Tag Archives: sensory bath

Being “Brave” at Bathtime!

The Disney film, “Brave” has had a huge effect on L and N.  When they first saw it at the cinema, they were terrified.  Mainly of the bears, and the loud roaring.  But since then, they have become its greatest fans, perhaps in processing the story and coming to terms with watching it, they have asked for the story version again and again, re-enacted the story, and talked endlessly about it over a period of months.  I like the story because it has depth.  And so we have been doing some “Brave” themed play recently.

The latest was a “Brave” themed bath, which all three children loved.




To create a forest scene on the wall, we used craft foam to make some basic tree shapes, rocks, the “Ring of Stones”, The doorway to the ruined castle, and cut out some purple stars to represent “will o’ the wisps”.  The castle doorway, with its crossed axes, just like in the story, particularly delighted L and N – in fact, I think that if I’d just put this on the wall by itself they would have been delighted!

We used our Happylands Castles and knights from the Early Learning Centre as Merida’s home, and the Lords.  And a Happylands wizard to represent the witch in the story.

We had to be creative with Mor’du Bear and Elinor-Bear, using a polar bear and a friendlier-looking brown bear.

We put a magnetic fishing set I had picked up in a charity shop into the bath, which made the bath itself the river, from the scene where Merida and Elinor-Bear fish and play in the river – and added green food colouring to the bath for extra effect.

I also gave the children some plastic aida, safety needles and scooby strings, so that they could “mend the tapestry” like princess Merida.

L and N were delighted, and it gave an extra dimension to their usual “Brave” play.  it was lovely to be able to help them develop the game and give them props to enrich their understanding of the story.


F enjoyed playing with the large foam pieces, and catching fish with her hands.



L enjoyed playing with the castles best, and it was a real novelty having them in the bath.  He hasnlt played with his castles for a little while so it was lovely to see how a fresh set-up could re-ignite his interest and develop the way he used the toys.


At the end of the bath, I added some glowsticks to the water as extra “will o’ the wisps”, and turned the lights out to follow them through the dark forest.


Ithe effect was extra special as I happened to break a glowstick, spraying glow in the dark spots all over the bathroom, which delighted L and N!  I’ll let you know whether it comes out!!


This was all a success, and we have kept the play scene in the bath to play with for a while.  We also have a few more “Brave” activities planned, so watch out for them soon!


Snow Themed Sensory Bath

A warmer kind of snow play!!

Today, we have been in the only part of the country not to be deep in snow.  We also seem to be a minority in really, really wanting it to snow.  We can’t wait to play in the snow and have an unexpected day off to fill with snow-themed activities… so when a few token flakes fell this afternoon, it wasn’t enough to build a snowman, go sledging, paint the snow or have a snowball fight – but it was enough to get excited!

L and N enjoying our sprinkling of The White Stuff

L and N enjoying our sprinkling of The White Stuff

We did go outside to experience the snow, but without enough on the ground to play with, and with more bitter wind than crisp snow, we found another way to channel our snowman-making enthusiasm…

Snow bath

It has been a while since we have had a sensory bath.  We do often play with different colours in the water, and a coloured bath is a regular Friday night treat.  But today we went one better.

We used snowmen cut out of craft foam to decorate the walls (the foam sticks to the walls when wet, opening up endless possibilities for bathtime play).  Our dress-up snowmen were inspired by this Christmas themed bath from Growing a Jewelled Rose (the veritable Queen of sensory baths, which I thought I’d invented until I discovered her beautiful blog).  We adapted the Christmas tree decorating idea, and I prepared some snowmen for L and N to dress up, with hats, scarves, gloves and buttons in different colours.

L and N played beautifully and creatively.  I like the fact that the bath keeps them focused on the activity, in one place with no distractions, they stay creative and engaged for longer.

