Play Dough Impressions CollageWhen it’s just too hot outside to play why not bring your Little Pnuts in for some cool play dough fun. Your Little Pnuts will have so much fun making impressions with their blocks & play dough they won’t even realize they are learning through play!

 

 

 

 

 

What You Will Need:

  • Blocks in Different Shapes & Sizes
  • Play Dough
  • Rolling Pin (optional)
  • Small Basket or Container to Hold the Blocks

Set Up

Gather your materials.  Use the rolling pin to roll out the play dough so it’s a nice large flat surface.  If you don’t have a rolling pin just flatten the dough out using your hands. Place the blocks in a small basket or container next to the play dough.

Explore

Invite your Little Pnut to use the blocks to make impressions in the play dough. Your Little Pnut will most likely know just what to do and begin experimenting on their own but if not , go ahead and show them by making a few impressions with the blocks yourself.  Talk about the different shapes or marks that the blocks are leaving in the play dough. If you have a younger Little Pnut this is a great way to turn a tactile sensory experience into a fun lesson on shapes. When the surface of the play dough is covered with impressions simply roll it out again.  If your Little Pnut is able go ahead and let them use the rolling pin.

Make a Game of It

Here’s my favorite part! Once your Little Pnut has had a chance to handle and experiment with the materials, make a game of it. This time you press the block shapes into the play dough to make the impressions and then return the blocks back to the basket. Now, ask your Little Pnut to find or otherwise match up the blocks to their play dough impressions.

Try a Fun Variation

As a fun variation, experiment and play the game with objects other than blocks like we did HERE. What kind of impressions do other objects leave behind?

Happy Playing!

 play dough collage 2

Developmental Milestones:

This activities focuses on the following Developmental Milestones for your Little Pnuts:

Fine Motor Skills, Focus and Concentration, Strategic Thinking, Color Recognition, Shape Recognition, Hand-Eye Coordination, Sensory Play, Tactile Sensory, Cognitive Development, Creative Play, Imaginative Play & Free Play.

—Jennifer Haas, founder of Plain Vanilla Mom.
 
 
 

If you are a parent or caregiver looking for activities for young children, you’ve probably noticed that “sensory play” is all the rage on kid blogs and Pinterest. There are even entire websites devoted to sensory play for little ones, and while they are full of creative ideas, you may find yourself asking, “Does my child REALLY need sensory play for development?”

To answer this question, let’s look at what we know about sensory play.

 

 

WHAT IS SENSORY PLAY?

Sensory play is simply play that encourages children to use one or more of the senses.  Often called “messy play,” sensory play experiences focus on stimulating children’s senses of sight, sound, smell, touch, taste, balance, and movement.

Research tells us…

  • Young children rely on sensory input to learn about their environment.
  • Sensory play helps build neural connections that support thought, learning, and creativity.
  • Sensory play supports language development, cognitive growth, fine/gross motor skills, problem solving/reasoning, and social interaction.
  • Children’s exposure to sensory play opportunities is declining.

WHAT DOES THIS MEAN TO US?

The first three points on the list above are pretty self-explanatory. In a nutshell, sensory experiences are like food for the brain…they provide valuable input that allows the brain to build new pathways that in turn support growth in crucial areas of development.

The fourth point, however, is what sheds some light on the answer to our original question, “Is all this REALLY necessary?”  You may be thinking, “My parents didn’t do sensory play with me, and I turned out ok!”  The fact is, our little ones spend much less time outdoors than their parents and certainly grandparents did as children.  Since the outdoors is naturally full of sensory play opportunities, this has definitely had a part in the decline of sensory play.  Secondly, although children can definitely fulfill their need for sensory play indoors when given periods of unstructured playtime with stimulating materials, the truth is that indoor time is often monopolized by television, battery operated toys, or toddler/preschool programs that focus on drilling academics rather than fostering important play skills.  This has resulted in a generation of children who may not even know how to play when given the opportunity…how sad is that?

So in short, the answer to your question is yes, sensory play is crucial for your child’s development. And since children today are no longer given ample opportunities for naturally occurring sensory play, it is up to us as parents to be sure their needs are met.

BUT WAIT!!  

Before you rush out and buy the materials to recreate every zany sensory activity you ever pinned on Pinterest, here are some much less time-intensive activities that you can do to enrich your child’s “sensory diet” without losing your sanity as well.

