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15 easy ways to play with Pompoms

Go grab yourself a bag of pompoms from the dollar store, the craft store, or wherever, because I have 15 super easy ways you can incorporate pompoms into easy, play-based learning activities for your little one. (Just keep in mind the small pompoms would be a choking hazard for very young children- please supervise them!)


1. Pompom Rescue: wrap some string or elastic bands around a tray, box, or container. You child can use tweezers or even just fingers to rescue the pompoms.

2. Pompom Colour Sort: sort the pompoms by colour. For younger children, start with only 2 different colours an go up from there.

3. Frozen Pompoms: put the pompoms in an ice cube tray with water and freeze. Bring out on a hot day for a cool activity and let your child discover ways of helping them melt.

4. Pompom Soup: pompoms can get wet and will dry out just fine. Fill a bin with water, add pompoms, pots and pans, ladles, bowls.

5. Pompom Count: numbers (from the dollar store, from a puzzles, or written on a piece of paper) and counting the pompoms and placing them with the correct number. Great for practicing one-to-one correspondence.

6. Pompoms in a Puzzle: We happen to have this number tracing board, which fits pompoms like a dream, but use any puzzle- fill up an alphabet or shape puzzle with pompoms.

7. Pompom Sensory Play: add some pompoms to your sensory bin with some bowls, tongs, cups, etc. Hide the pompoms under the sensory material of your choice for them to discover.

8. Pompoms in a Bottle: younger ones can safely explore when you pop them in a clear bottle. I have even put water in the bottle with them.

9. Pompom Catapult: all you need are some craft sticks, elastics, and a bottle cap to make this super simple pompom catapult. Watch them fly across the room, or challenge your child to get them in a box/bin for points!

10. Pompom Drop: tape some paper rolls to the wall (I covered mine with coloured paper), and you have a super-simple colour matching activity. Put a bin/box at the bottom to “catch” the pompoms and your child can do it over and over (and over) again!

11. Roll and Count: use a dice, roll, and count out the pompoms. Make it a two payer game and see who can be the first one to get to 20 (or 50, or 100- whatever you decide). We used to a grid to keep track!

12. Pompom Tub: Fill a large storage container with pompoms and you’ve got yourself a pompom sensory bin that your cild can sit in and explore with both their hands AND their feet!

13. Pompoms in a Tray: find a tray with sections (ice cube tray even), and give your child a bowl of pompoms. You will see how entertaining it is for them to fill the section with pompoms. Also great for fine motor control and hand-eye coordination!

14. Pompoms Poke: use a knife to make hole in an empty egg carton. Optional: use a marker to draw colours around each hole for your child to match. Another great fine-motor control activity.

15. Pompom Transfer: two bowls, tongs or tweezers, and a bowl of pompoms. Your child can transfer the pompoms from the larger bowl to the smaller ones, practice pouring, picking out certain colours, count, etc.

Bonus: here we used pompoms (along with cut up paper straws) to make a maze on a paper plate for a marble. We glued everything down and when it was dry, we could tilt the plate to get the marble from the start to the finish.


That’s it! We rarely use pompoms for actual art activities because I find when the kids glue them down onto regular paper, they come off quite easily. I hope you enjoy these 15 16 simple ways to get playful with pompoms!

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The Easiest Way to Make Rainbow Rice

We have been enjoying green rice in our sensory table for a few weeks now! First we had large flowers and flower pots; the kids enjoyed filling, scooping and pouring, covering the flowers, planting flowers etc.   I just recently switched those out and put in some insects, wooden bowls, tree slices and mini flowers (keeping with the spring theme over here!).  

Since are we loving it so much, I thought I should share with you the easier way EVER to make rainbow rice (or just make 1 or two colours- it’s up to you!)

All you need is:

  • rice (find the cheapest bag of you can)
  • Zip lock bags
  • A squirt of paint

Separate the rice into the bags (I have used larger bags before and found it actually a bit easier, but when I made this batch I only had the smaller ones).

Add a good squirt of paint to the bag (about a tbsp). I don’t ever measure exactly strictly because I want to have less to wash afterwards; ex. measuring spoons. But add a little to start, and you can always add more to make it more vibrant if you need to. Then shake, shake, shake!!!