Rudolph with Snowman

Rudolph with Snowman


Rudolph with Snowman

Rudolph with Snowman

There was imaginary play happening, with a snow people’s picnic.  There was a re-enacting of the Snowman and the Snowdog film we watched at Christmas.  Fine motor skills were being developed (I purposely made some of the pieces tiny, with instructions not to give the little pieces to baby F).  There was sorting by shape and by colour, there was ordering of pieces from big to small.  It struck me how much hidden learning is happening in an open-ended playful activity like this.

For an added sensory element, I added blue food colouring to the water, and topped it with shaving foam.  We haven’t played with shaving foam before, so it was a completely new material to play with.  Initially, L and N were suspicious of it, and L was scared to get into the bath!  But he soon learned to love it.


They used the shaving foam as paint, and as a material to mould – L called it “pudding oil”, and served it to everyone for supper, whilst N used it to further decorate her snowy wall-art.

Little F is now fully involved in bathtime fun.  She enjoyed watching the other two playing, and also explored the shaving foam, felt the foam shapes, and was fascinated by watching them float.  She spent some time taking a piece of foam in and out of a plastic cup.  She was thoroughly enjoying exploring these new and interesting materials, as well as having fun playing with her brother and sister.

F explores the shaving foam

F explores the shaving foam

Investigating foam shapes

Investigating foam shapes

Another activity enjoyed by three children of different ages, with different personalities and interests – and a lovely warm-up and wind-down activity before bed.

Snow bath2

Bonfire Night Sensory Bath

It’s been a while since our first sensory bath, but the children do often ask for colour in the bath, and for an extra special treat, bath paints.  A bonus side effect is that both L and N know colour mixing really well!

F has graduated to the big girl’s bath seat, in which she has been able to join in more fully, and she enjoyed her first proper sensory bath (a red + yellow = orange Autumn Leaf theme) very much.  This is a brilliant way of letting her have water play without the mess, and solves the problem of her not being able to reach into a deep enough container to water play in the kitchen)

L and N have enjoyed experimenting with pipettes, and once they had mastered using them properly they found a whole new way to play with them, experimenting with the vaccuum they could create – the effects were quite disturbing!

– But I still think it is brilliant watching the unexpected ways they use these toys, and the things they can discover for themselves.

Back to today’s bath, in which we did something slightly different…

For Bonfire Night, we added glow sticks to our bath and turned out the lights!  It was great fun.  The children still wanted coloured water even though we couldn’t see it, so we went for orange bonfire coloured water (in the pictures with the flash, it looks green, I promise it was orange!).

Nobody was scared, everybody loved it, even tiny little F, who happily waved a glowstick around and watched her brother and sister’s antics.

L and N first played sparklers, watching the way the light moved when they waved their glowsticks slowly, then quickly – “it looks like there’s two, mummy!”

They then made rainbows:

and lanterns of various colours, involving some colour sorting and counting

They then played a number game for ages, sharing different numbers of glow sticks equally between two, then between three.  But aside from this obvious learning, they were very happy just watching the glowsticks in the water.  Again, it struck me how little children need to play and learn – I’d worried that this bath needed more elements to it, but it didn’t – a few pound shop glow sticks in the dark was all the fun they needed, and all they needed to spark their own imaginations.

Once F was getting dry (picture included due to extreme cuteness)…

… L and N got more technical, and made fireworks with Daddy, which dangled and spun.  F really enjoyed playing with these in the dark bedroom too!

We kept our glow sticks in the freezer to test something I read about them keeping longer that way.  We will let you know (as we might well repeat this bath again tomorrow!)

A Princess Birthday

My big girl turned three on Saturday – cue lots of misty-eyed reminiscing and cries of “I can’t believe she’s three” – but I really can’t.  Here is how we celebrated…

N had waited long and patiently for this day, having shared a joint party with her brother two weeks ago and not quite able to understand why they shared the party but not the birthday.  I really didn’t want her day to be a replica of L’s, but she seemed to be looking foprward to having her turn at exactly the same thing…so here is how we kept some elements of the day she was waiting for, whilst adding some special surprises just for her…

There was an unintentional “princess” theme to the day, partly because she has caught the princess fever that seems to be compulsory for three year old girls, and also because all toys/decorations aimed at three-year old girls come with built-in princesses.  It’s a chicken and egg situation, but N loves it, and seeing as it was her special day, I put my reservations about just how much this princess thing is taking over to one side for the day and focused on doing what she would really love and remember.

