Tag Archives: sensory

50 of our favorites from the Dollar Tree

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Around here we like to do crafts, sensory activities, and baking together, but we don’t like to spend a ton of money if we don’t have to, who does right? It may come as a surprise that a lot of the things we get for those activities are from the dollar tree.  Today I decided to share a list of our favorite things to buy from the dollar tree and what we use them for some of them you could probably guess and some may be things you would never really think about:

1. Hair Gel- We love hair gel, we use it for our Glitter Bags and also for sensory bins(dyed blue for water), I spy bags, and our Sensory Balloons

2. Dried Beans- We can usually find brown, white and red, and we love them all 🙂 We use these for sensory bins as well, we love the brown for rocks in the bottom of a nature bin, we also use them to make maracas, in our Sensory Balloons and for counting activities

3. Pipe Cleaners- You can use these for so many things, one of our favorites is flower rings which I am hoping to post about soon, but you can also string beads onto them, use them to make critters and so much more

4. Clay- They usually have the multi color packs, A loves to use that to make figures form video games and C loves to make shapes

5. Aluminum Pans- Baking with less clean up, to freeze the ice bricks in our Ice Brick Building Fun Post, making mud pies, to make special bubbles

6. Bubble Bath- There’s works surprisingly well, we love them in the bath and in the pool and to make the special bubbles I linked above

7. Pecans- They can be pricey in the grocery store but you can find them usually in a small bag at the dollar tree and save quite a bit, I wouldn’t buy them to eat plain but they are great for baking things like this Caramel Apple Pecan Pie

8. Glitter- which you may or may not want to use, I know some people consider it the herpes of the craft world, but if that’s herpes well we love us some lol, Glitter is too fun not to play with in my opinion, I am not sure there isn’t a way to use glitter, and we may have glittered far too many things in our days of fun

9. Ribbon- The ribbon I used in my DIY bow holder was actually from the Dollar Tree

10. Bubbles- because who doesn’t love bubbles?

11. Sidewalk chalk- which also works on black construction paper if you do not have sidewalks

12. Cotton balls- painting, doing nails, making Santa’s beard, fake snow, in our sensory balloons linked above

13. Stones- Sensory bin play

14. Water beads

15. Buttons

16. Instant coffee- dirt, mud, and in our coffee play-dohn

17. Measuring cups and spoons- for sensory play, water play, measuring, pouring, mixing, and as holders for paint and other small items

18. Construction paper

19. Glue

20. Craft sticks- so many things including crafts sticks letters

21. Drop cloths- to put under messy sensory play

22. Plastic animals- In many sensory bins, and play mat play including our jello ocean sensory bin and our Dinosaur play mat

23. sea shells

24. Fake flowers- we use them for mostly nature play like our Gardening bath tub

25. Beads

26. Balloons

27. Glowsticks- glow in the dark hunts, baths, and Balloons , light shows

28. Epsom Salt – A variety of options for sensory bins such as the dinosaur and ocean themed bins we made

29. Pasta- dry colored pasta bins, pasta necklaces, introductory cooking, and of course our Messy colored spaghetti pit

30. Food coloring- besides normal things we like to color bath water, epsom salt, and rice with it

31. Baking Soda- For a fun activity try out our Clay Volcanoes

32. Stickers

33. Coloring Books

34. Poster board- besides painting and coloring we like to use them as play mats after we decorate them

35. Vinegar- which is also needed for the volcanoes linked above

36. Glue sticks for glue guns(we even once found a glue gun there)

37. Picture frames- framing artwork or ideas like our 4th of July fireworks craft

38. Googly eyes- for making all types of fun creatures, including our rock friends

39. String, and yarn

40. Paint

41. Gems

42. Foam paint brushes and paint rollers

43. Bowls, and buckets- for sensory play, mixing, and storing

44. Cookie Cutters

45. Foam Sheets- not only for crafting but they make great bathtub toys, you can cut them to whatever shapes you want and they stick to the bathtub walls and eachother

46. Spices- we have used these as grass on a play mat, and for spice painting

47. Felt

48. At Christmas time- garland, jingle bells, mini ornaments, cookie trays, fake poinsettia plants

49. At Halloween time- plastic bugs, bats, ghosts, pumpkins, and gourdes

50. Feathers- for nature, sensory, and light table play

Do you have any Dollar Tree favorites?

