to absorb the color.
After 15 minutes rinse well again under cold water.
It’s the easy to make your taste safe water beads!
After that they’re ready to be played with. I recommend pouring water over them often to keep them from getting too sticky.
Some color will transfer off of them still despite the rinsing, so just be ready for a mess!
I set ours in a tray and Q’s imagination did the rest!
He pretended to make ice cream and the texture was seriously amazing to play with!
Summer is coming up and feeling inspired by my son Q who asks for beach play every day I set out to share our 15 favorite beach sensory play set ups! From play right on the beach, to play in the backyard, to play at our dining room table, you can bring a beach anywhere! This post includes affiliate links.
1. On The Beach Sensory Play
Kicking off our beach inspired play with…play on the beach!
Last summer we packed up and headed to the jersey shore to join Q’s cousins (5yo & 7yo) and have some fun in the sun. Naturally I wasn’t going to the beach without some fun play materials too! Here’s what I brought with us for a different play each day.
The kids were so excited to see what I’d set up each day.
Having the materials on hand led to me being able to quickly set out play for them to enjoy. This was all about providing materials and letting the kids imaginations do the rest.
I made these DIY wine cork stampers but hot gluing these embellishments to wine corks.
I dyed chickpeas, brought some dyed blue rice, and made some play dough to bring, recipe for all below!
Check out my post here all about playing at the beach!
2. White Sand Beach Sensory Play
This beach makes me dream about a private beach my husband and I went to in Costa Rica years ago. It was a beach on a little island right off the coast where the palm trees went right into the water, the water the most beautiful shade of blue, and the skyline was jungle.
I used moon dough for the sand, recipe below, this is about 1/2 the recipe amount. You can store in an airtight container in the fridge and reuse! The water is a little cornstarch and blue food coloring.
I set out our safari LTD boats ( use SCOTTCOTTAGE10 for 15% off their site), our chickadeeswoodentoys peg people ( use SCOTTCOTTAGE!) for 10% off their site) and some buckets and palm trees from a craft store. The shoreline is made bubbly with bubbling botanicals that my friend Birdie makes, check our her etsy shop!
Q had so much fun taking his peg people on a boat ride.
How cute are these mini buckets too? The towels are made from foam I cut out. Q’s interest is exploding into small world play lately and I’m absolutely loving it! You can change up this small world in so many ways, but a flour, oil, water, and food color is really all you need!
We took our white sand and turned it into a coral reef beach.
Here i just changed up the shade of the water, added more bubbling botanicals along the shoreline and added our coral reef toob from safari LTD along with seashells we’ve collected as a family over the years. This is an easy way to reuse and switch up a simple play set up into a new one! Any of our flour sand that gets wet I toss and I keep the rest to reuse.
3. Cereal Sand Beach Play
This became a daily request for Q. “brown beach with blue water mama please” – well easy enough. This TASTE SAFE beach is so easy to make by just grinding up cheerios or cornflakes, or crackers. The water is cornstarch with a little food coloring. Easy!
Like I said, I set out this play almost every day for Q.
He loves the texture of the sand and making “waves” in the water with more water. I set it out with little animals, or shells and he often brings over his own toys to include too!
I often pull from real life experiences for our play to share those moments and stories with Quinn. This is a beach inspired by Margaret River Australia that I sourced for a photoshoot for a job. It was magical being there and I loved sharing this story with Quinn.
I changed up the sand here to make it more impressionable for the tire marks, recipe below!
To make the ocean I mixed water with cornstarch and blue food coloring and used shaving cream along the water line!
This beach play was all about fine motor skills. It was a great way to introduce Q to using tongs he loved to explore the different textures.
I used a tray of sand and set different beach treasures in different sizes and textures. You can source the beach treasures yourself or snag some from dollar tree!
10. Pebble Beach Play
This was a really easy one to set out and a great way to practice learning letters through play. I set out various pebbles we found at the beach and some blue sand as the ocean and had Q find the different letters.