Such rainbow-ific goodness!!!

Next you will just want to spread it out a bit on something flat to dry. You can do this is your home, but a nice sunny day definitely speeds up the process. You also don’t have to worry about spreading it completely flat. I just went out and gave it a quick stir at one point and was actually surprised at how fast it had dried all over.

Filling up those 6 little bags actually made a good amount of rice! I dumped the rice out into a large plastic storage container (it even has a lid for when it’s not in use!) and then brought it outside for the kids to explore. You can do this inside; I would consider putting a towel or blanket down underneath to prevent the rice from going all over the floor.

Add some spoons, bowls, cups, muffin tins, etc. Just raid you kitchen: no need to go out and buy anything new!

You’re done- it’s that EASY!

As always, when playing with younger ones, try to discourage them from putting the rice in their mouth. Since I used paint here, it isn’t considered “taste safe” for babies. Another option to make it taste safe would be to use food colouring instead of paint. I find with food colouring you need quite a bit to get vibrant colours. Add a teaspoon of vinegar to help the colour get all spread around the rice and then spread it out to dry (it takes a bit longer). For more information on sensory play with babies, see this post: https://earlychildhoodfun101.com/2019/03/21/5-tips-to-start-sensory-bins-with-babies/

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5 Tips to Start Sensory Bins with Babies

If you are reading this post, you probably have an idea of what a sensory bin is; I post a ton of sensory bin ideas on Instagram showing different ways you can use them for learning through play. If you haven’t found me here through the gram, in short; it’s a bin/tub/container filled with materials to engage your child’s senses.  You can see loads of ideas here!

They certainly look very inviting; these beans are just calling out to be mixed up by little hands!  What does seeing this picture make you think?  Maybe you’re the type of person who is eager and ready to go, wondering “when can I start this??”

Or, you might be thinking “there is no way I can do this with my baby”.  I get it;  you’re afraid they will throw it all everywhere, afraid they will just put everything in their mouth, or afraid that for all the work you put into setting it up, they might not be engaged or interested.

Well friend, I’m here to help! Let me walk you through some tips on how you can start sensory bin play with your babies and make it a fun experience for both of you!

Before we get started I just wan to add that it is really important you are ready.  This may sound silly; but hear me out. Before I started my home daycare, I used to set up sensory bins for my other kids up at the table or counter so that my youngest, Henry, couldn’t reach. I just wasn’t ready to deal with all the mess and “teaching” him the rules and expectations of sensory bins. When the doors officially opened to my home daycare, I knew I was going to incorporate sensory bins in our play and I was ready. So my advice is if you don’t want to do it, you’re thinking “this is not for me, I have no desire to this now” then that is totally fine.  You shouldn’t feel pressured to be doing everything you see on Instagram or Pinterest (even though for some reason we sometimes think we should). So wanting to do this type of play, wanting to have fun with it, and knowing that it will probably get a bit messy comes first.  There are loads of benefits to sensory play, but I will admit, learning to embrace the mess can take time.

1. Find a location

The first thing you want to do now that you are eager and ready to go is to figure out a good location for this type play.  Do you have a high chair for your child you can bring up to the table so you can sit near them?  A bin on the floor works well too.  Just keep the type of flooring you have in mind as there will probably be some clean up involved afterwords.  One thing I have done in the past is to use an old towel or bedsheet on the ground to make clean up even easier.  Your child can sit on the ground, the bin can go on the ground; the bedsheet also prevents items such as chickpeas from rolling away on a hard floor.

2. Pick something taste safe

This is going to be important when doing sensory bins for little ones. Babies are still using their mouths to explore and you’re just going to have to be prepared for the fact that some of the items may go in their mouth. It’s all part of the learning process. The best place to start is your pantry! You could do dry items such as chick peas, beans, lentils, split peas, pasta. Or even try cooked spaghetti! Just note that cooked food items won’t last as long when played with; maybe a few days. Dried items on the other hand, you could put in a ziplock bag and store for later use.

