Arctic indoor sensory bin activity

Continuing on with our Antarctic and winter themed play activities today I decided to make Arlo up a messy sensory bin of icebergs…. but instead of using a tuff tray outdoors I used a storage container which has a depth of about 20cm which is enough to contain the mess for indoor play.

You will need:

  • A storage box
  • Slime
  • Orbeez
  • Various plastic containers
  • Plastic Animals
  • Water

This was an activity which required a little bit of forward planning but because Arlo loves ice I’m in the habit of freezing things most evenings anyway. My initial idea was to just make huge ice blocks but I fancied a little bit of colour and so I threw some left over orbeez from a previous activity in to some plastic cups, cups, ice cube trays and as many containers as I had space for in the freezer.

They freeze quite nicely in to blocks and then it was simply a case of mixing up our slime stuff and popping our icebergs in to the container before placing the animals in and around, and the letting Arlo loose to play.

I know that Arlo loves this slime stuff and playing with water and cups etc as we usually use it in the bath – so I made this mixture up with half the water required and also provided cups and a jug of warm water – this meant that as water was added the ice bergs melted – the orbeez were released in to the mix and we ended up with a colourful sensory experience.

The best thing about using these under bed storage boxes is that they come with lids so after the play this morning we covered it all up, and then came back to it again this afternoon. I like to try and make the most of these big sensory bins when we use lots of materials so I’ll pop this stuff in to his mud kitchen or on his tuff spot outdoors tomorrow for some more messy play fun.

A snow dough tinker tray

Continuing on with our winter themed activities I have made a batch of snow dough, Thai is slightly different to our usual play dough recipe and has a texture which is a bit like kinetic sand. I added glitter and provided Arlo with a tinker tray and invited him to build snowmen with me.

You will need:

  • One cup of oil
  • Two cups of cornflour
  • Glitter

The secret here is to add the cornflour to the oil and not the other way round because it’s easier to mix it all up. Cornflour is the stuff we use to make oobleck and it’s non Newtonian texture means that it creates an unusual dough texture – its crumbly and flaky but makes fab snow balls. I use baby oil but if you have little ones who still mouth things then you can use vegetable oil just as well. Mixing the ingredients together is a part of the fun for little ones so roll your sleeves up together and get stuck in.

For alternative themes you can add food colouring and scents/flavours to your dough to create a more sensory experience.

I like to use “tinker trays” when we play with dough, they are party platters from Asda. I fill the compartments with random bits and bobs to suit the theme – so with the idea of building a snowman in mind I rummaged around and I found matchsticks for arms, pipe cleaners for a scarf and then various buttons, plus beads and sequins for facial features – and some cotton wool and buds just because they were to hand.

When we do things like this it’s always interesting to see how Arlo interacts with the pieces. I like to make an “example” ready for him to copy and give him an idea of where to start. Sometimes he pushes me aside and wants to completely get involved. Other times like today he sat beside me and gave me orders…. but didn’t want to actually touch anything at first.

He asked for a dog and so I moulded a shape and then he took over and added the button nose, Google eyes and pom-poms himself. He’s come back to the table two or three times to have a play and quite likes the matchsticks but insists that he doesn’t like snowmen so we’ll have to see where we end up. I’m going to try a different type of dough with cornflour later this week so we’ll see how we get on with this.

Melted snowman cookies

Here’s a really simple way to incorporate winter in to your baking….. melted snowman cookies.

You will need:

  • Cookies
  • Icing sugar
  • Marshmallows
  • Food colouring pens

I made a batch of cookies using our three ingredient sugar butter and flour recipe but you could just as easily use a digestive or similar biscuit as a base if you’re short of time.

Simply decorate your marshmallows with your icing pens – orange for noses, black for coal mouths we used blue for eyes – unfortuanlty some of our snowmen didn’t make it last this stage and were consumed as they were!

Stick the marshmallows to your cookies with some icing made up as per the pack instructions and gently spooned over the cookies – the messier the better to create the dripping snow effect.

Winter themed eyfs messy play ideas craft projects for kids

Ice skating messy play tray

This is another really simple ice tray play and one which requires very little set up – inspired by our trip to Warwick Castle where we saw a real life ice rink!