  • Play with sand, mud, water, shaving cream, cornmeal, water beads, dried or cooked pasta, dried beans or lentils, etc.  Provide a variety of containers, kitchen tools, and small toys for your child to explore with.
  • Sing and dance to music.  Use child-sized instruments, scarves, ribbon wands, etc. to encourage participation and engage multiple senses.
  • Build with blocks, empty cardboard boxes, or canned goods.  Knock down your towers and talk about the loud noises.
  • Add essential oils or extracts to play dough and compare all the different scents as you play.
  • Pick out a variety of fruits and vegetables at your local market (try to choose some that are new to your child).  Have a “sensory picnic” where you encourage your child to touch, smell, taste, and play with all the different produce.
  • Go for a walk in your neighborhood or in a wooded park.  Let your child stop and pick up leaves, sticks, rocks, or whatever else interests him/her.  If you want, bring a bag to fill with your “treasures” to bring home and make a collage with, or just simply to show to another family member.

MORE GREAT STUFF JUST FOR YOU:

To learn how to use fun sensory play activities to help get your toddler talking, check out Building Language with Sensory Play. (Link to- http://www.two-daloo.com/sensory-play-and-language/)

For an entire gallery of  sensory play ideas, click HERE. (Link to- http://www.two-daloo.com/category/play/sensory-play-little-minds-tot-school/)

Stephanie HaassLittle Pnuts Early Childhood Activities Expert & Blogger, founder of www.two-daloo.com

 

With Back-to-School it’s always great to have activities at home that reinforce and inspire your Little Pnuts love for learning at school. Here is a classic play dough activity that will have your Little Pnuts squealing with delight while also working on their fine motor skills- color surprise play dough!

 

 

 

What You Will Need

  • 1 cup flour
  • 1 cup water
  • 1/3 cup salt
  • 1 tbsp cooking oil (I’ve used canola oil, vegetable oil, olive oil, and coconut oil)
  • 2 tsp cream of tartar
  • Liquid watercolors or food coloring in several colors

Let’s Begin

To make your play dough, combine the dry ingredients in a saucepan and then add your water and cooking oil. Cook over medium/low heat, stirring constantly. Your play dough will quickly form a ball around your spoon; remove it from your pan and allow it to cool on some foil or wax paper.

After the play dough has cooled, it’s time to add your surprise to WOW your Little Pnuts!  Divide your dough into small balls, at least one for each of your colors. Next, poke a hole in each ball and squeeze a few drops of watercolors or food coloring into each hole.  Close the hole by carefully pinching it shut. Your play dough will not look any different but will contain a fun color surprise for your little ones to discover!

Let’s Play

Invite your Little Pnuts to take the balls of play dough and begin kneading and smushing them.  They will quickly discover the colored centers…encourage them to continue mixing the play dough until it takes on the color of the dye.  Then make some colorful creations with your Little Pnuts…the activity is limited only by your imagination!

*Note – Be sure to wear old clothes and prepare your play space for mess…food coloring and liquid watercolors may temporarily stain hands and/or clothing (but it’s soooo worth it)!

Developmental Milestones:

This activities focuses on the following Developmental Milestones for your Little Pnuts:

Sensory Exploration, Creativity and Imagination, Fine Motor Skill Development, Cause and Effect

 

—Stephanie Haass, Little Pnuts Early Childhood Activities Expert & Blogger, founder of www.two-daloo.com
 
 


Do your Little Pnuts love ice cream? Ours certainly do, and what could be a better way to beat the summer heat than ice cream pretend play? Here are five ways we have used the Hape Ice Cream Shop from our recent Little Pnuts shipment for pretend play, sensory play, fine motor development, and FUN!

 

What You Will Need

  • Hape Ice Cream Shop
  • Cloud Dough (Recipe below)
  • Sand
  • Shaved Ice
  • Homemade Syrup (Recipe below)
  • Ice Cream Dough (Recipe below)
  • Pom Poms in various sizes & colors

Variations of Play

Cloud Dough

Cloud dough, moon dough, snow dough –whatever you call it, this classic sensory medium makes the perfect pretend ice cream! To make it, simply combine 8 parts flour to one part vegetable oil (or any cooking oil). You can add Kool Aid, spices, or extracts to scent it and/or crushed chalk or powdered tempera paint to color it.  The dough is soft and fluffy but can be molded like sand…so fun!

Sand

Take your Hape Ice Cream Shop to the sandbox – your Little Pnuts are guaranteed tons of fun with very little preparation!

Snow Cones with Homemade Syrup

Since the Hape Ice Cream Shop is BPA and phthalate free, your Little Pnuts can use it to make their own tiny snow cones! We used shaved ice and made homemade syrup with this easy recipe (LINK: http://nateandrachael.com/snow-cone-syrup-recipe/) and had a blast with our icy treat!

