Typically, my daughter seems to enjoy ‘non toys’ more than her proper toys – mobile phones, tv remotes, coasters – though she does love shaking her rattles around so I had a little brainwave to make her a simple ‘rainmaker’ rattle. An empty (clean) bottle and some (uncooked) rice later… voilà! She loves it! So I looked on Pinterest for some more ideas…
1. Marbles. I got some marbles and put them in an empty bottle. Simple. This is her favourite as it’s really loud when she shakes it!
2. Water. Just plain old water from the kitchen tap. It makes a great noise when being shaken around, and it can be made more exciting with a few drops of food colouring (or fruit squash even!).
3. Water beads. I have two bottles with these in. One is full of water beads and we can watch the air bubbles weave their way up through the multicoloured beads. The other has less beads in and some baby oil in the water – I hoped to make something like a lava lamp, but failed. It looks pretty though!
4. Rice. Our original rice bottle got pimped with some multicoloured rice (see this post for how I made it).
I haven’t got round to making any of the fancy Pinterest ideas with glitter and tinsel and stuff, but the good thing about these bottles is that they can be changed quickly and easily, so when my daughter tires of these ones, I’ll be able to make some new ones to retain her attention.
Making multicoloured rice is so easy to do, though a little fiddly – an upgrade to the humble grain of white rice!
You need… rice (obvs), food colouring and ziplock bags. Put the rice in the bag, add the food colouring (a little at a time to get the colour just right) and shake the bag. Then comes the fiddly bit: tip the rice out onto a paper plate or some greaseproof paper – the rice likes to stick to the inside of the bag- and leave it to dry.
Is this how you get the grains of pink rice in the Indian takeaway rice?!
For my first attempt I just raided the kitchen cupboard and found some ancient red, blue and green food colouring I had. I didn’t attempt to mix any colours, it would probably be easier to just buy the different colours! The red came out brilliantly but the blue and green are a little pale. Also the red dried so quickly in a few hours, whereas the blue and green took several days to dry out completely – they were different brands (Langdale and Tesco respectively) so I assume that’s why.
For now I’m using the rice in some homemade shakers, but when the baby is older (and less likely to try and eat the uncooked rice) it could be used in sorting or pouring games and all sorts of other activities. If kept in a ziplock bag or airtight container it should last for ages too. You can also do the same with oats, which may be a little safer if the baby attempts to eat them!
At a lot of the baby groups I’ve been to over the past months, sensory scarves have been a common feature, so I ordered a set for home from Amazon (I searched for juggling scarves) for a few pounds. I received more than I expected, with a pack of 12 scarves, so have made two games for my daughter using them.
The first is a simple ‘hack’ of the play arch that she’s no longer interested in (well, except knocking it over or trying to pick it up!) where I threaded scarves through it. She crawls through it or sits in front of it feeling the scarves with her hands or face, or just tugs them all free!The second game uses a carrier bag holder I found in Poundland – originally intended to hold cuddly toys, but they’re too big and too many for it. I push the scarves inside it for the baby to pull out through the holes. It’s such a basic idea but it holds her attention whilst she practises her ‘pincer grip’ to pull out the scarves. When she’s got them all, I celebrate by throwing the scarves in the air for her to watch flutter down, or we play games where I hide them in my fists or clasped hands for her to find.
I’ve bought or been given lots of books for my little girl but had nowhere to put them in her bedroom; it’s far too small for a freestanding bookcase. Whilst having my daily browse of Pinterest and looking up ideas for nursery decor and baby play, I kept spotting the same pin, which was for a reading corner using Ikea spice shelves as bookshelves.
At only a few pounds each, the spice shelves are so cheap, but really effective as they display the books nicely rather than just seeing the spine of them, and as they’re bare wood, you can paint or varnish them any colour. I chose white as I had a tin of white satinwood paint lurking at the back of the garage, though I do regret using it; gloss paint takes ages to dry in between coats, and these needed three.
I painted each part of the shelf individually before screwing them together, but in hindsight assembling them before painting may have been a better idea.
I chose to turn one shelf upside down to display some kitsch ornaments I had as a child and to hang some decorations from, but it can easily be turned around to use for more books if needed. I think this is a really cheap but effective idea!
Whilst browsing for baby sensory ideas, I spotted this pin for mess-free art – as I mentioned in my last blog post (here) I’m not ready for too much mess just yet! – and this seemed like fun. So off I trooped to Poundland to pick up some paint and I spent a few minutes setting up the paper, paint and cling film: a bit fiddly but nothing too strenuous.
I set up the painting on a tray in the garden as it was a nice day and the baby’s high chair tray isn’t at quite the right height.
Well let’s just say that Pinterest does make these things look so easy!
Firstly, the baby was more interested in the tray than squishing the paint around to make some beautiful art. Even me demonstrating didn’t help.
Also, paint from Poundland… you certainly get what you pay for. It’s very watery so soaks through the paper.
I’ve since seen a version where you use a zip-lock bag rather than cling film, and tape it to a window or high chair tray. That does seem fiddly but I may give it a go some day. I was able to make something from the ‘art’ though…
Now that my little girl can sit up really well unaided and is interacting more with her toys, I decided to try out some different baby sensory games with her. This week it has been all about the treasure basket.
Treasure baskets are simply baskets (or boxes or any other small holding device) filled with different baby-friendly objects for babies to explore. Ideally the objects should be a range of textures, materials and shapes to stimulate their senses, and things you can just find around the house. I like mine to have a different theme and I find a book to follow along with the theme, so we can read it afterwards as a ‘plenary’ (I’m a teacher, I can’t help it!).
Here are a few examples of my treasure baskets:
Animals… in this basket I put a small fabric book, a butterfly teething toy, a wooden dinosaur, two finger puppets and a Peter Rabbit rattle/soft toy.
Musical instruments… this had a few rattles, bells and shakers to make a lot of noise.
It’s been fascinating to sit back and watch my baby explore these treasure baskets and take each item (including the basket!) to find out more.
Here’s a sneak peek of tomorrow’s treasure basket with its dinosaur theme.