Ocean Sensory Play

When I first saw/heard of sensory play for toddlers, I wondered what the big deal was. I mean, the buckets of rice, lentils, sand, and little things looked cool and interesting but I didn’t really know why so many moms were into this. And then I had my own toddler. 

I tried my first sensory bucket with Mr. Monkey, and he was instantly impressed and played with it for a long time. It was a winter themed one, with white rice, foam snow flakes and pieces of glitter paper. He scooped and poured, grabbed fistfuls of rice and explored the contents of his bucket. Sensory play is good for children to learn through touching different textures. It also helps them practice their fine motor skills. This was especially evident when Mr. Monkey was learning to use a spoon; in his sensory bucket he could move the contents from one cup to another using a spoon, and he could learn to pour and direct the flow of the contents, without making a big mess, they way he would while eating. 

Best of all, he plays with his sensory bucket for a good half-hour without getting bored. It keeps his attention a lot longer than most other activities. 

Here is a sensory bucket that I made for him, which is ocean-themed:

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In this bucket there is:

-Blue rice (it is so easy to colour rice. This blog shows you how).

-Seashells. These are seashells that I collected on our trip to Florida.

-Clear “gem” -type of rocks from the dollar store

Miniature ocean figurines.

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I added in there some measuring cups and little plastic spoons and cups and let Mr. Monkey play with it. I always have him play with a sensory bucket in the kitchen. I first set part of a shower curtain on the floor and then place his bucket on top. He has been taught to keep the rice in the bucket, and he’s pretty good at keeping it contained, however, some rice does spill. The shower curtain makes clean up much easier because I just pour the rice off the curtain back into the bucket at the end of the session.

ImageAlthough here he’s examining the little treasure chest, I find that he mostly likes to play with the rice, by scooping and pouring it. He’s not very interested in the little figurines yet. Maybe when he’s a bit older and his imagination is more developed he will play with them more. 

What do you think of sensory play?

 

Busy Bag Exchange

I’m blessed to have an amazing group of mommy-friends in my area. We are part of the same faith community and have little ones around the same age, so we see each other at least once week, and often more than that. 

A while ago, we decided to try a busy-bag exchange. The idea is, that each of us would make a quiet activity to keep a toddler occupied. These bags would be great to take along to church, to play with at home on a rainy freezing day, or at any time when you want your little one occupied with something meaningful and quiet. We also wanted the activities to be fairly inexpensive to put together. So, we each picked an activity to do and after a month or so, we met together to exchange the bags. There were 5 of us involved, so each of us would make 5 of the same activity. Then we met together for a pot-luck appetizer lunch and gave each mom one of our activities and got one from her. So we would each leave with 5 different activities. These are the activities that we made:

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I made a button-snake. This is a good fine motor activity ,and also prepares little one to do up buttons.

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My sister-in-law made foam number cards with with the corresponding number of circles on each card. They came with gemstones that you can put on the cards to learn numbers and counting.

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One friend made a colour-sorting activity. There are four bowls in different colours and a variety of items that can be put into the bowls and sorted by colour. 

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Another friend made this “I spy” bottle. It’s a bottle of rice with different objects that can be found in it by turning the bottle in different ways and thus moving the contents around. Among the different items in here are beads that have letters on them which spell out the child’s name. She printed off a list of the the hidden items and attached it to the bottle. The bottle cap is sealed with glue so that it can’t be opened and that way it is safe for little ones. 

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And yet another friend made this popsicle-stick-shape activity. The shapes are laminated, and they are each a different colour. The popsicle sticks are coloured to go with the shapes. They have a little piece of velcro on each end so they can be stuck together to make the different shapes. 

ImageHere is Mr. Monkey, working on the colour-sorting activity. He really enjoys these busy bags. He caught onto the colour-sorting really well. At first he was working hard at sorting the colours, and then he kind of gave up and just mixed them all together. He also really enjoys just playing with pom-poms and craft things in general. 

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And here is Mr. Monkey doing his goofy smile for the camera.

Doing a busy bag exchange was fun! I got my inspiration for this exchange from here.

I really recommend trying a swap like this. Have you tried one? Would you like to get together with some friends to do such an exchange? 

 

Organizing Toys in Small Spaces

We live in a small house. It is about 1000 square feet, 2 bedrooms. Mr. Monkey has his own room, and Ben and I have our room. We have a basement, but it is a suite that we rent out, so we can’t really use it. Thus, space is a bit of an issue. I see so many beautiful playrooms on Pinterest and other mommy blogs, and although we can’t designate a whole room as a playroom, I’ve tried to be creative in finding tasteful ways to store Mr. Monkey’s toys in an attractive and accessible way for him.

Disclaimer: Don’t get me wrong. I’m not complaining about the size of our house. It is a huge blessing to have this as our home. And although it’s not as big as some houses out there, I’m so very blessed to be able to stay home with my little boy every day, to play with him, watch him grow and learn, make yummy and nutritious food for our family, and to make our house a home full of warm memories.For now, this house has all the space we need. I have always wanted to be a wife and mommy and to stay home and raise our children. So I’m living my dream. Thank-You God. 

Now, onto organizing in small spaces…

One of the advantages of having a small house is that my son is close to me all the time. As most toddlers, he prefers to play near me, so even if I decided to keep his toys in his room, it wouldn’t really work because he would probably be bringing them out into the kitchen or living room all the time. As such, I’ve found little play spaces for him in different areas of the house. 

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This is the china cabinet in our kitchen. It has an open shelf that’s just at the right height for Mr. Monkey to reach. Here he has three buckets of toys: a bucket of cars, his stacking train, and his Melissa & Doug blocks. I made little labels to go on the buckets to make it easy for him and I to clean up together. The label has the toy name written on it as well a a picture of it, so that he knows what goes in each bucket. I laminated my labels using this laminator.

One of the things that helps keep my sanity is doing an informal toy rotation. Every so often I switch his toys around. I have some toys hidden in closets, in our laundry room, etc., and when I trade a toy for one that I’ve kept hidden, it’s kind of like he gets a new toy. It keeps him entertained a bit longer.

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In the living room I’ve found a spot for his toys on the bottom of our coffee table, and by the window.

 

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And of course, there’s his basket of books by the couch. Mr. Monkey thoroughly enjoys stories so we read pretty much every day. We also like to go to the library and take out new books to read. 

 

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A new thing that I’m trying: Mr. Monkey has a fondness for my kitchen cupboards and enjoys getting his hands on dishes and food. So, I’ve thought, *Light bulb* “why not, instead of a ‘play kitchen’, let him have a kitchen cupboard all to himself with play kitchen items”.  So I emptied out a single cupboard (found space for my crockpot somewhere else…) and put in here his playfood that he got as a Sukkot present and his play felt pizza that my mom got for him. Some time, I want to find him some play kitchen utensils and maybe throw in there some of my own kitchen doo-dahs that I don’t really use so he can do pretend play in the kitchen. I’ll probably look for those things at a second hand store. You can often find pretend kitchen toys there. 

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We don’t have much room for big toys, but this play-tunnel folds up into easy storage. So it’s fun to bring out and let him play with it for a while, then put it away into a closet when he’s done. This is a good toy for being active indoors and using his gross motor skills (This is Canada and we have real winters!)

With all that said, his favourite kind of play is where he gets to interact with Ben or I. Chasing, tickling, climbing, building and hiding while playing with each other is the best type of play. Of course, we can’t always play together, so then, there’s toys. 

What about you? Do you have a small space? How do you like to use your space to organize your children’s toys?