$25 Sensory Essentials from a Dollar Store

If you are familiar with my blog at all, you know that I love a good sensory experience. There are just so many opportunities for learning through sensory play. I thought I would share a few items that I keep on hand from the dollar store so I am always prepared to set up a sensory bin.

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CLICK HERE for info on DIY Sensory Table pictured above.

How I spent my $25 on Sensory Essentials:

  1. Ice Cube Trays (pack of 2)

  2. Muffin Tin

  3. Funnels (Set of 3)

  4. Measuring Cups

  5. Measuring Spoons

  6. Colander

  7. Divided Bowls (Set of 2)

  8. Salad Tongs

  9. Ice Scoop

  10. Play Kitchen Utensils

  11. Rice

  12. Rice (Always grab more than one bag!)

  13. Beans

  14. Beans

  15. Beans (Always grab more!)

  16. Pasta

  17. Pasta

  18. Shaving Cream

  19. Shaving Cream

  20. Flour

  21. Baby Oil (Mix Flour and Baby Oil to make Moon Sand)

  22. Set of Shapes

  23. Set of Shapes (cannot have too many!!)

  24. Foam Letter Puzzle

  25. Shower Curtain Liner (protects your floors + helps with easy clean up!)

**Other things that are great for sensory play- playdough tools, plastic animals, bath toys, random party favors, pom poms, rocks, constuction trucks, cars**

Follow @stayathomemomming on Instagram to see how we use some of our dollar store supplies!

DIY Sensory Table

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Sensory play is one of my favorite open-ended play activities for toddlers and preschoolers. Such a great way to have some fun learning time! From day 1, I have always just set one of those under the bed storage boxes on the ground for our sensory play time, and it has worked great. But, now that my preschooler is four years old (and quite frequently wanting to sit in the dreaded ‘W’ position), I wanted to offer her a way to stand and play.

I’ve been eyeing sensory tables on Amazon for a while, but just never felt like I should spend the money on them. So I decided to build my own. I am no professional builder…I have absolutely no idea what I am doing! I totally winged this, and it WORKED! So I thought I would share the process with you.

What you need:

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What you do:

  1. Have Home Depot or Lowe’s cut your materials to size.

  2. Build a rectangle with your 1x6 pieces. Make sure to line these up to make a 90 degree angle.

  3. Add a 2x4 in each corner. I attached them 2 inches inside the 1x6 pieces. This still gave me 4 inches for my under the bed storage container to drop down from the top.

  4. Place storage container in table.

  5. Fill container with items for sensory play and ENJOY!

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Maybe that makes sense if you are wanting to build a sensory table for your littles. I’m really happy with how it turned out. I look forward to all the possibilities this set up will provide!

Thanks for reading!!

Fine Motor Skill Practice

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Offering activities that encourage fine motor skill development should be a very high priority for you.  Fine motor skills help kids learn to write, and that is very important. BUT, we use fine motor skills in so many daily actions.  For example, tying shoes, zipping pants, feeding yourself, fixing your hair...the list could go on and on.

I've come up with 15 low prep and budget friendly activities to help encourage fine motor skills in your little one.  These can be used for any age, really.  Just adjust the activity to your child.  These do not take very long to set up.  I think the bigger battle is being intentional and making yourself set them up. Also, I buy most of my supplies for activities like this at the dollar store.

One big tip I have for you is this: plan and prepare lots of activities at one time.  Then plan to do 1 or 2 or even 3 each week.  I have found that this really helps me to cut down on the time.  And when we have a moment that needs to be filled, I am ready to go with a new activity.

So first things first.  Here's a list of supplies for you:

  • spray bottle
  • ice cube trays
  • tongs/tweezers- look in the school section where you can find age appropriate tweezers
  • pompoms
  • stickers
  • construction paper
  • beans
  • animal figures
  • foam letters
  • bin or bucket for sensory activities
  • measuring cups
  • measuring spoons
  • small plastic pitcher
  • bowls
  • scissors
  • straws
  • pipe cleaners
  • beads
  • toothpicks
  • q tips
  • Colander
  • fake flowers
  • rice
  • paper shred
  • playdough

That's 25 items.  If you go to a dollar store, that means you only have to spend $25! And I have 15 activities for you with these supplies! Just think, if you actually get to 3 of these a week, they will last for 5 weeks! And then you can repeat these over and over.