11. Tide Pool Beach Sensory Play
Here is another craft turned play. Q and I made these red crabs with paint and red sugar. Then I made a beach tide pool world with sand, rocks, and little water areas.
To make the water areas I used the lids of takeout containers to contain the water!
Lots of beach treasures scattered around and this was great fine motor work to “fish” for the crabs!
12. Gone Fishing Beach Sensory Play
Here is a great way to incorporate puzzles into play. I hid our puzzle into a blue rice ocean and play dough beach set up.
13. Pirate Beach Sensory Play
Another craft turned play!
Q and I made these cliffs from air dry clay and I painted this wooden birdhouse pirate ship to use in our play.
Our ocean is blue dyed rice. Using nature like below is a great way to practice counting through play.
14. Book Inspired Beach Sensory Play
One of Q’s favorite plays was about his favorite book, The Rainbow Fish. His favorite part was with the octopus and would make me reread it over and over again. I made the beach with sand, white beans, and blue dyed chickpeas.
The rainbow fish is made out of play dough!
15. Water Bead Beach Sensory Play
This was a last summer favorite. There is just something so magical about water beads – they are MESSY – but magical nonetheless! All you need are water beads and shells! For a taste safe option use tapioca pearls.
Small world play fuels the imagination. For both children, and parents. When I start to think about a world I want to create for Q I start by asking myself these questions, what inspires me, what brings me joy, and what can I share with Q? This post I dive deep into small world play, how to get started, why we do it, what are the benefits, and why you should give it a try! This post includes affiliate links.
Q has recently become very interested in animals and I’ve been running with that. He is currently 2 1/2 (and no I don’t know where the time went!) and I have been most excited about this shift of interest in play for Q where he’s interested in telling stories and animating the play with me.
Always supervise sensory play directly next to your little ones, especially under 3yo. Please use your best judgement with your own kids and avoid choking hazards while kids are still mouthing. I have a post all about taste safe fillers here, and will share taste safe tips throughout.
How To Get Started with Small World Play
Water. Yes- that simple. We started small world play with water worlds, Q was constantly asking for a beach which I started to make him of ground up cereal and water. It was taste safe and that easy. He would add his own toys into the play and we’d make up stories and he’d just play.
I highly recommend starting with one material trays, then move to two, and so on. Small World Play at its simplest is a sensory element and a prop. I started small world play with Q when he was 17 months old, and months past every trying to mouth anything. I would start with one tray of dried lentils and some small pots as a gardening tray. Here are some great starter tray Ideas:
Starter Small World Play Tray Ideas
Ground Cereal + Water with food coloring beach
Moon Sand + Water with food coloring beach
Corn flake construction site – add cornflake to a tray and add trucks
Lentil or Bean Garden – add lentils to a tray with scoops and small pots to “plant”
Water In a tray with seashells
Kinetic Sand in a tray with themed toys
Dyed rice in a tray with themed toys – set up a galaxy with dyed black rice and stars
I can’t tell you how much nature I used and still use in our small world play. You can look around your kitchen and take to the outdoors to find great materials for small world play. Here are some of my favorite resources I like to have on hand:
Recently Q’s expressive language has exploded, he’s 2.5. Small world play encourages language development and allows us to learn through the play. We talk about the various animals, their colors, the sounds they make, the habitats, and he adds them into the small worlds and feeds them and has his own stories for them. Which blends right into imaginative play. Together we create worlds for him to dive into and explore. When he was younger and would nap I would set up worlds while he slept for us to dive into together in the afternoons.
Having a small world play tray for Q out promotes independent play. While I’m sitting directly next to him or in the same room supervising I’m able to answer some emails and have some tea. These trays are as much a benefit to me as they are to him.
Small World Play Is As Much a Benefit to Me as it is to Him
Small Word Play gives me a moment to work, or a few moments at that. Finding moments to world while home with Q 24/7 through the pandemic that isn’t screen time has been challenging. It’s all about striking a balance and these trays give us just that!
It’s been most fun to see Q’s fine motor skills develop last summer he would “use” a tong by stabbing with it and this spring he uses it with purpose.
