2 Fun Sensory Toys That Are Just Right for Little Hands

While it's impossible to pinpoint exactly who invented the concept of sensory toys, special education settings have made use of them for some time. Designed to focus on specific senses, they have shown an innate ability to attract and hold attention, helping children to relax, engage in fun, or even calm down from a tantrum.

Although they work especially well for those with special needs, toddlers can also benefit from a steady diet of sensory play, as most of the learning they do is through touch, smell, sight, or sound. In this article, you'll learn how to make two quick sensory toys that are ideal for daycare settings, living rooms, and playrooms everywhere.

Rainbow Bubble Bath

This project can be made in a large plastic storage tub or the bathtub--the latter of which is probably only appropriate for use at home. That being said, the bathtub does make for incredibly easy cleanup!

All you need to get started is a four-pack of food coloring, some clear bubble bath, and a bathtub to enjoy it in. Don't have food coloring or bubble bath on hand? That's okay: use non-toxic, liquid watercolor paint and dish soap instead.

Start by adding just an inch or two of water to the bathtub. Next, stir in 1/2-cup of soap solution. Using an ordinary kitchen whisk, whip the mixture vigorously until it begins to form soft peaks.

Once you have a nice, even layer of foam, it's time to add the magic. Start by scooping out a small amount of the foam itself from one end of the bathtub. For best results, place it into a plastic tub you're not particularly concerned about, as the paint or food coloring may stain slightly. You don't want to dye the foam directly in the bathtub, as it takes far too much dye and has a tendency to bleed out before you can mix it in really well.

If you're using food coloring, simply add a few drops and use the whisk to mix the foam up until you get the color you want. If you're using paint, you may need to thin the paint itself in glass before adding a few drops to the foam. Ideally, you want it to be about the consistency of water. Add the watered-down paint to the foam and mix as you would with the food coloring.

Next, return the small amount of colored foam to the bathtub, mixing it with as much or as little of the remaining foam as you want. Some choose just a few colors while others create a "rainbow" of colored foam. Multiple shades can be swirled together for a beautifully chaotic sensory experience.

Want to make things even more exciting? Toss in a few handfuls of craft glitter once you're done.

Create a Calming Fairy Bottle

This quick and beautiful sensory craft is easy to make. Better still, it's perfect for moments when children can't seem to calm down from a tantrum. Borrowing from glitter wands in the 1980s, and lava lamps in the 1970s, fairy bottles make use of water, a bit of glycerin, a container of clear craft glue, plenty of glitter, food coloring, and almost anything else you can dream up to create a snowglobe-like experience for little hands.

The key to making them for little hands is to think little--don't reach for a giant jar or gallon jug. Instead, the next time you grab a bottle of water at the store, grab a brand with a tall, smooth-sided bottle and save it when you're done. This is the ideal fairy bottle home.

Start by rinsing it out well in the sink. Then, fill it with hot water, making sure to leave enough space for the craft glue. Add this, and then add a few drops of glycerin, screw the lid back on, and gently rotate the bottle to ensure that it's mixed well.

Next, unscrew the cap. Add in any coloring you might want—it's not necessary, but can add a delicate hue of blue, pink, or any other shade. If you do add coloring, be sure to replace the lid and gently rotate-mix the contents until it's dispersed before you continue.

From here, you can add just about anything that's interesting:

  • Small toys, like army soldiers or plastic animals
  • Sequins
  • Copious amounts of glitter
  • Small foil cut-outs like gold stars
  • Foil confetti
  • Beads

The more sparkle and shine, the better! Once you've added everything, pop the lid back on and shake for maximum effect! 

Fairy bottles can be especially helpful for children who are transitioning to daycare for the first time. It gives them something to keep with them throughout the day or calm them down and delight them all at the same time. To personalize the bottle, write your child's name on a small ribbon and tie it around the top of the bottle. Most daycares will allow these as long as they are well-fastened and made of plastic, not glass. 

It's no secret that children learn through play. Whether it's sensory or social, the right daycare can help your little one to make friends, grow, and gain new experiences each time they visit. Whether it's just for a few sessions a week, or you need supportive, gentle care while you finish out your work day, local daycares like Kid's Country Child Care & Learning Center can help.