**If you want to splurge and spend an extra $5, go ahead and grab some shoe size bins to keep all of your supplies in.**

Spray Bottle Fun

Fill a pray bottle with water and have your child practice spraying it in the bath tub.  Or spray on the driveway to make art with water! If you have sidewalk chalk at home, write letters on the ground.  Have your child spray all the e's with the water.  Or do shapes or pictures.  OR let your child spray you! Make it fun!

Pom Pom Fun

There are endless possibilities with pompoms! Grab your ice cube trays and have your child work on the pincer grasp by placing individual pompoms in each cube.  Or add in tongs and have your child pick up the pompoms with them to place in the ice cube tray...this is a great opportunity for pattern practice.  You could also have them sort the pompoms by size and color.

Sticker Fun

Just having your child play with stickers is TONS of fine motor skill practice.  We like to place some stickers on a page and then draw to complete a picture.

Trace with Stickers

This one is great as they get older.  Draw a line, and have child 'trace' the line with stickers (use circle stickers).  You could incorporate shapes, letters, name practice.  Whatever you want.  I've even drawn pictures before with place to place round stickers.

Bean Sensory Bin

Fill you bucket with beans. Add in ice cube trays, spoons, measuring cups, bowls, animal figures or foam letters, whatever items you want.  Have your child practice scooping, pouring, and exploring.  Just let them play!

Water Pouring Fun

Fill bowls, plastic pitcher, and sensory bin bucket with water.  Have your child practice scooping and pouring. If you are worried about a mess, do this outside or even over in the bathtub or shower.

Paper Tear

Have your child tear paper.  That's it. Simple, and GREAT fine motor/pre writing activity.

Scissor Fun

Have your child practice cutting with scissors (adult supervision required!!).  Practice cutting plastic straws and strips of paper.

Threading Fun

Have your child use those straws they practiced cutting with scissors by threading them onto a pipe cleaner.  Once they have mastered this, have them use beads to practice threading.

Toothpicks and Food

Ok, this one is obviously a bit risky! Only do this if you feel comfortable that your child will follow your safety directions.  Have your child poke some of their lunch with toothpicks! Great for fine motor skills. This is a great way to encourage eating fruits and veggies, also!

Q Tip Painting

This one is simple.  Just have your child paint with q tips. You can print out coloring pages online that have pictures made with circles the size of qtips.  Have your child dip the qtip in paint and then make a dot in each circle on the page.

Colander Boquet

Have your child decorate a colander with fake flowers.

Rice Bin

Fill your sensory bucket with rice, ice cube trays, measuring cups and spoons, preschool tweezers, and foam letters. Have your child play in this sensory bin however they want.  If they are having trouble playing, give them some directives such as, "Can you feel the ice cube trays with rice?" or "Grab the letters with your tweezers and place them in the ice trays.".

Paper Shred Bin

Hide animals and foam letters in a bucket filled with paper shreds.  Have your child use their tongs to find the letters and and animals.

Playdough Fun

Any kind of playdough play is great for fine motor skills.  Check out this article if you want some ideas.

***Adult supervision is always recommended for all activities.

Glitter Slime Recipe

One day of this past school year, Emma's teacher brought slime that her daughter made.  Emma thought it was the neatest thing.  I had somehow to this point avoided the slime craze, but bought in the second Emma showed interest.  We were so excited to try slime for the first time.  We had all the ingredients, so we got to it.  PINTEREST FAIL.  Since then we have tried two other recipes. We finally found one for glitter slime that we both LOVED.

What you need:

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  • 6 oz Glitter Glue
  • 1 tbsp Contact Solution
  • 1/2 tbsp baking soda

What you do:

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Dump glue into bowl.

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Stir in Baking Soda.

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Stir in Contact Solution...we mostly used our hands for this step.  It gets pretty sticky/messy, but if you just keep mixing that goes away shortly.

THAT IS IT. So simple.  Safe ingredients.  Loads of sensory play...Emma's favorite thing was to make snowmen and watch them melt.  If you make this with your kiddos, let me know how it goes!

Glitter Slime Recipe- Stay At Home Momming- Safe Glitter Slime Recipe- Easy Activity for kids- This is a great summer activity

Moon Sand Fun

Last week we were stuck at home due to an ear infection and fever.  By day 3, we were going a little stir crazy, so I pulled out ingredients for moon sand.  This is such an easy process, and Emma enjoyed helping so much...plus it bought us a lot of play time.