Coffee Play-Doh

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coffee playdoh1

coffee playdoh2 coffee playdoh4

This here is a recipe for coffee play-doh, I tweaked a bunch of different recipes and this turned out great.  I love that for younger kids they won’t get hurt if they put it in their mouth, I also love that it isn’t sticky, cleans up easy, and can be saved for a good amount of time 🙂

What you need:
3/4 cup of used coffee grounds
2 Tablespoons of instant coffee(not used)
1 1/4 cup of flour
1/2 a cup of salt
1/3 cup of cooled coffee

Mix it all up, you can add a little more flour or cooled coffee if it doesn’t seem the right consistency

We all had a great time playing with this, and we stored it for 4 months in a ziploc bag, it kept fine, C liked to take it out and use it as mud for play with animals and figures as well

Jello Ocean Sensory Bin

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We love the Ocean around here, so we make a lot of Ocean theme bins and crafts.  This by far was one of our favorites!

jello ocean bin

I used Blue Raspberry Jello for the water.

This bin has 2 regular size packages and was prepared according to package directions

When the jello set I just added some of the shells from vacation and some of the sea life stuff we had

This was a huge hit with both munchkins, which doesn’t happen often, considering they are 7 years apart.

Jello Ocean Bin 1

This little guy was hiding from the shark

Jello Ocean Bin 2
Cue the shark lol

Jello Ocean Bin 3
We also explored the texture, feel, and smell of the “water”

Jello Ocean Bin 4

After the jello started to warm up we again reviewed the texture, feel, and smell of our “water”

Welcome to a Dinosaurs World, Sensory play

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We use a lot of poster board, foam paper and plastic animals around here, it seems that they are always being reused and almost always in new ways.

One way to use them is making a play land for dinos and bugs.

We chose a light brown poster board to resemble sand

I glued a piece of blue foam paper that I had cut into a pond shape, onto the poster board

I put some clear stones around half of the “water”

Added some cut pieces of wood, a stick and leaves

Added a patch of grass and a small cave house we purchased at the local pet store

Added some rocks, a small nest and plastic dinos and bugs we bought from the dollar tree

And boom hours of fun for the munchkins where the dinos have their own world.

dino setup

Simple quick sensory play ideas

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As you can probably tell we do a lot of sensory activities, and some of them involve a lot of set up, clean up or time in general.  I wanted to share some of the things we have done that are just quick and easy, but also a lot of fun!

#1. Add bubbles to the swimming pool
bubbles in pool

You could also add sea life, shells, bubbles to blow, a bubble machine next to the pool, fake flowers, cups bowls and a stariner

#2. Glow Balloons
glow balloons

This picture is kind of freaky, she looks like a ghost, but it showed the balloons best, just stick a glow stick in the balloon and blow it up, we used glow sticks from the dollar tree they came 10 in a pack and worked great I do recommend larger balloons and of course this works better in the dark, the original idea from this stemmed from a Play at home Mom post about glow hide and seek

#3. Add toys that you wouldn’t normally play with in the bathtub to their bath
bath time

These are foam magnet blocks purchased from discount school supply, but the options are basically limitless
Some Ideas: mega blocks, ponies, plastic animals, shells, plastic trucks and cars, a strainer, measuring cups, ball pit balls, fake flowers, dolls(not cloth), dinosaurs, foam shapes
This just switches up bath time and is a great way to give new life to old toys that aren’t played with often anymore

#4 more of a craft, but using chalk on black construction paper
chalkboard construction paper

A couple other ideas that I do not have pictures of:
1. Oats in a bin with any plastic toys
2. dirt in a bin with plastic trucks
3. water and ice cubes in a bin with penguins or polar bears
4. a water bin with droppers, measuring cups, and spoons
5. spices and condiments in muffin tins with a bowl for mixing
6. Yogurt or pudding paintin
7. throw pillows and blankets on the floor and see what they come up with

