I’m so excited to write this post. We do soooo many engaging and absolutely beautiful sensory art activities for toddlers at our home, especially during play group. It was killing me that all the pics were just piling up on my computer and the thought of writing a post for each one was a bit overwhelming. So, I’m putting 10 beautiful and engaging sensory art activities for toddlers right here in one big round up. What makes them “art” activities, is that they are all inspired by color and an introduction to art materials. Some are super simple activities and some take a little more time and preparation. I guarantee there is something fantastic in here for everyone. At least that is my hope, my big big hope. If you’re looking for ways to bring more art and creativity into your child’s life and your own for that matter, here is a great place to start!
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Ice Cream Dough Bar – This one is an all time favorite. I’ve done it a few times for play group and the kids always love it. It’s simple to create, looks gorgeous, and is so much fun for imaginary play, vocabulary building, and fine motor development. Plus, everything is safe for small mouths. It’s all around awesome. See the full post on ice cream dough here.
Water Bead Sensory Bags – These are so awesome. Have you played with waterbeads before? They are soft, squishy, bouncy and super fun. You can order waterbeads here. I made the equivalent of two packages and then separated them into ziploc bags with a bit of water dyed with food coloring. I made them in rainbow colors and then sealed each bag super tight with matching duct tape. The trick to sealing these securely is to put tape on tape. In other words, cut off a piece of duct tape the width of the ziploc and place it with half hanging over the top of the bag. Turn it over and do the same thing with the sticky side touching the sticky side. This will seal it extra tight. Waterbeads are great to play with in a big tub or in lots of buckets but they aren’t safe for mouths, so for play group, I popped them in the ziplocs to use as sensory bags. The kids loved squishing them, using them as pillows and walking on them. They can last until the water fully absorbs and then eventually they will go down to their original tiny size and you can reuse them! How cool is that? Definitely put waterbeads on your todo list if you haven’t tried them before. Super fun!
2 Ingredient Yogurt Paint – Friends and readers are often asking me for the recipe to yogurt paint, which always brings a smile to my face because the recipe is as simple as simple can be. Get some yogurt, either plain or vanilla, scoop it into a bowl or container and add some food coloring. Mix it up. That’s it. You can see exactly how we make yogurt paint here. It’s perfect for babies and toddlers, unless of course they have dairy allergies, and in that case you can try coconut yogurt. We use yogurt paint all the time for play group on our paint wall. Gigi helps me make it. The colors come out beautiful and it’s really soft and smooth to paint with. I think we’re going to try it for body paint. I’ll let you know how that goes.
Homemade Marbled Rainbow Play Dough – I mean, how can you go wrong with the softest homemade rainbow play dough? I don’t know where I’ve been because homemade play dough blows store bought play dough out of the water and it’s really easy to make. Read more about how we made it here. One of the greatest things about homemade play dough is that it lasts for months. Just put it in a plastic bag in the fridge and you are set for a long time. I start with the dough in separate colors but after one play it’s all mixed up by the kids and I think it’s so much more fun like this. I like to make it into small, medium and large balls as an invitation to play, so this way kids don’t take the whole big chunk and there is enough for everybody. Plus, it’s a little easier to work with smaller amounts. Sometimes I put out typical play dough tools, other times I’ll add popsicle sticks, real sticks, beads, rocks, and anything else I find around the house. But always, I try to make it look pretty.
Working with Real Clay – Making Nests – I love giving toddlers real clay to work with. It is much more dense than play dough and takes a lot of strength to mold. Sometimes I put it out in balls, like the play dough. This time I made little nests and set out little birdies, which I absolutely LOVE adding into play. They are just so pretty and they do a great job of helping to ignite imaginative play. I also made little eggs from salt dough, added some rocks and little dinosaurs. There are so many things that would work for a nest. Leaves, sticks and flowers would be a great addition. I want kids to walk into our playhouse and say ooooh and ahhhh. That’s my goal when setting up an invitation to play or create. Not like the time I made logs from clay, set them all out on a tray and when Gigi came out to see it she said “Look mama, POOP!” Yeah, not going for that.
Painting Balloons – Balloons are so much fun and so colorful and happy. My girls love them and so did the kids at art play group. I strung up some balloons from the dollar store over our paint wall and set out the yogurt paint and a big tub of paintbrushes. If you are interested in buying paintbrushes for your kids, I like these paint brushes. Another time, I tied some helium balloons to rocks and let the kids paint upwards, which was pretty fun too. I haven’t had one pop on us yet.
Edible Waterbead Play – aka Dyed Tapioca Balls – We did this one recently and it was a HUGE hit! I couldn’t get over it actually because I had tried working with tapioca balls once before and it was a big fail. I figured out the trick. You need water. Without water the balls are sticky and gross. With water, they are squishy and pretty and super fun. I made two bags of tapioca balls, which took all of five minutes, just like it says on the bag. Then I put a bunch in a cup submerged in water and added food coloring for a few hours. I wanted them really colorful and vibrant. It worked really well. I put all the different colors in a paint tray and then submerged that tray in about an inch of water in a large tub I bought at ikea. Ikea has awesome tubs and they’re pretty cheap. I use these big ones all the time. I also store large paper and cardboard in one. Anyway, the kids literally played with the tapioca balls, spoons and water for 40 minutes. One little guy discovered they tasted great and had quite his share. Every time we turned our back, he was back in the tapioca balls!
Painting Dinosaurs and Rainbow Shampoo - I once took Gigi to this great mommy and me and they had a big dinosaur on a table for painting. I thought it was so cool so we gave it a try using yogurt paint. The kids really liked it. After the dinosaurs were fully painted we washed them in Dinosaur Rainbow Shampoo. Read the full post here.
Play Dough and Sprinkles – What’s not to love? Have I mentioned yet how anything with sprinkles seriously wins kids over? It works with my daughters all the time. They just love them and they come in so many cool shapes and sizes. Whenever I see them in a dollar bin, I can’t resist. Here is another example of a beautiful invitation to play that engages kids and has tons of great sensory play going on. This was how the homemade play dough started before it became marbled rainbow dough.
Process Canvas Art – This is another all time favorite and a staple at our house. Our play house is lined with beautiful canvas are by my girls. I buy oversized canvases any time I see them on a great sale. I love them and I love the freedom they allow my girls to experience. I’ve written a how to on canvas art with kids here.
Phew, that’s a lot of info. Seriously, if you do one of these activities you’re doing great. You’re doing great anyway, I just mean that sometimes parents can look at blogs and pinterest and all that and feel really overwhelmed and bad about themselves. I’ve been there! This is meant to help, not to put pressure on you! I love doing this stuff and I’ve made it a focal point of my life by choice. If you’re interested in doing more art with your kids, take baby steps. Start with play dough and see how it feels. I think you’ll see, it’s really doable. You’re a mom for goodness sake. You can do anything! So please enjoy and keep me posted in the comments below if you give any of these sensory art activities a try. I would love to hear from you!