I am writing a short series of posts entitled "Super Easy Sensory Play".  Activities included in the series all contain two or fewer ingredients and are items that are generally found in any house, so no need to run to the store for specialty items.  I hope that you will give them all a try!  You can read the other posts in the series here:

You will need:

Ice (if you don't have ice, very cold tap water will work)
Warm Water
A container (I like the weight of glass baking dishes - harder to tip/knock over but any will work)

First I'll talk about the infant and young toddler version of this activity:
Please be sure to offer pieces of ice that do not post a choking hazard and provide constant supervision.

With your baby on the ground on a mat or towel, or with your baby in a high chair, add a piece or two of ice to a container and give it to your baby to explore.  If they are tentative, you can demonstrate touching it and/or rattle it around in the container.

You can also encourage them to try tasting it.

This was X's first experience with ice.  He was fascinated by it.  He kept touching it...

Then staring at his fingers like "what the heck?"...

Followed by touching his fingers to his lips.  I would reinforce that the sensation was "cold" and narrate what he was doing (sure he might not understand it all, but it doesn't hurt!).  I would say something along the lines of "Are you touching the ice with your fingers?  Yes, ice is cold!  Are your fingers cold?"

Then I let him slide a piece around on his high chair tray.

 "Hey Mama!  This stuff is cold!"

Then I switched out the ice for some warm water in the glass dish.  I encouraged him to touch/splash the water (it was a small amount so it wouldn't get everywhere) and narrated again "Are you touching the water with your fingers?  Are you splashing?  This water is warm!"  

I didn't get any pictures of that part because shortly thereafter he decided that he was hungry and was hoping to get some food in his high chair.  So note - activity will last longer if baby is fed first!  ;)

For older toddlers/preschoolers:

You can progress the same way (ice is just fun for everyone to play with!) and then you might want to add some water and some small plastic figures.  I found these counting bears at a consignment store for a dollar, and S wanted them to be part of her little world.  Depending on how verbal your toddler is, you might still want to narrate for them.  If you have a preschooler, you can ask them to narrate.  "What are you doing?  Who are the guys?  What sort of world are they in?  What are they doing?"  In S's world the bears were all friends and they were caught in the ocean!  It was very cold and they wanted to melt the ice and get back to their home.

Older toddlers will definitely appreciate if some of their plastic figures have "voices".  S will give them voices herself now usually, but sometimes still asks me to step in.  :)

S remembered from Day Four of her Leprechaun Gold Hunt that salt would melt ice, so she then asked for some salt.  

With older toddlers, you will probably have to introduce props to extend their play.  Any sort of spoon or cup where they can practice pouring is sure to be a hit - getting to stir something in (food coloring, salt, flour, etc) is also very exciting.  Several different sized containers/spoons are seen as different items to toddlers (and preschoolers!).  I made sure to give S a spoon with the salt to put her in charge of melting the ice.

After the ice was melted, the spoon and the cup that held the salt became involved in the play.  Here she is making an underwater cave for some of the bears.

And there was a lot of pouring.  S is pretty stellar at pouring small amounts of things now since she's had so much practice, but before now, I'd usually do water play on a towel on top of the splat mat (we use 2 yards of oilcloth from a fabric store as our splat mat).  If you don't have a splat mat yet, just use a towel or sheet.  When she was younger, I'd also make sure that there wasn't so much water in play that the towel would get soaked.

Next S asked for a paper towel.  Napkins/paper towels/paper/cotton balls/pieces of sponge are all fun things to add to water play and I would frequently introduce them to extend her imaginative play when she was a toddler.  Now that she's older, she'll just request whatever item it is that she's thinking of.  She gave several bears a bath with little bits of paper towel before deciding to use the remaining paper towel as a bridge out of the ocean.  And thus all the bears were saved!  

S played with this simple set up for over an hour.

So there you have it - that's how we do our open ended sensory play over here.

If you haven't tried sensory play before - I challenge you to give it a try with this sensory experience.  You already have everything you need to do it in your house, so why not?  ;)  And if you're willing, let me know how it goes!

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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.


  1. Thanks for this-my 2yr old and 9month old spent a good 2hours playing this morning with ice and water. We played using by adding ice cubes to a tray and then slowly pouring warm water over the cubes, once the ice melted we poured the water back into the tray to make more and then coloured the left over water in the tray yellow and the water in the jug blue and explored mixing colours, once all the water was poured into the tray it then led to a game of sink or float. I love activities that can be extended so well and enjoyed equally by my 2 girls. :)

    1. Oh, I love how you extended the play - brilliant! So glad you all had so much fun!!! :) :) :)

  2. Your pictures are amazing! They look so engaged and excited. Will be trying this with my little lady.

    1. Thank you so much! I hope you both enjoy it as much as we do! :) :) :)

  3. Very cute. Your kids are adorable, and you are obviously a fantastic mother. What a lucky couple of kiddos you have!

    1. Thank you so much, Misty! I agree that they are adorable! And you're so sweet to say so, but I promise I'm a regular mom with plenty of not-so-fantastic moments just like everyone else! :)


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