You will need:

  • A flat baking tray
  • An ice cube tray
  • Water
  • Small plastic animals
  • Gellibaff slime
  • A large play tray

Overnight I froze water in a flat baking tray and popped some plastic animals in to an ice cube tray, with half submerged and half not. These set hard and in the morning I mixed up a sachet of gellibaff to create a base on our play tray and make a slightly raised hill to rest the sheet of ice upon. I used a bit of warm water to make the ice slippy and test out our skaters and then I let Arlo loose.

Of course Arlo wanted to race the ice skating animals down the slope and so he took them all neatly off to prepare, experimenting carefully comparing the flamingo to the gorilla and the walrus to the owl – I’ve no idea which animal ended up winning the ice skating race but it was fun trying. As the ice melted away this ended up being another small world environment for the animals and the play continued until we had to clear the tray away to eat at the table.

Holi Powder colour run party… in snow!

If you’ve been following our adventures for a while you will know we love colour – holi powder is one of our favourite things to play with. Last year we had an “over the rainbow” party for Arlo’s birthday at the end of the first lockdown and it went down a storm and so what better way to end the year than with another explosion of colour – even better when the snow arrived unexpectedly to provide an awesome blank canvas for us.

You will need:

  • Holi powder
  • Paper cups
  • Messy clothes
  • Wet wipes

It’s almost as simple and chucking colour at each other in an unorganised fashion. As we have done this so many times I know that it doesn’t last a very long time if you don’t have a little plan, so I’m going to share my top tips. First of all – make sure you have a big open space and give yourself as the adult a base to work from.

I order packs of Holi powder from Amazon in a variety of bright colours – I’ve used various different brands and prefer to go for the ones which are made from natural ingredients and dyes, as then wash away and cause no danger to the environment and also come out of clothing and Arlo’s blonde hair because he is always the one who ends up covered. Read the reviews and check the ingredients before hand – do a patch test if you need to.

The packs of powder go a long way if you divide them up and that’s where the paper cups come in…. in the past I have given kids whole packs and sprinkled it in to hands but it lasted about ten minutes but paper cups work best for us….. for this event I pre filled about twenty cups and placed them all around the area of ground so the kids when they arrived had to run and find the cups to throw them…. this made the play last longer and gave them more of a strategic colour war game to play – when you Chuck the powder in the air you get lovely clouds of colour, and the little ones can achieve this effect with cups too – once this first batch of cups was empty, at my base the kids could return cups for refills and then try and catch each other.

There is just something so fun about this and seeing the kids shriek and mix colours together in the air and on each other’s clothes is exhilarating. You can’t help but join in. The snow added another element as we picked up snow to make rainbow snowballs and continue with the colour experiments and just pelting each other for fun.

Like I said, Arlo is usually the one who ends up covered head to toe in colour and he just loves it! The kids had a little competition at the end to see who could collect all the cups back for a prize of some sweeties and then just like that our crazy hour was over. Just like 2020 and what a way to say goodbye to that year!

January brings the snow messy tray play

Kicking the first Monday in January off with an icy themed tray play. A really low prep activity using resources we already have and adding a twist.

You will need:

  • A flat tray
  • Water
  • Freezer space
  • Tin foil
  • Paint
  • Brushes
  • Animals
  • Loose parts
  • Paper plate

So it’s as simple as adding water to a tray the night before you intend to play. I opted to line a tray with tin foil as I wanted to make sure it was going to look icy and shiny. My top tip here is to pop the empty tray in the freezer and add water with a jug rather than spill water everywhere.

I set Arlo up with some cool paint colours (blue, purple and white) on a paper plate along with some brushes and some Antarctic animals. We’ve been watching lots of David Attenborough as we can’t get out to our favourite places being in tier 4 right now so we have an odd mix of creatures to play with.

We learnt that as we applied paint to the ice it “dried” or froze instantly – we could make animal tracks and tap/slide across the ice. Then we began dipping brushes in water which made some lovely drip effects and patterns in the ice, as well as decorating some stars with the colours too.

Eventually the ice cracked and we did some pretend play with a “naughty walrus” smashing and breaking up the ice – eventually were left with a tray of icebergs and sheet ice for penguins to jump off, polar bears to slide down and a whale shark to hide underneath just like our ice rink before Christmas.

This provided a decent hour of play before the ice melted, with lots of different layers of interaction and independent play. I’m going to repeat this with different variations of colours and accessories to see how we get along.