N ate her breakfast on a Princess throne.  The inspiration for this was that I remember having a special chair decorated for my seventh birthday party, and how, well, special it felt.  I couldn’t quite believe that chair was just for me.  I wanted to pass that feeling on to N.

This didn’t cost a penny.  Because I made it up as I went along.  I took a large piece of while netting from my sewing stash, draped it over the chair until it looked suitably princessy, and pinned it in place with safety pins.  I tied a large pink spotty ribbon around the middle and added a fluffy pink cushion.  I used a fabric marker pen to write “Princess Nancy” across the front, and decorated with assorted odds and ends from the sewing and craft stashes – some miscellaneous pink fluff, some beads, some shiny streamers.  I’m thinking this could be easy to do for a variety of themes, and with a bit of advance planning some really complex themed chairs could be pulled off – but it’s not something I’d want to do too often because for me, the charm is in its “one-off” specialness and complete surprise.

I also made N a princess garland to wear, which with all the gratitude of a three year old, she didn’t want to wear.  But I did get a very sweet picture of her wearing it before it was discarded (she will no doubt love it another day, so it’s gone to the dressing up box).

This was made very simply and easily by threading silk flowers through craft wire, and weaving ribbon through.  I had planned to try this tutorial, as I think these crowns look amazing, but I didn’t have any liquid or powder starch and spray starch just didn’t do the job.  I ran out of time to try stiffening the fabric with a sugar solution.  But I still plan to make the crown at some point in the future.

After breakfast we played with N’s presents.  I had made a Pink Birthday themed sensory box, which L and N played with for ages and was a huge success.  again, this didn’t cost a penny.

My first thought had been to use sparkly multicoloured rice as a filler, but knowing this would be played with in the lounge I lost my nerve.  Also, we have done a lot of play with rice recently which was a good excuse, and I decided to use party decorations and wrapping – I literally put them in the box for the children to do what they liked with  and explore.   I find it hard not to have ideas of what they might like to do with the materials, but this time I had no ideas – their ideas were plentiful; I needn’t have worried.  I added some miniature birthday cards (made my folding card toppers in half – these were mainly ones I got free with craft magazines, or had been squished at the bottom of the craft drawer.  Ditto some cardboard fairies.  I added two fairy wands, some ribbons of various textures, some of those cheap and shiny rosettes for present-wrapping, a giant fuzzy pipecleaner twisted into a heart shape, some squishy butterfly shaped gel packs  and some sequins (I chickened out on the glitter).  I found some lovely shiny wrappings, spray painted some bubble wrap silver, and just threw them all in.

The centre of a cupcake stand worked well to divide the box up, as well as conveniently being shaped like a princess castle – you may recognise it from our fairy picnic.  Ditto the miniature tea set which was included because it reminded me of a birthday tea party.  I also added my silicone cupcake cases (some pleasingly heart-shaped) and a jar of beads and candles.  the finishing touches were a pink “birthday princess” balloon left over from their party, and some textured decorative tape stuck along the edge of the box.

The first thing L and N did was to host a picnic for their dolls and toys.  The beads became “food”, the bubble wrap was spread out on the ground and the tea set used for the dollies’ picnic.  The beads and tea set were all tiny, so lots of fine motor development going on here.  This is our third sensory box, and this time L didn’t ask me what the materials were for, he just got stuck in, and I think he initiated the picnic 🙂

This has been an ongoing game for three days now, with bead cupcakes being designed and candles added.  N has played at it by herself today (and she never plays by herself!):

N enjoyed a completely self-initiated sorting activity, sorting the beads into their different colours to make different coloured cakes, and they both practised alternating colours to make patterns.  When they have had some time to play without my intervention I might suggest making necklaces for the dolls, practising further motor skills and more complicated repeating patterns.

