After our cornflour adventures earlier this week, L and N were full of enthusiasm for sensory play and I wanted to embrace that, but wasn’t *quite* brave enough to repeat the experience so soon, when we are still brushing flour paste out of the carpet. Until that is, my husband suggested half jokingly that next time we limit the play to the bathroom. This was a lightbulb moment as I considered the amazing possibilities of filling the bath with sensory play media. We will definitely do cornflour play in the bath one day, as filling up the bath with water afterwards would make a brilliant skin treatment as well as cleaning up, but the next day still felt too soon for another full-on mess-fest, and a school night bath should be a calming affair, I feel, so we went for a more peaceful alternative.
L’s theme at school is colours, and we have been trying to build on this at home, so this seemed like a brilliant opportunity to do some colour mixing in a creative and interactive way that might stick in his memory.
We went for his favourite colour (blue), and added a few drops of food colouring to the bath water. I added some “seaweed” (scooby strings, the brilliant toy full of possibilities that came from a friend’s party bags) and placed a range of pouring and measuring toys on the side of the bath. We also had bubbles to blow, although we ended up forgetting to use them because L and N were too absorbed in the rest of their play. I took all other bath toys out of the bathroom to avoid getting distracted.
I had told them we were going to have a “long, special play-bath” and they could hardly wait for bathtime, even refusing pudding after tea to hurry things along.
I did take a photo of the blue bath water, but it doesn;t show very well because I added bubble bath, not realising of course that the bubbles would appear white. I used baby bedtime bath to scent the water. Next time i’d leave out the bubble bath and add a drop of natural fragrance or essential oil instead. But in real life the blue water still looked striking. I could have got creative with the sea theme, but was keeping this low-key, and focusing mainly on the colour mixing activity with an element of water play, so left it at this, but lots of ideas about toys to add for another time…
We had bottles of yellow water on standby, and L and N were very keen to find out what happened when we added them to the water, so we did this pretty much straight away. I gave them each a drinking bottle with a sports-type squirty lid and let them add, and watch the “magic”.
This first time I had been hesitant to let F bath in the food colouring in case it stained / irritated her skin, but now knowing it won’t stain, and that L’s sensitive skin wasn’t affected, I will let her splash in the coloured water and watch the colour change next time.
We had a bit of free playtime in the green water, involving some bubble blowing through drinking straws (above), pouring, and “sewing” with the scooby strings and the strainer (which was actually a plastic toy meant for play-dough, the type that grow “hair” when you push the play dough through. This was initiated by L, and I hadn;t even considered this as a way of using these toys, and I was really pleased that he had come up with a creative and productive activity completely independently. I used to fear that my children wouldn’t play happily unless directed or engaged, but this proved to me that given the right environment and opportunity, they will. the bath was perfect because they were confined and naturally focused without being restricted.
It occurred to me that taking the lead and initiating activities for themselves seems to boost their self-esteem as well as their independence. Whilst sewing, which he did for ages, L was clearly pleased with himself and throughly enjoying the activity, concentrating well and kept saying “I love sewing” as well as praising his own efforts – “I’m good at sewing”, “I’m doing really well”.
Earlier in the afternoon, in preparation for the bath, L and I had been making paint. Whilst doing this we talked about the colours ion English and Welsh (L’s school is mainly Welsh-medium, and I wanted to check he had the vocabulary for what he would be learning this term). We also mixed colours, and talked about shades of colour (darker/lighter). This was all reinforcing what l already knew, except for mixing colours. he made some wild and wacky predictions about what would happen when we mixed the colours – at one point he suggested that the house might explode, but still seemed impressed when we made orange!
To make the paints, we recycled our gloop from the day before. It was cornflour, flour and water, in no particular ratio, but it worked. We mixed it with baby bath wash and added food colouring.
L and N both had great fun in the bath with these. I glued a paint mixing tray to two empty water bottles to make a floating palette for colour mixing, and next time I might do the same with a tray for the paints. Even better would be one of those bath tidies that fit over the bath, creating a shelf. Finger paints was the idea, but I ended up providing a full range of brushes and sponges.
And then it got silly, with much painting of each other and being painted by Daddy – with lots of jumping around, revealing too much for photos.
L and N played for over an hour completely happily and didn’t want the bath to end. We have already repeated the experience in a red-and-yellow-makes-orange variation:
And have promised an extra long play-bath on Sunday afternoon.
A search of google tells me I am not the first to have this inspired idea ;-). Others have taken the idea much further and provided some amazing details…
Some wonderful ideas from Growing a Jewelled Rose, including this Rainforest Themed Sensory Bath and this cheerful Birthday Themed Bath, which we might well take inspiration from next week on N’s third birthday. I also think N would be my best friend forever if I gave her a Princess Themed Bath so I think her birthday bath will incorporate some of these ideas. I love the props on this site, and the fact that the colour mixing is part of the theme.
Colours and scents here from The Imagination Tree
I love the idea of making coloured ice boats and watching the colours mix as they melt into the bath.
I’m thinking our bath could house a dinosaur island, a fairy pool, a beach… pretty much any theme would work I think. L is currently interested in deep sea trenches, inspired by this book, so I am wondering how I could create a trench for him to explore with a fishing net, in a dark bath coloured black or very dark blue. Watch this space!