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.
 
 
 

Bring a little luck o’ the Irish into your home this St. Patrick’s Day, with these darling DIY Salt Dough Shamrocks both you and your Little Pnut will enjoy making together. You’re sure to have a visit from a Leprechaun, or two, with these hanging about the house.

 

 

 

 

 

What You Will Need:

  • 1/2 cup salt
  • 1/2 cup warm water
  • 1 cup flour
  • Shamrock shaped cookie cutter
  • A straw
  • Various colors of green paint
  • Ribbon or string
  • Paint brushes
  • Baking sheet
  • Mixing bowl
  • Cutting board
  • Rolling pin

Make & Bake the Salt Dough

To make the salt dough, mix the flour, salt and warm water together until a soft dough forms. We like to get ours started in the bowl and then finish kneading it on a floured cutting board until it’s just the right consistency. It should feel a bit like soft play dough. Little Pnuts love doing the mixing so let your Little Pnut get their hands into that dough!

Next, help your Little Pnut roll out the dough on a floured surface. Using a shamrock cookie cutter have your Little Pnut cut out shamrock shapes.

Important: If you want to hang your shamrocks, this is the time to use a straw to poke a hole in the shamrocks before baking. Don’t forget to remove the straw before baking though.

Place the salt dough shamrocks on a cookie sheet and bake them at your oven’s lowest setting until they are completely hardened.  Usually around 250 degrees fahrenheit and about 2 hours but it could take more or less depending on how thick your cutouts are. Check them every hour and turn them so they don’t get too brown. Once they are completely hardened remove them from the oven and let them cool.

Paint Your Shamrocks

Once your shamrocks have cooled completely they are ready to paint. Present your Little Pnut with some green paint and let them have fun painting their shamrocks.  The more shades of green the better! We ended up with some with a beautiful swirled marble effect on some of ours by mixing multiple shades of green.  Once the paint is dry string some ribbon and hang your shamrocks.

Try a Variation: Add a little green food coloring when you are mixing your dough and you’ll have green salt dough shamrocks you can either hang as such or paint further.

Most importantly have fun! Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

Happy Playing!

 

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, Cognitive Development, Creative Play, Imaginative Play & Free Play.

—Jennifer Haas, founder of Plain Vanilla Mom.
 
 
 

Colored pasta is a fantastic medium for a whole host of activities. Even coloring the pasta can be loads of fun for your Little Pnut so be sure to let them take part in the process.

 

 

 

What You Will Need:

  • Dry pasta in as many shapes or sizes as you want
  • Liquid water colors or food coloring
  • Hand sanitizer
  • Plastic zip lock style bags
  • Trays, cookies sheets or plates for drying
  • Paper towels

Choose Your Pasta

There are lots of shapes and sizes to choose from. We recently colored these little pasta wheels and having been using them in all sorts of ways.

Color Your Pasta

There are few different ways you can color pasta. We love the vibrant colors that using liquid water colors produces so more often than not that’s what we choose.  To color the pasta your desired amount of pasta in a plastic zip lock style bag (we usually start with a cup or two for each color). Then  add a few squirts of liquid water-color and shake until it’s the pasta is thoroughly coated. Your Little Pnut will love the job of shaking the bag, of that I am sure!  If the color isn’t vibrant enough add a little more liquid water-color. Better to start with just a little at a time and add more if necessary as too much wet will begin to make the pasta sticky.

If you don’t have liquid water color you can color your pasta using a few pumps of hand sanitizer and a few squirts food coloring. We prefer gel food coloring because it tends to yield more vibrant results.

Dry Your Pasta

This step is important! Line cookie sheets or other trays with paper towels. Spread your freshly colored pasta out separating any pieces that might be stuck together and leave it to dry. We usually let ours dry overnight before handling it but a few hours should do the trick.

Play, Explore & Create

The possibilities are almost endless. You can use your pasta as sensory bin filler. It’s great for color sorting. It can be used for art work in various ways. Our Little Pnuts like gluing pasta shapes on paper to make pictures or collages. It can be strung on cord for jewelry.

Happy Playing!

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, 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

 

Having a hard time keeping your Little Pnuts away from the Christmas tree this year?  Give them their own sticky trees to decorate!  This easy-to-prepare holiday activity is the perfect mix of sensory play, creativity, and fine-motor fun.

 
 
 
 

 
 

 

What You Will Need

  • Green poster board or card stock
  • Transparent adhesive shelf paper
  • Tape
  • Assorted “trimmings” for the tree- yarn, pom-poms, buttons, sequins, feathers, etc.

Making the Trees

Take your poster board or card stock and roll it into a cone, taping in place.  Trim around the bottom of the cone with scissors to make it level enough to stand.  Now, take your shelf paper and cut it into large strips.  Peel the backing off the paper and wrap the strips around the tree adhesive side out, taping in place as needed.

Time For Fun

Once your trees are covered, it’s time to have some fun!  Set your Little Pnut up with an assortment of interesting items to stick on their trees. As they decorate, provide language support by discussing the different colors, textures, and sizes of the items. Younger Little Pnuts will enjoy sticking the items on the trees and taking them back off, too! Make the activity into a game with older Little Pnuts by having them follow simple (“Put the feather at the top of the tree”) or more complex (“Put the yellow star beside the green feather”) directions. This is a great activity for targeting prepositions (position words, i.e. beside, under, on top).  Have fun and be sure to proudly display your Little Pnuts’ creations when they are done!

Developmental Milestones:

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

Language Development (Adjectives, Prepositions, Listening Comprehension), Fine Motor Skills, Hand/Eye Coordination, Focus & Concentration, Imagination/Creativity

 

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