DIY Play Dough Soap for Bathtime (with Only 3 Ingredients!)

This DIY play dough soap tutorial has been compensated by Collective Bias, Inc. and its advertiser. All opinions are mine alone. #allessentials #allsulfatefree #CollectiveBias

This DIY Play Dough Soap is messy play that gets kids clean! It's homemade play dough made with soap, is tub-safe, and doesn't stain skin. Plus, it has only 3 ingredients you probably already have: sulfate free body wash, cornstarch, and water! Your kids will want bath time, ALL the time! Get your kids clean with this DIY soap recipe, then get your clothes clean with Sulfate-Free All Detergent. [ad] #allEssentials #allSulfateFree

Anyone who has been around the blog for awhile knows that I’ve got some favorite ways to keep things clean… like a favorite laundry soap that gets my clothes clean, and a favorite dish towel that gets my dishes clean. But I have found my all-time favorite way to get my kiddo clean, and that’s with a little bit of good, old-fashioned messy play. That’s right. I’m getting him messy to get him clean! The secret is something that’s one part sensory activity, one part bathtime hero: DIY Play Dough Soap. The best part? It’s only got 3 ingredients that you probably already have on hand.

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Backyard Splatter Painting

This shop has been compensated by Collective Bias, Inc. and its advertiser. All opinions are mine alone. #allEssentials #CollectiveBias

Kids bored this summer? Let them be kids with this awesome messy play activity! This splatter painting uses water balloons, medicine droppers, squirt guns, and more to create a unique piece of abstract art your kids will love creating. Don't worry-- kids and clothes are both washable! #allEssentials

“I’m bored.” Come on, it’s almost summer… you know you’re going to hear it at least once or twice or a million times. That’s why now is a great time to start arming yourself with ideas to keep the kids busy this summer! One of my favorite ways to keep kids active, busy, and having SO much fun they forget to be bored is through some good old fashioned messy play! That’s why this backyard splatter painting is tons of fun to create– and it’s super easy, too.

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Pumpkin Carving and Sensory Play

I received product from Pumpkin Masters for this post. All opinions are my own.

Pumpkin carving is an excellent family tradition every autumn or fall season, but did you know that with the right tools, even the youngest kids can get involved and turn carving and family time into a learning experience or educational activity? Don't just go to the pumpkin patch this year- help your kids learn while having fun with pumpkins!  #pumpkinmasters #ad

Pumpkin carving… it’s a great tradition that many families share. It can be really fun to set up a bonfire or lay out some trash bags to collect pumpkin guts and get the whole family to carve pumpkins together, but did you know it could be a unique learning experience, too? Children learn with all 5 senses, and pumpkin carving offers a great sensory experience that helps children explore all of these, and with the right tools, kids of almost any age can get in on the fun.

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The Educational Importance of Planting with Kids

Kids learn so many things without realizing it. Or really, without us realizing it. Every word spoken, every activity done together, every book read, it all adds up to experiences, educational opportunities, and memories for a child. But when you take time to be intentional about what you’re teaching and really focus on the educational benefits, you’ll be amazed at how much the “little stuff” is really BIG stuff when it comes to teaching children, regardless of their age.

Growing plants together is a big educational opportunity that is very carefully disguised as fun. I can guarantee that if you’re planting with your child, they’ll have no clue that they’re learning, but they’ll be gaining valuable skills, whether they’re 3 or 13 or somewhere in between. And the best part is that now, anyone can grow things. Even if you don’t have a big garden, there are many kits and container gardening options that allow you to grow your own plants, indoors or out, and they’re generally available at a pretty affordable price. We picked up this grow kit for our big kid, featuring sweet basil and parsley, from Buzzy Seeds.

But you can think even smaller with these mini greenhouses that are perfect vegetable starters, available from the Miracle Grow kids product line. Both options are perfect for getting kids (and teens!) involved in the gardening process.

One of the big benefits that is present in gardening, especially with kits, is the thought of following directions. An older student can read the directions themselves and test their reading comprehension as they measure the right amount of water in the right temperature and do the steps in the proper order. A younger child can test their listening skills by listening to when to pour the dirt, when to pour water, when to stir, and how to plant seeds.

