Impromptu Sensory Activities

Sensory activities are so fun for toddlers! We’ve tried them a couple of times in the past but our dear Dragon just tried to eat everything. We recently had a couple of days where the stars aligned and we had the perfect set-up for impromptu sensory activities without prior set-up or organization, without worrying about him eating the goods, and without too much mess – bonus! The first activity was sorting and rinsing black beans. Dragon likes to help with anything that involves being at the counter. He helped with sorting, then putting the black beans into the bowl a handful at a time.

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After I filled the bowl with water he enjoyed grabbing handfuls of beans and letting them fall back into the water. He proceeded to dump handfuls of them on the plate and counter and back into the water over and over and over again. Thankfully at 21mos he was able to help pick up all the beans that were a bit spread out at the end. He had so much fun experimenting with beans and water!

The next day he showed interest in exploring the spices that we keep on a Lazy Susan on our table. So while I was making dinner, I brought him up to the counter again and let him choose some spices. He could smell them in the bottle, then we would put a little on a plate to touch or taste.


He did decide to do some further experimenting with “rice” (table salt). He found it really fun to watch it pour out. That was a little bit of a chore to clean up, but well worth the learning experience.P1040422-001

What worked: Sharing tasks and tastes with my son was a lot of fun. He really enjoyed the change of pace.

What I would do differently: Next time I would put more dish towels down. They make clean up a breeze and you never know what is going to land where.

Helpful links, books, and websites
Articles on what sensory play is and why it is important:
PBS Kids Developing and Cultivating Skills Through Sensory Play Sensory Play

Teach Preschool Blog Everyday sensory play in preschool

Ideas for Sensory Play:
Creative Playhouse Blog ABCs of Sensory Play

Our Worldwide Classroom Blog More Sensory Tub Ideas

Teacher Tom Sensory tub blog posts

Creative Connections for Kids Why is Sensory Play So Important?

Play at Home Mom LLC Infant Sensory Play – Touch

Now it’s your turn. What are some of your favorite ways to sensory play?

Toddler Fear

Bee Photo

Image courtesy of SweetCrisis/

This is a story of learning that a fear in a toddler may not be how it appears.

Our 21mo recently developed a deep fear of bees. We haven’t been around bees or wasps since last summer so we aren’t sure where he got the idea that bees might be scary. On the first occurrence he started panicking, crying, and crawling as fast as he could towards us saying, “bee, bee, bee.” It was a month or two ago and he was playing near where we used to have a wasp nest. At the time it seemed to be an isolated incident. But last week he did it again. He started with one panic, then two and three, then he had a hard time getting to sleep that night. The next day it continued.

The first time it happened, we showed him comfort and acknowledged that he saw a bee and he was afraid.  After he panicked a few more times it became obvious that there weren’t any bees. We asked him to show us the bee and at first he wouldn’t, but after awhile he finally pointed to what it was. Once it was a piece of bird seed, another time a piece of lint, and yet another it was a cookie crumb on the floor. We were reading books and doing the bedtime routine and our son would stop every so often and say, “bee, bee.” It wasn’t in quite as much of a panicked voice, but there was still fear.

My husband remembered that our son had a stuffed bee that was given to him some time ago. We pulled that out, gave it to him and told him that it was a friendly bee. That seemed to help. I also told our son that there were no bees in his room. I pretended to spray bee repelant and said, “no bees, no bees.” I don’t think that really convinced him but he did eventually go to sleep after a half hour.

The bee fear continued the next day. Grandma and Grandpa were in town staying with us and after several episodes I realized he was using the bee fear as an excuse to run to me. He greatly enjoyed playing with Grandma and Grandpa but I think he was afraid of spending less time with Mommy. That night it took over an hour to get him to bed as he was afraid of the bee. The next day, Grandma and Grandpa left and we spent lots of quality time together. The bees suddenly disappeared. Not completely, but for the most part they were gone.

He still brings up the bees when he is in a situation where he feels scared. He showed it when I went into another room and he wasn’t sure where I went, when we had a playgroup to go to and he was anxious about it, and a few other times when I’m not sure what the fear was. There is still a problem every time I take a shower, but he isn’t in a panic, he just stands outside and says, “bee, bee, bee, bee,” and when I get out the bee is not mentioned again. Luckily I now know it is not a real bee he is fearing but that he does need me to draw him close and comfort him the best that I can.

What Worked:
Toys, stories, and pictures with bees where the bees are happy and friendly seemed to dissipate the immediate anxiety. (Thanks to some folks on a mama forum for thinking of this!)

Acknowledging his fear and anxiety of whatever the bee is symbolizing, drawing him close and letting him know that I am there and will stay with him until the fear is gone.

Finding other ways to release the energy he is spending on the anxiety, particularly playing hide and seek games that make him laugh.

What didn’t work:
Telling him the bee wasn’t there.

What I would do differently:
I would address the fear more intently immediately. If we had found pictures and toys before it was near bedtime, the bedtime troubles may have been avoided.

Now it’s your turn. Have you had a child with fears? What worked for you?

Relevant links, books, and websites:
Aha! Parenting
Helping your child with fear of bees – Phobia?

Baby Center
Easing Your Toddler’s Fears

Chronicles of a BabyWise Mom
Preschoolers and Fears

Sleep Talk for Children

Pouring Problem

PouringFor the last couple of months Dragon has truly enjoyed pouring his water and milk on the table. It seems like this experiment goes in phases. For us it started with the sippy cup then stopped for awhile and came back with the regular cup. There is something endlessly novel to our child about tipping a cup over, and in the case of the sippy cup, watching the liquid dot or stream out onto the table, or with the regular cup, watching the puddle spread and drip onto the floor. It appears to be an even better experience for him if he gets to finger paint in the liquid or spray it by putting his hands palm down and quickly moving them back and forth through the puddle. Sometimes he will just dump the milk straight on the floor. He doesn’t mind the clean-up. It is always worth it.

We have been thinking for weeks about how to trouble-shoot this problem. We give him very small amounts of liquid; ask him to keep his cup on the table, not pour out his milk etc.; ask him to help with cleanup (in a not-shameful way); get him away from the table as soon as possible when he is finished eating; generally give him a lot of attention when he is eating; and give him water play, pouring, and finger-painting activities when it isn’t meal time. None of this has worked.

There has finally been a small breakthrough. We had two ideas this week. The first one we tried is letting him pour his own water or milk. We are filling a small plastic measuring cup with a little liquid and letting him pour it into his cup. That worked for awhile but it seems the novelty wears off over the mealtime so the pouring gets messier. Tomorrow we will start trying the second idea which is serving his meal on a cookie sheet so if he pours and makes a mess it isn’t so difficult for us to clean up.

I find solace in knowing this little problem won’t last forever. It is also nice for me to think of it in terms of “experimenting” rather than creating a problem, but that doesn’t get rid of the mess all of the same.

What are some of your mealtime solutions?