A bag of cotton balls will cost you around a dollar.  Before we started our art project, we dumped the whole bag out on our floor and used them for free sensory play.  Cotton balls are great because they naturally discourage mouthing (because of their bizarre texture) and don't contain anything harmful (I'm sure they're still a choking hazard, so please always supervise infant play!).

They're a great size for practicing that pincher grasp and baby hand-eye coordination

They're also just so soft and fluffy!  So we decided (like the petals) it would be fun to have them "rain" down on X...and of course S took a turn, too.

S making it snow for her brother.

 I took a turn making him giggle as well.

S and I made an igloo for her dinos - the cling from the cotton balls helped it keep an igloo shape surprisingly well!

S having fun being crazy in a field of cotton balls.

The dinos.  They were a little cold in cotton ball land, I'm told.

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After we were done playing with the plain cotton balls, it was time for our next project - baked cotton balls.  We used Colorations Liquid Watercolors (What are Liquid Watercolors?instead of food coloring because they are ultimately cheaper (they last sooooo long!) and because I like the colors better.  We've had these 6 bottles of the tropical hues since X was born and they're still that full!  If you are doing this project with a young toddler who might be tempted to taste, I'd recommend using food coloring over liquid watercolors.

You'll need a mix that's equal parts flour and water.  For our project (one child) we used:

1 cup flour
1 cup water

My trusty sous chef doing some pouring. 

 Once you've whisked all the lumps out of the "batter", you can spoon it into whatever container you're using.  This is a muffin tin from the Dollar Store that we use for lots of our activities.  I had S count out five spoonfuls per muffin cup to practice counting.  

 S getting down to the business of dousing the cotton balls.  You can pour the mixture over the top, but the coolest results are when you completely coat the cotton balls in the mixture.  S first used her hands to do this, and then switched to using a spoon.  You'll want to provide a foil-lined baking tray - the baked cotton balls will stick a bit and you don't want to ruin a tray!

Partway through, S wanted to spoon some colors on her hand to see what they'd look like and to see what the mixture felt like (goopy and cold!).

Once you've completed covering your cotton balls with the "batter", then you place the cookie sheet in a 300 degree oven for at least an hour.  The longer it cooks, the harder the batter gets.  We did just an hour, so there were still some parts that were slightly goopy.  I think if we do it again, I'll try cooking for 90-120 minutes.  If you have individual (not touching) cotton balls, one hour should still be enough cook time.

This is how it looked when it came out!  So cool looking, right?  You may need to peel some of the foil off the back - the batter likes to stick to the foil.

 S used a kitchen mallet, her scissors, and her hands to break up the cotton ball masterpiece.  She let me join in at the end, and it really was a lot of fun.  It was pretty crazy to crack the shells and find pristine dry cotton fluff inside.  Also, sometimes it's just fun to break things apart.  S spent a long time exploring different tools and picking the whole thing apart.  She said she definitely wants to do this again soon!  If you have a young toddler, you might end up helping a bit more than I did, but the textures and colors would be very fun for them, I think, AND all the ingredients (if you use food coloring) are safe for consumption, so you won't have to worry if you have a child that likes to sneak tastes as they go.  

If you are looking for another cotton ball activity, check out our Wet Cotton Ball sensory play!

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All activities here are activities I feel are safe for my own children.  As your child's parents/guardians, you will need to decide what you feel is safe for your family.  I always encourage contacting your child's pediatrician for guidance if you are not sure about the safety/age appropriateness of an activity. All activities on this blog are intended to be performed with adult supervision.  Appropriate and reasonable caution should be used when activities call for the use of materials that could potentially be harmful, such as scissors, or items that could present a choking risk (small items), or a drowning risk (water activities), and with introducing a new food/ingredient to a child (allergies).  Observe caution and safety at all times.  The author and blog disclaim liability for any damage, mishap, or injury that may occur from engaging in any of these activities on this blog.

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