3. Only a small amount

Once you have decided what you’re going to use for your sensory base, find a bin or a tray to use. You want something where the side are high enough so that when your child is exploring the items won’t bounce out everywhere. My big advice here is not to start with too much. You should have enough to cover the bottom of your tub and so your child can grab a handful of the sensory item.

4. Keep it simple

Don’t get too carried away with “accessories” at this point. There are soooo many gorgeous sensory bin ideas floating around out there, but your baby doesn’t need all that! A lot of the accessories, or add ins, that I would use to make a sensory bin for my older children wouldn’t be safe for babies. For example, I just love using sticks, rocks, jewels, and all sorts of other goodies to make “small world” set ups for the older kids. All of that just isn’t necessary for the younger ones; they won’t be engaging in small world play at this point, and those other items would be choking hazards.

So try just adding spoons, cups, and bowls to start. You will notice that they can just scoop and fill and dump FOREVER! Also, just running their little hands through the sensory bin will be fun in itself! Which brings me to my last piece of advice…

5. Model the desired behaviour

Sit down and play with your child. Some might be hesitant with a new experience; gently encourage them to help them feel comfortable. Show your little one what is expected. This means keeping the items IN the bin. Keep repeating it to them if they keep trying to take handful and throw the items on the floor (this is totally what Henry does by the way). Also discourage them from putting the items in their mouth; they will slowly get it! Show them how they can use the spoons to fill the cups, how they can transfer the beans from one cup to another, how they can gently whirl their hands around.

Hopefully now you are feeling a bit more confident to try this with your little one. Before you do, let me share my first experience with this type of play with the two babies in my care; ages 12 and 13 months. My child, Henry, is a bit of a wild child. On day 1 of the split pea sensory bin he was definitely intrigued. He explored them using his fingers, put them in his mouth a few times, really enjoyed filling the little bowls, and did such a great job keeping the split peas in the bin.

Well, after that first day all he wanted to do was throw the stuff all over the floor. Which he did if I turned my head for a second! I kept telling him IN the bin. Yet, he kept trying to throw the peas out and to eat them. So I would gave him a little break (by offering another activity to him) before letting him come back to join the rest of us. After doing this over and over quite a few times, he slowly got the hang of it. But, I HAD to have him on my lap and have my hand/arm right where his was to encourage him not to throw.


The other baby in my care was the complete opposite! With baby #2, once I told him a few times not to put the split peas in his mouth, he listened. He was so content sitting on a little stool, running his fingers through the peas, filling up the cups; he could do it for 45 minutes to an hour at a time!

These two children have very different personalities but it is possible to make it work with both of them. So give your child a chance; they may end up needing more guidance and sitting on your lap like Henry did. That is totally ok and normal for this age. Or you might have the most laid back child ever like baby #2!

If you are interested in more information such as what types of items to use for sensory play, subscribe to my email list here and you will receive monthly play prompts, tips and tricks, and will have access to free material to help you get started with sensory play!

Thanks loves and happy playing!

Katie

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Save the Penguins!

I totally should have done this sooner because it was a blast! But realistically, it’s only March here in Ottawa and I’m sure I’ll be able to freeze water outside for another few weeks!

If you are lucky enough to live somewhere warmer and you can’t just put a tub of water outside to make ice, then use your freezer! You may not be able to do something this big (unless you have a big freezer!), but you could always use several little plastic bowls or even an ice cube tray. Then just pop in a few little animals or dinosaurs, even pompoms are fun when they are frozen!

To “save” the objects we froze in the ice, I provided Emy with some different coloured water with a dropper as well as some salt with a little spoon for scooping. At first, we were using water that was more room temperature and it wasn’t visibly making the ice melt away too quickly. I switched it out for warmer water and it was a bit more fun for Emy to really see the ice melt from the warm water.

So while Emy was playing, he was actually working on fine motor control as he squeezed the little dropper to fill it up and empty it. He also had to use quite a bit of control with that little wooden spoon and the salt. The salt also gave us the opportunity to bring some science into our play. Why was it melting the ice? New vocabulary such as “dissolves” and “granules” were introduced. He also made the connection to how we put salt on our driveway in the winter. And it finally all made sense 😜! So much learning happens through play; it truly is how children learn best.