Ice Cream Dough

We stumbled upon this sensory play recipe from our friend over at Play Create Explore (LINK: http://www.playcreateexplore.org/2013/01/ice-cream-dough-new-play-recipe.html) and have been having tons of fun with it this summer! To make it, simply combine ¾ cup hair conditioner (or lotion, which is what we had on hand) and 1 ½ cups cornstarch.  Add extracts and/or food coloring to make your perfect “flavor” and you have a fantastic dough that really and truly looks like ice cream!

Pom Poms

We have a giant stash of pom poms of all shapes, sizes, and colors that our Little Pnuts love to play with. They had a fabulous time scooping them out of the tub and “serving” their creations to the whole family one afternoon. This was an easy and awesome fine motor workout!

 

Developmental Milestones:

This activities focuses on the following Developmental Milestones for your Little Pnuts:

Exploration, Sensory Exploration & Development, Cognitive Development, Fine Motor Skill Development, Focus and Concentration, Creative Play, Pretend Play, Imaginative Play

 

—Stephanie Haass, Little Pnuts Early Childhood Activities Expert & Blogger, founder of www.two-daloo.com
 
 
 

Looking for a creative way to challenge your Little Pnut’s fine motor skills? Try spaghetti threading!  This is a fun activity that is easy to set up using items that you may already have in your pantry or craft closet!


 
 
 
 

 

 

What You Will Need

  • A few uncooked spaghetti noodles
  • Play dough
  • Small items to thread onto the spaghetti – we have used pony beads, Cheerios, colored pasta, etc.

 

Set Up and Play

Form your play dough into a large ball or mound.  Stick one end of your spaghetti noodles into the ball so you have a giant “porcupine.”  Show your Little Pnut how to thread the small items onto the noodles one at a time.

Variations

Younger Little Pnuts may have more success if you substitute thin dowel rods for the noodles and use larger beads for threading.  To make the activity more challenging, use multi-colored items for threading and turn it into a color-sorting exercise by assigning a different color to each noodle. Work on early math skills by drawing numbers out of a cup and having your Little Pnut thread the corresponding amount of items onto the spaghetti.  For groups of Little Pnuts, make it into a game by using a timer and seeing how many items each player can thread onto the spaghetti in 60 seconds.  The player with the most items is the winner! As always, we are proponents of learning through play, so if your Little Pnuts get bored with the structured activity, let them use the materials for free play – you might be surprised at what they can build with spaghetti and play dough!

 

Developmental Milestones:

This activities focuses on the following Developmental Milestones for your Little Pnuts:

Cognitive Development, Fine Motor Skill Development, Focus and Concentration, Sensory Exploration

 

—Stephanie Haass, Little Pnuts Early Childhood Activities Expert & Blogger, founder of www.two-daloo.com
 

 


Looking for a fun activity for the kids’ table this Thanksgiving? Your tots will love making these cute little turkeys using pinecones and play dough! Give your Little Pnuts a fine motor workout with this fun and easy activity.

 
 
 
 
 

 

 

What You Will Need:

  • Large Pinecones for the turkey “bodies”
  • Miniature pinecones for turkey “heads” (large acorns, pom-poms, or just a ball of play dough would work, too)
  • Play dough (any color)
  • Feathers and/or pipe cleaners (cut in half)
  • Google eyes
  • Small triangles of construction paper or craft foam for “beaks”

Making the Turkey:

Take a large pine cone and show your Little Pnut how to poke small pieces of play dough between the scales.  Next, take your feathers and/or pipe cleaners and poke them into the play dough, creating the turkey’s colorful tail.  Then, make a face on your turkey’s “head” using small bits of play dough to stick on google eyes and a beak, and for the grand finale, use a larger ball of play dough to stick the head onto the body.

For younger Little Pnuts, you may want to make the turkey’s head ahead of time and hot glue it onto the turkey’s body before doing the activity.  Older Little Pnuts will enjoy doing the whole activity themselves!  Be creative with your materials – have your Little Pnuts help you think of other items that could be used for the turkey’s feathers. Some we thought of include colorful pasta, cut-up straws, popsicle sticks, etc.

Developmental Milestones:

This activities focuses on the following Developmental Milestones for your Little Pnuts:

Fine Motor Skill Development, Hand/Eye Coordination, Focus & Concentration

Stephanie Haass, Little Pnuts Early Childhood Activities Expert & Bloggerwww.two-daloo.com