I would not describe myself as a creative person. I can’t sing, paint, draw, dance, write poetry or stories or even choose an outfit than comes in anything other than monochrome. But I am quite good putting together sensory or messy play activities for Emily.
Small world tuff trays
I have done quite a few of these. The tuff tray is an amazing piece of equipment and we use it for all sorts. I love using them to create “small worlds” and with these come all sorts of other experiences.
These are really satisfying to make. I used to try and make them as sensory as possible by including things that made noises, or fresh herbs to give smell and taste sensations. Plus they are visually pleasing and give you a real opportunity to use some topical language. I sometimes make these to coincide with an activity we have done. For example I did the rockpool one a couple of days after we had visited the beach and the Sealife Centre. I did the zoo one after a visit and tried as best I could to replicate the animals and the layout of the zoo. This helps to consolidate experiences and form connections between the real and the imaginary.
Other tuff trays
Tuff trays are great for all sorts of other stuff too. They provide a great surface for messy play or for water or sand play. Here’s a few things I’ve used it for.
Easter egg hunt
Painting with yoghurt
Playing with foods (rice, pasta and potatoes)
We have also used it for gardening by planting seeds in milk cartons, as a car wash for cleaning the Cozy Coupe, as a paddling pool and all sorts. We love our tuff tray! It contains the mess and is easy to clean. The options for what you can use a tuff tray for are endless. It is great for exploring physics, such as textures, materials, capacity, gravity etc and developing skills. If there is something I want Emily to learn I just have a look around the house and see what I can chuck in it.
Setting up a themed tuff tray can take a lot of effort so I decided to do a mini version. We’ve got an IKEA Kallax shelving unit and I’ve decided to keep one or two of the sections free. I then set up different toys in this space with a different theme. Sometimes it is a small world idea, like a farm or creepy crawlies. Other days it might be something like weather or making a noise or getting dressed. This is also a great way to circulate toys and make sure that all toys get played with.
These are great! I love jazzing up a bath time by chucking in a few bits and pieces. Our favourite things have been when we have had a bath in the dark and used light up toys. We’ve played with flashing ice cubes and glow sticks. Unfortunately I don’t have any pictures to share as the ones I do have all contain a super smiley naked Emily. But sensory baths are a good way to encourage water play and water confidence. It helps children learn about why things float, how water moves and they can manipulate it. Plus you can distract them with a glow stick whilst you wash their hair!
Really easy to make and fun to play with. Basically just a clear plastic box with some fairy lights in it.
We have use a light box to explore colours, shapes and shadows. We’ve painted on them and seen how the thickness of the paint affects the amount of light that comes through. We’ve changed the colour of the lights inside to see how that affects the colours of other objects. There’s so much explorative learning that can be done and the whole thing costs about a fiver to make. Although you’ll get through batteries pretty quick.
Other sensory toys
I’ve made several other sensory toys too. When Emily was little I made sensory pouches.
These allowed Emily to explore playing with small objects without me worrying that she was going to eat them and choke. As an added bonus they were squidgy and felt sort of cold.
I’ve made various sensory and calm down jars too. These are my weather sensory jars:
We try and match them up to the weather outside. Emily also likes shaking them and watching the things move around inside and seeing if they make a noise, because they are round they are good to roll too.
These are my rainbow calm down jars. Each jar has something different in it. Each thing looks different, moves differently and can be used to represent different emotions or temperatures or seasons. Again simple to make but if I was making them again I’d have used better bottles. These are a bit flimsy.
Well that is that! That’s how I channel my creativity that I never thought I had. I make random stuff for Emily to play with. Feel free to steal any of my ideas, I probably stole them from someone else anyway. Also if you need inspiration on a theme, feel free to ask. Chances are I’ve got an idea that you might like. 😊