Fine motor skills are really worked to their limit when it comes to smaller children and planting. From accurately pouring from one container to another, to pressing the seeds in gently, there’s a lot of fine motor work going on during the gardening process. It is a great opportunity to get those fingers flexing and allow those smaller muscles to get a workout.

Observation plays a huge role throughout the gardening process. When you consider soil factors (young kids can watch the soil pellets in a kit expand, older kids can consider the aspects of the soil that make it viable for plants, and how it undergoes the change from pellet to soil), how light and weather impact plant growth, and the finished plant product as it sprouts, grows, and possibly gets transplanted, there is a lot to be observed. Even during the planting process, it’s a great time to whip out the magnifying glass and take a closer look at the things going on, from the seeds to the soil, and see how all of these parts play a vital role in the plant’s life.

Volume is a lesson that young kids learn but don’t realize they are learning. Anytime a small child pours water from one container to another, scoops rice from a bowl to a cup, or fills a cup with the contents of another cup until it overflows, kids are learning about volume and how it works. This is no different. In the same way that kids should have plenty of time to explore and experience the kitchen, it’s also good to give kids a chance to focus on gardening and how liquid plays a part in the gardening process. If nothing else, the small children are getting the hang of pouring.

Planting is also great for math and logic skills. A younger child can count seeds and consider where to place them. An older student can use spatial reasoning– how far apart is an inch? Can I imagine where to place the next one without getting a ruler, or use knowledge I already have on what an inch looks like to figure out where to place my next seed? How can I use those determinations and measurements to determine how deep to plant my seed?

Planting is an amazing sensory experience for younger children and older students alike. Sometimes, it’s important just to take a step back and really dig into the soil and dirt, feel the texture of it, enjoy the scent of it, and really get your hands dirty. Sensory experiences like that can’t be measured, but they’re infinitely important to a child’s growth and development. By introducing kids to different textures, you’re allowing them to better understand the world around them.

Plus, planting is about long-term responsibility as well as long-term results. By making sure to water and tend to the plants, you’ll reap great rewards of food, flowers, or other plant life in the process. When you make sure you’re watering the plant and caring for it regularly, giving it the long-term maintenance it needs, it’s a great way to learn about how living things take care, whether you’re applying it to how a pet also needs constant care and attention, or helping a child understand that they, as a living thing, need their own care and attention, such as inspiring grooming habits. It’s a really great way to explain that living things need that extra loving care. The best part is the benefit you’ll reap from long-term plant care. When growing food especially, it’s a great opportunity to then include it in a meal. For example, sweet basil is a great ingredient for a pizza or pasta! The hard effort that goes into growing the ingredients instills a sense of pride, and that pride makes the food taste even better.

Finally, planting is a great way to start other discussions. Whether you’re taking it as a good start to jump into books about planting, using it as inspiration to start a compost bin or other green activities, or even launching into a discussion about God’s creation, you’re able to use planting and gardening as a great starting point to many different conversations to come, which makes it an activity you just can’t pass up.

Whether you’re using a grow kit like we did, or you’re getting dirty outside, you’re going to find that planting together is a fantastic way to spend time together, a great way to relax, and just a fun experience all-around that will stick with kids in lifelong ways.

Happy spring… now get planting!

 

Do you tend a garden at home? And do your kids ever join you in the planting? Let me know in the comments below!

Like Nailing Jell-O to a Tree: Sensory Activity for Little Dudes

I recently posted about my intentions to start homeschooling my one-year-old son. Remember, I’m using the term homeschool very loosely in this instance, as a word to describe the structured play activities that Zach will sometimes participate in.

Our very first day of school last week was exciting. I wasn’t entirely sure how Zach would respond to the new layout of our day, but of course, it was very important to me to work at his pace and really focus on his own personal emotional state. Learning won’t be fun if you sit there and force a child to do it.

Because last week was a “partial week” in school, since we started on a Thursday, I didn’t get Zach started on some of the lessons I planned for him yet. Instead, we focused on one very exciting task for his first day of “school.”

Jell-O. Yes, Jell-O.

To me, it is important to give a child opportunities for messy play. After all, they’re washable for a reason. So, I stripped Mr. Zach down to his diaper, and put him in his high chair for a fun, wiggly jiggly structured playtime.

