The lovely @BodforTea asked me recently for some ideas on sensory/ messy play for the under 2s and so I thought I would pop all the activities we’ve done into one post- so here it is. 8 sensory play ideas for the under 2s!
A couple of weeks ago I baked our Christmas cake and was inspired to throw a few of the ingredients into the Tuff Spot (as you do) for the preschooler to explore. I’m not sure I appreciated the length of this play or the volume of learning he would get from it as it was so last minute. But it actually turned out to be one of the best sensory play sessions we’ve had in a long time and one that I know we’ll be repeating. The great thing about this one is that it’s baby friendly too, so anything the little ones want to taste is absolutely fine and absolutely part of the play. This is what we did for our Christmas sensory play:
We used the Christmas tree packaging from our Christmas chocolate review and filled it with raisins, sultanas and mixed dried fruit. This was placed in the centre of the tray. I then added a lump of sweet marzipan and a lump of even sweeter ready to roll icing. Then I sprinkled caster sugar around the tray for a snowy effect. I used caster sugar because I wanted a fine mist of sugar but not as fine as icing sugar. I wanted to explore the texture as well as the aroma and the way it looked. Later on I also added a few cinnamon sticks, cinnamon powder and nutmeg which really gave the whole room a Christmassy scent!
The preschooler, as usual, dived straight in! First of all he explored the sugar, using his mouth to blow the sugar, remarking on the smell and using his fingers to make tracks and patterns. He also wrote his name- without prompting and without asking for help. This is the first time he’s done that!
During this activity there was no escaping the sensory elements of it all. The preschooler could touch, smell, taste and even listen as the raisins pitter-pattered and the sugar sprinkled. He loved watching the sugar move as he blew it, and pressing his fingers into the marzipan and icing. He wasn’t so bothered about using the rolling pin which was great as sometimes he isn’t keen on getting his fingers dirty. This activity really seemed to draw him in and he kept telling me it smelled delicious and super! The cinnamon and other spices played a huge part in this.
Our Christmas sensory play was also fantastic for creating, because the marzipan and icing are very much like play dough- soft malleable and easy to manipulate. The preschooler used his fingers to make shapes and then pressed marzipan into the Christmas tree mould. He used raisins to decorate it and icing to make an angel to go on the top. We also worked together to create Christmassy pictures with raisins and dried fruit. This kept him busy for quite a while and he seemed a lot more engaged than he usually is with normal play dough.
This sensory play activity was so easy to set up and can be modified according to what is in your cupboards. Like most of our activities, there is room for working on letters and sounds (tracing letters in the sugar and spices for the preschooler to read), for writing (mark making and writing in the sugar) and for exploring all of the senses. The marzipan and icing helps with fine and gross motor skills and with creative thinking, and the addition of toys would bring an imaginative element to the play too. We’ll no doubt be bringing the dinosaurs out next time we do this one!
We were recently sent some chocolates to review from Tesco and I wanted to do something a little different with it- to show how you can play with chocolate, how you can learn, and how you can create. We were sent 150g of Chokablock Cherry Merry Christmas and 100g of milk chocolate gingerbread stars, which can all be found either online or in store now.
For each of the activities we did, we felt it was important to use the best chocolate that we could, because a large part of the exploration is about taste! So in our play we talked about the appearance, the texture, the smell and the taste, in a similar way that we usually do.
We started with the Cherry Merry Christmas chocolate first, which was immediately exciting for the preschooler. In the shape of a Christmas tree, the chocolate is adorned with cookie crumbles and cherries which look a lot about baubles, and gave us chance to talk about Christmas trees and how we decorate them.
We decided to break the chocolate to look at the pieces, and then-naturally- we tasted them too. Delicious. The cherries are almost sour and the cookie pieces were nice because they changed the texture of the chocolate. Then we decided to melt the chocolate, giving me the chance to reinforce the concept of changing properties. We used the mixture to make our own little chocolates which we then popped into the fridge to reverse the melting. A little science lesson for the afternoon!
We then use the left over chocolate to create a little chocolate art, by swirling fingers and other tools to make patterns. As we were doing this, the aroma in the kitchen was heavenly- this stuff smells as good as it tastes!
It’s a really lovely chocolate and perhaps a little too nice to play with but I assure you that each and every last bite of chocolate was consumed in the end! This chocolate costs just £5 and would make a great gift for chocolate lovers. We give it 8 out of 10!
When it came to sampling the milk chocolate gingerbread stars, we knew that we needed to do something a little more extravagant. We decided to make a chocolate pinata!
This is what we did:
saucepan with boiling water
zip lock bag
sillicone giant cup cake mould
What we did
We started by melting the chocolate and then adding a tablespoon (or there abouts) of vegetable oil to the mix. This kept the chocolate runny while we were working. We used a spatula to spread a layer of the mix around the mould until it was all covered. We OBVIOUSLY had a good taste along the way. We made sure to leave a thick edge too, and left it to set in the fridge for 20 mins.
Then we added another layer of chocolate and allowed that to cool too. This was because we wanted a nice thick pinata. Once it was set, it was time to remove the mould. We eased the edges away all the way round, then simply peeled the mould down until voila!
Next we filled the bottom half of the pinata with sweets and chocolates. We made sure to layer them so that the skittles were inbetween the larger chocolates, with the milk chocolate stars on top so that they would be the first things to fall when the pinata was broken.
Next, working quicky, we spooned the remaining melted chocolate into the zip lock bag and snipped a small hole in the corner. We piped it around the edges of the bottom half and popped the lid on top. Then we used the chocolate to stick sweets to decorate it, finishing the whole thing with one of the milk chocolate stars. It looked a lot like a Christmas tree when we were finished!
Then time to smash!
This was the fun part. I presented the pinata with a small wooden hammer and invited the children to take turns. When the pinata broke, the chocolates came tumbling out and the milk chocolate gingerbread stars really stole the show!
All that was left to do was taste! And yes, I can confirm that those chocolate stars are worth the effort! They are very delicious and just perfect for Christmas. They do come in a lovely little gift box but we felt they were pretty enough to make them the ‘star’ of our pinata and they lived up to that in taste too! The chocolate pinata was also great fun and if you do buy these stars at Christmas, I would certainly recommend trying this because the kids thought it was amazing- what a centre piece for your table! The stars are just £3.50 and we give them a huge 10 out of 10!
We were sent the chocolate to review; all opinions are my own!