We had so much fun saving these little penguins and we hope you enjoy this activity as well!

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Spooky Spider Halloween Goop

So you just tried my ~Magical Colour-Mixing Goop~ and now you’re wondering what to do with this huge tub of glorious orange goop??  Add some spiders of course! Or any other fun little Halloween goodies to get you in the spooky holiday spirit.  The dollar store is my go-to for these types of things.

So in case you missed my last post, this is just corn starch and water with food colouring. My previous post explains the ratios you will need, but you can always just pour out your cornstarch and just keep adding water until you get the right consistency.  You could add your orange colour to the water and your goop will be orange right away or do what we did…add the colour after (you really need to see that post to see what I mean).

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Goop (or “ooblek”) is such an amazing sensory material.  It is actually considered a “Non-Newtonian Fluid”.  Yes, I use words like that.  That means it does not follow Newton’s laws of viscosity.  Want to know what I’m talking about?  If you make this at just the right ratio of water to corn starch…it’s both a solid and a liquid.  Hard and soft.  Dry AND wet.  It’s CRAZY people.

So put down some sort of mat/towel/shower curtain liner if you don’t like mess, because things are bound to get a bit (maybe a lot) messy with this stuff.  And don’t be afraid to sink those grown-up fingers in there yourself!

Adding things like tweezers give this activity an extra element of fine motor work.  Follow your child’s lead; if they use want to run their fingers through this amazing stuff instead then that’s great too.

 

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Magical Colour-Mixing Goop

This is hands-down my FAVOURITE  sensory activity and it’s so unbelievably easy!  This is not your average, every day goop.  It’s MAGICAL COLOUR MIXING goop.  Ok, its’ not real magic, but it sure is a cool and magical treat for senses.  I added the colouring after making the goop and the outcome was fantastic!  We watched, amazed as the colours slowly bled together and began to mix.  We talked about the consistency of the goop and how it was hard, but still soft.  Wet, but sometimes dry.  It dips, drops, clumps, and it simply stunning as the colours slowly whirl together.

Let me break it down for you; 3 ingredients, 3 steps, 3 minutes, and you’re done.  And as if that wasn’t good enough…it gets better.  This isn’t just mixing the colours for a few minutes and it’s done.  It takes some time for the colours to mix and it looks/ feels absolutely amazing in the process.  So sit back and enjoy your coffee (hot) while your little ones engage in this amazing sensory, colour-mixing, goopy fun!

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Here’s what you will need:

  • Corn Starch (Corn flour in some parts of the world I believe)
  • Water
  • Food Colouring (I used gel here, but have used liquid with success as well)

 

Find yourself a large enough container to put your goop in.  This tray is from Loblaws this past summer, but anything will work.  First, I poured almost the entire container of cornstarch into the tray (container is 454g).  I don’t pour it all in there incase I make it too watery and want to stiffen it up a bit after (which is what happened).  Next, add about 2 cups of water, one at a time mixing as you go using a fork or spoon.  Your goop will be more stiff/liquidy depending on how much water you add.  I felt like I needed to add the rest of the cornstarch once I had it all mixed up.

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Now you get to add the colours!  I picked two primary colours; red and yellow.  I used gel food colouring; I just scooped some out and rubbed it onto the top of the goop.  Once I was done, I gave Emy a spoon and let him have a at it!

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It was so amazing! The way the colours mixed and danced when the goop was lifted and moved by the spoon.  Emy played and imagined a river, a volcano, an ocean, fire, that he was decorating a cake, and more.  And this stuff takes TIME to all mix together to form a new colour.  Which means he sat for about 30-40 minutes engaged as he excitedly observed the changes taking place.

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Towards the end, he asked to watch me do some mixing.  He didn’t have to ask twice, this stuff is fun for all ages!  He laughed and giggled at the swirls and twirls as I tried to get all the colours evenly mixed together into orange.

We will have to do something fun with our orange goop now….I’m thinking Halloween related.  Stay tuned 😉

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