What you need:

32 oz Cornstarch

1 1/2 cups Coconut Oil

Food Coloring

Rubbermaid Tub

Cups, bowls, molds

**We used gel food coloring, and it didn’t work...it was just all I had at the moment.**

What you do:

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First, add your food coloring to the oil. Gel food coloring will not work for this...hence the purple specks in our moon sand.

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Next, pour ingredients into tub...make sure to let your child do most of the work. I like to measure out the ingredients and then let Emma do the pouring and mixing.

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After that, you just mix up the ingredients in the tub.  When you first start to mix, things get sticky. But, once the consistency is correct, it shouldn’t be a bit sticky!

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Lastly, enjoy some play time. Emma played with in this sensory bin for over 30 minutes...that’s a pretty good chunk of time, Momma’s!

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Play-dough fun for Toddlers and Preschoolers

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How often does your child beg to play with play-dough and then look at you like this after you get it all out??? This happens often when we get the play-dough out. So I like to start with directives.  After a while, play begins to happen, and I step away.

Here are some ideas for those days that your child looks at you like this when you get them set up with the playdough.

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- Make a bunch of balls with the play-dough. That alone is great for little hands, but you can also use them to practice counting, adding, scooping, or even sorting (by size and/or color).

- Use letter cookie cutters to cut out letters with the play-dough.  You can practice letter recognition, spelling your name, or even letter sounds.

-Use number cookie cutters to cut out numbers with the play-dough. This is great for number recognition--you can mix this activity with first one by adding the correct number of balls to the corresponding number.

-Make a specific item with your child (snowman, pancakes, wiggly worms, etc...). I like to always ask Emma to make the same thing I'm making to start with.  That seems to give her the confidence to try something else on her own. 

-Practice using utensils.  Play-dough is the perfect consistency for poking, cutting, and scooping.  This is a life skill that can be hard to teach (and VERY MESSY), so play-dough is a great way to fit in some no-pressure practice!

-Play-dough mats--I found these on Etsy.  There are so many options available, though...you could even make your own.

-Make shapes.  If you have a younger child, you can make the shapes and then practice naming the shapes with your child.  If you have an older toddler/preschooler, have them try this on their own.

-Grab some scissors and practice cutting the play-dough.  Again, play-dough is the perfect consistency for this.  Learning to cut with scissors is such great fine motor/pre-writing skill.

Most of the time, if you jus take 5-10 minutes to sit down to get your child started playing with play-dough, their little minds take over and they are able to play on their own! This buys you some time to do dishes and laundry...or maybe drink a cup of coffee!!

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5 Ideas for Sensory Fun

We are all about sensory bins in our family! Emma (age 3) likes to stay clean, so I realized early on I needed to offer lots of sensory fun.  At first, she had trouble exploring and playing...she could only think about the mess. BUT, she has learned to enjoy the mess, and now she begs to play with different sensory bins/do different sensory activities.

Shaving Cream

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I normally just put shaving cream on a cookie sheet at the kitchen table and let her have free play. This one is loads of fun and great for my little princess that does not like getting messy! We also like to add in foam letters or numbers to search for.

Water Beads

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We love water beads. I normally put them in a big cake pan.  We will play with water beads by themselves, but sometimes we add letters or toys in with the water beads.  For my nephew’s 3rd Birthday, we added lots of alligators and snakes.

Rice Bin

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Our rice bin has given us countless hours of fun.  Almost every time we stay home for a ‘pj day’ Emma asks if I will get out the rice bin. I always keep foam letters, measuring cups, and ice trays in the bin.  We will add in different things when we think of them. When Emma was younger, she would love when I hid her little character figures in there. She would dig around till she found each one.

Sand

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Our love of playing in sand developed at the Rory Meyers Children’s Garden at the Dallas Arboretum. Since baby #2 came along we don’t have countless hours to spend out and about, so I decided I needed to make a sand bin for her to enjoy at home...we will be conquering that soon.

Playdough

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We play with playdough on a cookie sheet. Playdough is such a fun, inexpensive activity. We like to use cookie cutters, kitchen utensils, and playdough toys. For a long time, this was my go to activity for Princess P when I was trying to cook dinner. Also, you can always make your own playdough on days you have the time.  This is the recipe we use. It lasts a long time.

These are my top five sensory activities.  We go back to these over and over and over! What’s your favorite sensory fun to offer your little ones?

PS- I really like this blog post from Busy Toddler on the importance of sensory play.

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