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On one of our many trips to Michael’s, Will spotted a Safari Ltd In The Sky Toob and was enthralled by the miniatures inside. I’m kinda partial to them too…the colorful set has a variety of planes, a helicopter, a blimp, and even a hot air balloon! Naturally, I have been brainstorming a fun sensory activity for them ever since. It’s just how my brain works 😉
To create our “blue sky” sensory bin, I gathered some shiny materials from my stash- shaving cream, glitter, gems and decorative stones, and four mirror tiles. The twins also helped me make some blue ice, which I’ll show you in a sec.
My idea was to design the bin so that it made the twins feel like they were “playing in the sky.” I knew we would be doing the activity outside, so I decided to line the bottom of the plastic container with mirror tiles to reflect the clear blue sky- I couldn’t think of a better way to bring it down to Earth and into their play! I’ve had these tiles for about five years (they had been sitting in a box in the attic) but you can find them at any craft store. If you are worried about them breaking, you can always find acrylic or inexpensive plastic mirrors like these, or you can use what you have and reinforce the backs of the mirrors with duct tape (shown above) which should keep the mirrors from shattering into a zillion pieces if they get broken. I also rolled up pieces of the tape and used them to stick the mirrors to the bottom of the container.
I had been pondering this idea for several weeks, but I was stuck on how to represent clouds. Nothing I thought of seemed quite right! But then I saw this awesome dragon small world post by Fun at Home with Kids for Nurturestore and I loved how Asia created clouds by turning over cups and covering them with shaving cream. I tried it, and it was fantastic! I was able to add great big fluffy clouds to my play scene and keep them elevated over the water (at least for the setup).
After I made the clouds and added a few inches of water and some gems and stones for color, I gave the twins some blue and silver glitter and let them add it to the water as they pleased. And then I let them fly their sky vehicles right into the big puffy clouds.
Although there was lots of pretend play that happened during this activity, the twins’ favorite part was definitely playing with the shaving cream. Here, Sydney is saying, “Fluffy clouds all over me, Mommy!”
They rubbed clouds on their tummies.
And clapped globs of them between their palms to see the droplets fly.
NOTE* Be sure to keep a wet rag or paper towel on hand to wipe smudges and droplets from around little eyes and mouths.
Will even rubbed them into his hair. Sigh. Thank goodness for the water hose!
If you are looking for ways to extend the time your child engages in sensory play experiences (I mean, why go through the trouble if your child plays with it for five minutes and then loses interest, right?), one thing that works for us is to not introduce everything at once. The twins were happy playing with the shaving cream, gems, and little figures for a good while before they started to lose interest. At that point, I brought out the blue ice cubes that we made together before nap time (just water and blue food coloring) and let the twins add them to the goopy mixture.
This incited a frenzy of stirring (using the wrong end of the bulb syringes I had set out for them to play with) as they watched the water turn blue as the ice melted. They liked watching the melted shaving cream “clouds” swirl as they stirred them, revealing the blue water and mirrors underneath. I loved the addition of the mirrors to the bottom of the tub- it added a whole new dimension to the play and the twins didn’t mess with them at all. It was really neat to just pour clear water into the tub before adding the shaving cream because you could see all the bubbles reflected in the mirror.
After more stirring and flying around in the water, it was off to the water hose for a good rinse and then into the house for dinner.
All in a day’s work!
For more information on the developmental benefits of sensory play, check out “Sensory Play, is This Really Necessary?”