I first have to stress the fact that due to… who knows what… my Jell-O didn’t actually fully set. I don’t know if I just did it wrong, or if it was the humidity and heat at our house that week, or whatever reason it might have been, but my Jell-O was more of a slime than an actual Jell-O. I do plan on repeating this activity again sometime, with Jell-O that actually sets up.

Zach munched on some Chex while I got the Jell-O out of the fridge and ready for play, which is why his face has a few Chex stuck to it. My son just can’t eat without saving a little for later!

He stuck his hand tentatively into the blue slime. He looked at me with a puzzled expression, I think almost questioning if it was okay for him to really squish into this slimy blue stuff.

It didn’t take much coaxing, though, for him to start really squishing, smacking, splashing, and trying to pick up the Jell-O, which only seemed to ooze out of his hands…

Perhaps it was the texture, or perhaps it was just the fact that this cool blue gel was quite refreshing in the 100+ degree temperatures we were having last week, but this stuff was really cool to play in! Plus, because it hadn’t quite set up, it was easy to trace letters in, or just run your fingers through it to make drawings. Zach and I both worked together to draw in the Jell-O mixture and really play with the goo, and I have to admit, it was a lot of fun for me, too.

After taking some time to squish and play with the Jell-O, Zach decided perhaps it would be worth a taste. He was pretty pleased with it!

Then he decided to throw his goldfish into the Jell-O!

I must admit, the cool blue definitely looked like water for fishes to swim in, so I thought it was pretty creative of him to come up with that! Of course after the goldfish crackers went for a swim, he decided to eat the Jell-O coated goldfish, and that idea was a little less appealing to me…

Of course, the activity ended like this, face first in the Jell-O. Because the Jell-O was both tasty and hard to pick up, Zach finally decided just to remove the middle man and go for a direct-to-mouth approach. This was accompanied by a lot of slurping, followed by a nice warm bath to get rid of the blue stuff.

Here’s what I learned from this activity:

1. Not everything is going to go as planned this school year. My Jell-O didn’t set up. Instead of tossing it out, I decided to see what Zach would do with this Jell-O. As I mentioned above, I will try to repeat the activity with completely set Jell-O in the future, but I feel like it’s going to be a completely different experience. This Jell-O, being very liquid, was incredibly difficult to pick up, which gave us more of an opportunity to do things like run our fingers through it as though it was a finger paint.

2. It’s important for Zach to lead the activity. I didn’t show him what to do with the Jell-O, instruct him to put the goldfish into the Jell-O, or anything else. Everything he did was purely the product of his own ideas of what to do with the Jell-O. This gives him a chance to be creative and to figure out exactly what he wanted to do with a very new and unique substance. He’s never felt anything like this before, so it gave him an opportunity to form his own conclusions and decide exactly what he wanted to do with it.

3. It was important for me to follow his lead. As the parent, I could have chosen to walk away and let him enjoy the activity himself. Instead, I sat there with him and decided to participate by following what he did. When he used his finger to draw in the Jell-O, I did the same. When he splashed the Jell-O, I mimicked his play. This gave him encouragement that he was doing the right things with the Jell-O, and gave him the confidence to continue exploring with it.

4. Sensory play should involve as many senses as possible. I like the Jell-O activity because it’s not just stimulating one sense, but instead, all five. Zach could see the bright blue Jell-O and visually notice what it looked like, that it was translucent, and perhaps a bit gooey. He was also able to touch it and reinforce what he was seeing. From there, he could hear the sounds that the Jell-O would make as he did various activities like splashing it. Even though it had a similar color and reflectivity as water, it didn’t sound the same, nor did it feel the same. He was also able to smell and taste the Jell-O, which helped him to understand more about what properties Jell-O has, and to realize that sensory play is something that involves each and every sense.

After trying this activity, I know it is one we will repeat again in the future. I also feel that it will be interesting to try the same activity with Jell-O that is actually fully set, because I think it will have an entirely different learning experience for Zach, due to a chance in texture and appearance.

What do you think? Have you tried a Jell-O activity with your kids? Tell me about it in the comments below!