Do you plan on trying any of these? Have any ideas for another simple sensory activity? Please feel free to share and even link if you have a post on it 🙂

Epsom Salt Bins Ocean and Dino themes

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I LOVE epsom salt when it comes to play, I first discovered it as a sensory item on pinterest, through multiple sites, and fell in love because you can adapt it to make so many things, and you can get epsom salt from the dollar tree.  These are 2 of my favorite epsom salt activities:

A is really into the ocean, he wants to be a Marine Biologist when he gets older, so the quickest way to make him get involved in an activity is to use an ocean theme.  That is where this bin came from:
colord epsom salt
I colored the epsom salt blue, I use gel food color because I like the fact that you can use less of it
I filled it with Sea shells, plastic sea life, and green rocks that we also purchased at the dollar tree and added the  wooden tunnel that we got from the pet store.

C is gaga over dinosaurs so for her I made this bin:
colored epsom salt1

Again I colored the epsom salt,  but with green this time.
I added rocks, plastic dinosaurs and plastic bugs purchased from the dollar tree, a pinecone from outside, a piece of grass purchased from the pet store, and a wooden block(The husband made these by cutting tree braches into different size blocks, I love them because they have many uses, this is one of them)

These bins can keep children young to old occupied, I even played with them, and it allows them to use a lot of imagination, stay tuned for more epsom salt ideas

Nature and Bean sensory bin

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We love sensory around here and I have found you can use almost anything for it, This time we used Dry beans, stones, 2 plants, rocks and dinosaurs, C played with this for a very long time, Yes it was messy, No I didn’t care, all it took was a broom for cleanup and C helped.

bean bin

bean bin1
As you can see C decided to get into the bin, that is where it got messy, but she had fun, that is what matters right?

Ice brick fun

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It’s finally getting to be warm out, and ice is always a great way to cool down, so why not play with it?

ice bricks
ice bricks1

ice bricks2

For this activity I froze water in loaf pans, dixie cups and icecube trays, I left some of them plain but to most I added food coloring.
Once frozen you just pop them out and they can build with them, smash them, and play with them
It was a lot of fun and kept them cool while playing outside in the heat

This idea originally came from Play at home mom and was just adapted some :-) 

The Giant Bubble

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Have you ever wanted to play in a Giant bubble, or maybe your child gets hurt or sick a lot and you have threatened to put them in a bubble?  No? Well I have always wanted to and when I seen a post on play at home mom, I was super excited to make that dream come true, Played in Giant bubble CHECK!

Giant Bubble1
Giant Bubble2

giant bubble

giant balloon
Do you want to play in a giant bubble now?  We set this up inside, but this can also be used outside

Here’s what you need:
Plastic sheeting, you can get this at walmart and most hardware stores, I recommend at least 3mil
Duct Tape
A fan

Here’s what you do
Lay one sheet flat and the other one flat on top of it, Duct tape the sides together leaving a hole for the fan and a hole to enter and exit
Put the fan in one hole and tape the plastic around it

Note: Since we used a box fan we had to put it up on a chair, if left on the floor it caused the bubble to blow up off the ground 🙂

I had a bunch of munchkins that day and they were all entertained for hours, the brought in ball pit balls, baskets, paper tubes, and dolls

I even had fun playing in it, It was also nice to let the babies crawl in

*the children were supervised at all times, only you know what you are comfortable with when it comes to your child, if they may put their hands into the fan I recommend sitting yourself in front of it 🙂

Dirty Bath

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C loves when we mix bath time up with sensory time, and so do I because it makes clean up so much easier! For this activity I used about 1/2 cup already brewed coffee ground, a 1/4 cup fresh coffee grounds, and 2 cups of instant coffee grounds then added in some gardening tools, stones, lizards and a pine cone

1I let C get in with her clothes on with no water in the bath first, but a full watering can if you want an easier cleanup let them play naked 🙂
We were cleaned up within 5 minutes though and she had covered the bathtub walls with it