These trays provide endless ways to learn through play. I’m able to connect with Q through play, teach him about the world that I wish we could travel, talk to him about art. Often we create the resources for the trays together.
I reuse just about everything. Unless it’s that messy and it just gets completely destroyed! How I store things:
Play Dough – Ziplock containers and bags, lasts 6-12 months
Air Dry Clay – Air tight container, lasts 2-3 days
Dyed Pasta – Zip Lock Bags
Dyed Rice – Zip Lock Bags
Moon Dough – Zip Lock Bag
Pull Inspiration From The Real World, or Books!
They way we would play when Q was younger is I would tell him the stories through story stones and places that matched the books he loved.
Acting out stories are a great way to start out with sensory play.!
Small World Play Theme Ideas
Land, Sea, and Air
Ideas are Endless!
Small World Play has Endless Options
Remember to bring ideas to the table not expectations. Q only recently started exploding with imaginative play and “acting out” with his toys. I like to set the scene with Q’s help, toddlers love to be involved from the start!
Don’t forget that less is more for younger children, there will be plenty of time for more elaborate play opportunities as they get older. When Q was younger the play was more about just exploring the sensory base and enjoying me story telling.
Small world sensory play has been a daily exposure for Q for well over a year and we have so much fun with it, that’s right – WE.
I started this page to show parents they can have as much fun with sensory play as kids do and it provides as many benefits to us as it does to them. It’s a wonderful artistic outlet for us caregivers.
I’m rounding up our five favorite easter crafts we made this season, complete with recipes, tips and tricks. This post includes affiliate links.
We’ve had so much fun with Easter crafts these past few weeks.
I’ve decided to share with Q a variety of ways to paint and explore easter eggs. With Easter quickly approaching we spent this morning filling up our easter basket full of the easter eggs we’ve made the past few weeks. Sharing below the details on some of our favorites.
Tip about crafting with toddlers, bring ideas to the table, not expectations. It’s easy to imagine the outcome of a craft and see pictures like these and expect certain results. Often Q does half of crafts, or goes back and forth to crafts, and I often “finish” them with his direction. Q is 29 months old and that’s very typical for his attention span. I always bring ideas to the craft table, but never any expectations and it make the craft and experience SO much more fun.
Q had so much fun painting these. We drove to the beach and collected lots of large seashells – that’s the best part about the winter- there are a lot of large shells all over the place.
We came home and cleaned off the shells together- that’s an activity in itself!
Once they were all clean and dry we painted them and I added some finishing touches with paint pens. Then we had fun hiding and finding them around the house!
Tip: Seal them with mod podge so they’re weather proof and decorate your yard with them! You can also set them out along a walk for neighbors to discover.
Salt Dough Easter Eggs
2 Cups Flour
1 Cup Salt
1 Cup Cold Water
Mix all ingredients together in a large bowl and let sit for 20 minutes. Then knead together for 10 minutes. Q absolutely loves salt dough.
How fun are these hand print easter eggs?! Q loves pressing his hands into the dough and then I cut out an egg shape around them. Once we’re done I bake them in the oven at 170F for 3 hours, flipping after 1.5 hours. Once they’re cool enough to touch we painted them with acrylic paint and I added some gold details to the hands! Q loves making these crafts. We’ve made them for fall, the holidays, valentines day, st. patricks day, and now easter.
Tip: Salt dough also makes for great garland pieces. Salt dough is more durable then the air dry clay below, so salt dough pieces are best for little hands.
Cut out some egg shapes from cardboard and hot glue on beans and pasta and invite your little ones to paint them! So easy and fun!
Tip: Glue on all the pasta and beans at night so you have a craft ready to go at any time!
Air Dry Clay Easter Eggs
1/2 cup corn starch
1 cup baking soda
3/4 cups water
Add all ingredients to a non stick pan and cook over medium high heat stirring constantly until they reach the consistency of mashed potatoes and completely pull away from the pan.
Store directly in an air tight container to cool. Once cool enough to touch, knead really well. Make your shapes. I used these play dough tools to make fun imprints.
