Saturday, August 24, 2019

How to Build the Perfect Sensory Bin!

Fall is right around the corner! 

I am really excited for this fall for a number of reasons:

1. I love fall and everything about it! The cooler weather, the boots, the PSL (it comes back on the 28th, don't worry, I asked. You're welcome), everything!

2. Cohen starts preschool this fall and we are a bag of mixed emotions over here. He will be going 3 days a week from 9-12. It will be a crazy adjustment but I think he's going to rock it!

3. Fall also means back to our routines and toddler school! We always take a break in the summer due to all the craziness with travel, good weather and the general overheated laziness that overtakes our family. By August though, we are all feeling it and ready to get back into our normal routines.

4. Since big brother will be in school part time that means mama will get some much needed (and wanted) one on one time with Avery. I can't wait to do all the toddler school activities with him that I got to do with big brother when he was younger. I am really looking forward to this special time with my baby and I can't wait to watch his love of learning grow just like brother. 💙

With the new school year starting here at Confessions I wanted to share how we do sensory tables! We use sensory table religiously. I swap ours out every week to fit our changing themes and we love them. If you're new to sensory tables or don't know where to begin - don't get overwhelmed and just have fun with it! Also remember Rome wasn't built in a day and in that same breath your toddler won't be responsible with the table right off the bat, it takes learning! Our first few sensory tables ended up ALL over my couch/carpet. 

Whether you're a seasoned expert when it comes to sensory tables or brand new, I'm going to share some of my favorite tips and tricks for building the perfect sensory table. 

The Basics
First things first, you need a place to contain all those fun sensory learning experiences. You can buy one on amazon, make your own or totally just use a plastic bin! Whatever works for you! Personally I built one! I wanted to have a dedicated table the boys could stand at and explore. It also breaks down for travel AND has a lid. We've also added decals to the lid to make a play stove top, turned it upside down and filled with Christmas lights to make a light box and even taken it outside to double as our water table! I love how versatile it is! We made ours 4 years ago and it's still going strong!

Now I know that sounds like it's probably super fancy, but trust me when I say that me building anything is laughable so if I can do it, so can you. It took less that 10 minutes and cost about $30. 

You can find the DIY link here!

The Filler
The filler is the base of any sensory table! It's the thing that takes up the bulk of the space. Think small items you can buy in bulk. Some of our favorites are:

* Rice
* Noodles (cooked or dry)
* Sand
* Oats
* Sticks/twigs
* Cotton balls
* Shredded paper 
* Corn kernels
* Dry beans (there are so many color and size/shape options here)
* Water Beads
* Ice (when it's hot outside)

You see where I'm going here! Another fun tip is that a lot of these things can be DYED to make it more fun and engaging!

The Tools
This can be as simple as cups for sorting, tweezers for grabbing, magnifying glasses, water droppers, you name it! Whatever you want to add in to help your kiddos explore!  

I don't always add tools to mine but it is a nice addition sometimes!

The Add-Ons
Now this is where the magic happens! The add-ons are the fun things you hide in the sensory bin! Here's where the theme comes into play generally! Our favorite things to add:

* Toobs (these are little tubes of animals/vehicles/etc) - we have a bajillion of these for a variety of different themes
* Mini erasers 
* Picture cards - can have letters, numbers, animals, words, whatever!
* Gold coins

Get Creative here! This is really the fun part!


Clean Up/Storage
This can often be the most intimidating part of sensory tables - what do you do with it when you're done playing? The nice thing is that most of these items store and last FOREVER. Just toss anything that can't be reused and store the rest or easy pull out next time!

I buy these little dollar tree storage bins and store everything so I can bust it out at a moments notice! Here's a little peek into my storage - I apologize for the quality of the photo my toddler storage room is rather dark so this is as good as it gets. 🤷

I hope you've gotten some new ideas from this post! I can't wait to see what you come up with! 

Do you have any favorite sensory activities!?

Thursday, August 1, 2019

Building Water Confidence in Toddlers Through Bath Play!

Around the time my oldest turned 3 he suddenly became afraid of water. He went from 0 to 100 real quick. And with no explanation. He used to love all things water. He would spend hours in the bath if we let him, loved splash pads and shower time with mama. Then all of a sudden he hated water. I'm talking if a single drop of water touched his skin or clothes he would go into full on meltdown mode.  It was as if a switch flipped over night!

So when a local swim school reached out about collaborating on an article about building water confidence through bath play I just had to jump on it! I sat down with Kristin, owner of Farber Swim School in Portland, OR. If you are local and haven't heard of Farber Swim School I would highly recommend it! They have a really great open swim for little ones that allows parents to get in the pool with their kiddos which as you can imagine is a big deal given our current relationship with water! Bonus: the water is nice and warm (90degrees)! 👌

Below are some tips for building water confidence (and safety!) at home!

Ears all in OR all out:
Apparently it is a common misconception that covering a kids ears with water can lead to ear infection. As long as they are fully submerged they will be fine (it's the half in/half out that's the culprit)! Keep in mind they did spend 9 months in water before they were born 😜

Flutter kicks: 
This is an important one to practice because it is an essential skill needed for swimming. Little ones can practice this in bath or even in a kiddie pool! Making it fun and engaging is key. We played Making Waves! We practiced using our flutter kicks to make waves for our boats!

Blowing bubbles:
Being able to blow bubbles into water is one of the first skills taught in traditional swim classes. However if your little one is like mine they don't understand the difference between blow, spit and drink. I won't tell you which child I'm talking about, that would be embarrassing 🤪Ease into this skill with straws! What kid doesn't love blowing bubbles into their drinks, cereal, soup, spit...!? Introduce blowing bubbles in standing water (like bath!)

We turned this into a fun game as well! Duck Races I gave both boys a straw and a rubber ducky and they had to blow bubbles to race their ducks across the tub! The trick was not to drink the water while we played...Still working on this one!

Reaching for toys under water:
This one may seem silly or unimportant but reaching for toys under water is an important skill for little ones to practice as well. It helps with depth perception and just confidence in the water. Making water play fun is the first step to water confidence!

We haven't practiced this one yet but Kristin mentioned getting your little ones used to goggles early would also be helpful! The 2 brands Farber Swim recommends are Speedo Skoogles and Swimple TYR. They're relatively inexpensive and have cute kid friendly prints!

Pouring water over head:
We're still building to this one!

Other ideas to help make water play fun and engaging:

Glow baths: 
Throw glow sticks in the bath, turn out the lights and have fun! Even our new kitty got in on this one 🤣

Rainbow baths:
This is a favorite of ours! Pick a different color each night. Dye the bath water (we use these!) and add matching colored items from around the house! Easy, educational and fun! Not to mention pretty!

Popsicle baths:
Do you see a pattern here!? We usually do this on sick days (or really really hot days!) We take our popsicles into the bath! It's a great way to shake up bath time AND makes for easy clean up!

Water beads:
Add some water beads to the tub and it's a whole new game! They're also perfectly safe to go down the drain! 👌
Tip: If you haven't used bath beads before they take about 24hrs to expand in size so soak ahead of time!

Wash away games:
If you've been following us for awhile we love wash away games! All you do is draw a picture, letter, number, shape, etc and let your little one erase it! You can erase with washcloths, pouring water, squirt guns, you name it! The possibilities are endless! We do a lot of different adaptations to these kinds of activities and bath is a perfect place for it!

Letter Squirt:
I'm sure by now you've figured out that foam letters stick to the sides of the bath tub/wall so why not put that to good use!? We took squirt guns into bath and practiced squirting off the letters!

What are you favorite bath play activities!?