The pink tinsel was a hit – it has been a river next to the picnic, a dressing up scarf, a relay baton, a train track, the piston of an engine as they ran around the room being a train, one at each end of the tinsel.  They have practised jumping over it, skipping with it, walking along it without falling off…

The castle has been a home for the assortment of playmobil fairies N received on Saturday.  Although this was a very strictly supervised playtime for baby F, she enjoyed handling those materials I gave her access to.  She didn’t seem to mind not joining in, as the wrapping paper from N’s presents was her favourite anyway!

F plays with a giant pipecleaner

Wrapping paper fun

The dressing up box  was brilliant, it made for a memorable day of eclectic outfits and pretend games, here we have a selection:

Princess jasmine and Woody make cupcakes for tea

Woody and a snowman get ready to make paint

A skeleton sweeps the decking

As you can see, we had a crafty interlude where we made cupcakes (I’m saving that for another post, but suffice it to say they were pink and delicious), and more paint for the bath.

But first, we had to see what Daddy had been doing in the garden:


And we had a great time bouncing on our new trampoline!  Bouncing turned to hopping, skipping, and follow the leader.




Hop like a frog

Lots of gross motor development happening here 🙂

Even little F had a turn – cue very sweet sibling bonding moment…

A tea party with Nana and Grandad to follow, giving L and N the opportunity to show off their cupcakes, followed by the last surprise of the day – a fairy-themed sensory bath.

Pink food colouring in the water of course, along with flower-shaped sparkles and rose petals (I cut up an old hair scrunchie with a flower embellishment) made a perfect fairy pond.  I also found these flower-shaped paint palettes in Home Bargains, which made perfect lily pads and allowed the opportunity for mixing paints.  I sat a plastic fairy on each one.  Here is what it looked like:

All three children joined in, F joining for the first part, and enjoying watching the coloured water being poured.  I think soon she might enjoy a tray of coloured water on her high chair tray for her own playtime.

We repeated a lot of the ideas from this sensory bath, because that was what L and N wanted – it has struck me during our recent playtimes that whilst I want to keep things new and exciting, children love repetition, and that they get different things out of an activity each time it is repeated.  They seem to let you know when they have exhausted the learning potential (and therefore the fun).  There is always something they can get out of it, even if it is just demonstrating to a younger sibling, or a sense of accomplishment from practising something they are already adept at), and they will very quickly find it. The thing I love about this sort of activity is that it is adaptable – we can add or take away from it as it fits the children’s needs, and unlike a shop bought toy which they outgrow and becomes redundant, this type of play evolves with the children.

So out came the paints again!  L and N ask for this every bath time and I keep reminding them that it wouldn’t be special if we did it every day.  This time they added a lot of water to the paint, which i let them do in the name of exploring the properties of the paint and finding out what happened, then wondered if i’d made a mistake and allowed them to spoil their own fun – we poured away the water and there was still enough paint left for play time.

We added a bit of fairy magic to our bath for ‘s birthday – fizzy heart shaped bath bombs leaving “fairy dust” in the water (L wanted to do this again and again and enjoyed the feel of the fizzing on his hand, and exploring ideas about what happened to the material – I had to admit that I don’t know how a bath bomb works and promised him we would look it up!).  and we used magic blue water to turn the bath purple (N’s other favourite colour).

After the bath, all that was left was to read a princess book in bed, wearing her new Tinkerbell pyjamas:

And for the first time I said goodnight to my three year old daughter!

Sensory Baths

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…

Blue bathwater

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.

L, blowing bubbles in green water

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.

“sewing” in the bath

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!

Watching the colour patterns

Home made finger paints

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.

Bath Paints

Brush painting / dripping colour

mixing colours

Hand and foot prints on the side of the bath, with carefully mixed purple 🙂

Body Art

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:

yellow bath

…becomes orange bath

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!