Monday, December 30, 2013

How to Survive Winter Vacation

The actual title of this post is, "How to Survive Winter Vacation When the Kids are Sick, Your Spouse Can't Walk, and the Temperature is -2 Degrees Fahrenheit at Noon on a Sunny Day," but that seemed too wordy. You get the idea, though. We've been stuck at home a lot this break, and as a slacker mom hoping to turn over a new leaf (what a weird expression, by the way), I've been trying harder to keep the kids active with things that also give them the sensory input they seem to need. A few weeks ago, I posted a blog about the various sensory toys we've accumulated over the past several birthdays and Christmases. You can read that post here.

We're great about equipping them with sensory tools, but Ren and I aren't good with messiness. The kids have all sorts of chances to draw and build things, but we've been known to avoid activities that might stick to the floor or stain the carpet. This break, however, after realizing how much the kids love to play in sand and snow, and being reminded (repeatedly) by Stow's OT that he would really benefit from messy sensory play, I decided it was time to get over my own cleanliness issues.

The first step: Play-Doh. To our credit, we have Play-Doh in the house. We even have some of the doodads used to shape and cut the dough. Granted, these things have been played with a total of five times since we bought them when Sky was in preschool, but that's beside the point. A couple of nights ago I decided to get them out, so the kids could have a Play-Doh fest while I was making dinner. This went remarkably well, actually. They played quietly together for close to an hour--so much better than trying to stir fry while at least one child cries at my hip.

Proof that I let them use Play-Doh. Oh, and we were obviously having a family bad-hair day.
The next day, I decided it was time to try making a couple of sensory bins. A friend brought hers over to play one day, and my kids loved them. The ideas for hers (and therefore mine) came from a blog called No Time for Flash Cards. Check it out if you haven't seen it already.

I decided to make a Princess Bin (link) and a Construction Bin (link). First, I bought a couple of 15-liter clear plastic boxes with lids on sale for $3 each. Smaller ones might have been a little better for Stow's short arms, but I wanted to contain the mess. (To compensate for the higher sides of the boxes I just have him stand on a chair so he can reach over the edge.) Sky and I bought corks, paint stirrers, clothes pins, multi-colored sequins, princess buttons, pom-poms, and a container of beads at the craft store. Next we went to the grocery store where we bought a bag each of pinto beans, black-eyed peas, and white rice. Finally, we stopped at the dollar store and bought a small dump truck. Altogether, we spent about $35.

At home, Pink helped me put the bins together.

The construction bin. I'm still hoping to find a small power shovel car for this. The yellow beads are from a mixed assortment.
Big Sis likes this almost as much as Stow (maybe more).

The princess bin. The scooping cup and spoon are leftovers from Pink's birthday party. Sky and I found a set of six princess buttons (a castle, a carriage, a glass slipper, a horse, a dress, and a tiara) that Pink loves to dig for. Clear beveled beads are great "diamonds."

By dinner time, the bins had gotten several hours of play from multiple children. Not a bad investment. Best of all, the kids know how to clean up after themselves, so there was no mess.

Maybe hands on sensory play isn't so bad after all.


Two days later, I decided to try a couple of more sensory bins. The Arctic Ice bin seemed like a good match for the freezing temperatures here in the upper Midwest (click this link to the original post on No Time for Flashcards). We already had the Arctic Toob from Safari Ltd, so that was a bonus. To make this bin, I put water in my large cake pan, added a small bowl full of marbles (to weigh it down), and then placed the whole things on our back porch for three hours. Not only did the water freeze, but the snow accumulation on my pan of ice increased the realism for sure. The ice was good for well over an hour, and once the whole thing started to melt, Stow enjoyed blowing bubbles in the cold water (brrrr!).

Before the snow melted.

Another 45 minutes of group play with no crying or fighting.

Close up.

Stow experiments with freezing water (and ends up with a wet face).

Keeping with the winter theme (since it's minus degrees outside today and snowing again), the last bin I made is a Winter Sensory Bin (link). We have plenty of packing peanuts around! We added snow flakes, blue pom poms, ribbon, clear pebble-shaped marbles, and penguins. The older two liked using the clothes pins to pick things up and even racing to see who could pick up the most. Stow got a bit frustrated trying to master this skill that is still a bit beyond his years, but he liked burying the penguins in the "snow."
Trying to master the clothes pin.


Close-up of Winter bin.
Ren thinks I may be going a bit overboard with four bins in less than a week, but since I plan to rotate them, the kids shouldn't get bored any time soon. For now anyway, Stow is giddy every single time he sees the construction bin, and Pink can't get enough of the princess bin.

After I make a fairy one, I promise I'm done for awhile.


Because, duh, I told you I was going to make a fairy bin. This one I came up with on my own. It has butterfly sequins, flower buttons, feathers, beads from my bead assortment, and the same sticks and corks I used in the construction bin. It also has two bowls to serve as fairy huts and blue rocks to serve as a pond. I decided to avoid using pasta due to gluten issues. I've discovered the kids prefer hard smooth things to soft, fluffy things, so I decided to go with all white beans (lima beans and great northern beans) instead of cotton balls, which was my original plan.

Pink P immediately constructed a gate to a secret garden.
Building a secret garden. And then a doctor's office and a nursery for the baby.

Fairies from the Fairy and Fantasy Toob. Probably not worth the $8 I spent on them. Pink P is a tad freaked out by the baby fairy.

All the materials.

So, I'm pretty sure that's it. I've tapped the extent of my creativity. At least we have a few bins to keep them busy!


Jewel said...

Amazing ideas! Play-doh is the go to around here - mess or no mess!

Mom on the Edge said...

I'm not ready to jump into the really messy bins NTFFC describes, but these are definitely a start. Stow was absolutely giddy when he saw the finished boxes. I mean, happier than I've ever seen him about anything.