Then I baked them for 2 hours at 175F – depending on your oven you can go up to 200F, make sure to flip them a few times at least after 1 hour.
Once they’re out of the oven, paint them with acrylic paint. Check out the post here! Don’t forget to check out my blog post, 22 things to do with air dry clay.
Tip: Experiment air drying for 2 days and baking right after making to see which result is best for you. Baking helps prevent cracking in the clay. You can seal these with mod podge to make more durable.
I picked up shaving cream and white eggs and paired them with food coloring we had at home and this was SO much fun.
We did this with Q’s cousins who are 5 and 7 and all 3 of them loved this activity.
You fill up the cups of a muffin tin with shaving cream. Then have the kids add in food coloring and mix up with a tooth pick. Then add in your egg and gently fold into the shaving cream to completed cover them. Once covered let sit for 15 minutes.
After 15 minutes has passed gently rinse under cold water. Enjoy how magical they came out!
Tip: Have wipes and paper towels on the table, this is a MESSY one!!
Sharing 14 fun and taste safe sensory play ideas with 9 recipe cards that are perfect for babies and toddlers who are still mouthing. Best part is older toddlers will love these activities too! This post includes affiliate links.
1. Sensory Beach: We Do This Every. Single. Day.
“Mommy, beach!” “Mommy, blue water!” the daily requests around here, and I am loving it as much as he is. This set up takes me minutes to toss out and he loves it every single time.
2. Chickpea Foam : Can You Believe This Foam is Made From Chickpea Liquid!?
That’s right – save that liquid when you drain chickpeas. We were making hummus the other day and i dove towards my husband to save the liquid! This liquid makes the most amazing foam and is totally taste safe.
3. Rainbow Pasta: One of the Most Beautiful Taste Safe Sensory Play Ideas
Check out my post all about the five ways we played with this dyed pasta. I couldn’t get over how much fun Q had with this. I found these giant shells on clearance last summer and we’ve played with them so much.
4. Ice Rescue
Ice rescues are always a great idea. You can seriously throw anything into a bowl and freeze it. For babies choose larger items so there are not choking hazards.
5. Moon Dough : A first and a favorite
Moon Dough i feel was one of Qs first true sensory messy play experiences and he loved it. I set it out in a large sterilite bin on our kitchen floor and he couldn’t get enough of it!
6. Frozen Fruit in Water
Back to my freeze everything point – we had a HUGE watermelon over the summer and couldn’t finish it all before it started to turn, so I popped the rest in the freezer and it made for the most fun play! I currently have a pile of lemons frozen into a bowl. Frozen play is free and fun!
This was the first sensory material Q was unsure about. It was a very new and very messy texture. After some time spent going back and forth to it, he got into it and every month or so I’d place some out again and now he shoves his hands right in. It’s fun to show them a wide variety of textures like pudding one day and rice another.
8. Lemon Play Dough
This was a summer time favorite. Check out the whole set up here. I set out a variety of lemons frozen and fresh and made lemon play dough. I love full sensory experiences like this!
9. Beet Play
I love playing with beets. Check out the play dough i made with it. This play here was so fun – here are fun ideas on how to play with them:
1: “Beet paint” I wanted to see if I could make a sort of beet paint, so I tossed in a few beets to our vitmix with some water and corn flour and this made the super bright pink “paint” in the white bowl. 2: Natural Colored Beet Foam: This was a few boiled beets, you can use chickpea liquid to make taste safe, and water in the vitamix and ta-da pink bubbles! 3: Beet swamp – in a food processor I processed some of the beets to make a sort of “beet swamp” 4: Beet “rocks” this was the easiest, I tossed the boiled beets into our “beet swamp” as “rocks” for the landscape
10. Chia Slime
The other day I posted 5 ideas on how to play with chia slime. Q loves this, it’s easy to make ( CRAZY MESSY ) but so worth it, I promise. See how we turned them into dinosaur eggs!
11. Taste Safe Kinetic Sand
This play was SO much fun. It was messy and amazing, I set out a whole kinetic sand party for Q. This is a really great easy recipe for it!