And Ways to Use them!!!!

This is a post in our Play on a Budget series.  Other posts include:

1.  Dried Used Coffee Grounds

We use these all the time as a sensory material - not only are they technically edible (you still don't want your child eating them, though, so please discourage that), but they are an interesting texture that even smells good!  If you don't drink coffee yourselves, no problem!  Gardeners frequently use coffee grounds to alter the pH of soil - so much so that coffee shops are accustomed to saving and dispensing used grounds.  Our local Starbucks even has a bucket full of huge bags of used grounds ready to go.  Even a local coffee shop should be used to doling out the used grinds.  If you get a large bag all at once, I strongly recommend spreading them on a baking sheet in your oven on low to dry them out and discourage mold growth.  

Ways to play with Coffee Grounds!

(pictured: Dirt and Worms from Fun at Home with Kids)

From left to right: 
Insect World from Fun at Home with Kids
Insect Sensory Bin from Train up a Child
Dinosaur Fossil Dig Sensory Bin from Play Create Explore

2.  Flowers

Though seasonal, flowers are a fun addition to sensory or open-ended play.  They are brilliantly colored, have different textures to them, and most are even scented!

Ways to play with Flowers!

(pictured:  Fun I had with S pre-blog by pelting her with rose petals)

From left to right:
Kids Painting Activity with Flowers from Fantastic Fun and Learning
Exploring Flowers with The Golden Gleam
Gardening Sensory Play and Flower Shop by Growing a Jeweled Rose
Dandelion Mud Pies by The Pleasantest Thing

3.  Rocks

Rocks are such a fun thing to play with.  They can easily make noise, and they have different shapes, textures, and colors.  You can also find them just about anywhere which is a great bonus!

Ways to play with Rocks!

(pictured: Insect World from Fun at Home with Kids)

From left to right:
Make Your Own "Rock" Band by Fantastic Fun and Learning

4.  Recycled Containers/Plasticware

Save those old milk jugs, yogurt cups, etc and even that plasticware from your to-go order!  All of these things can be repurposed for any sort of sensory play.  Children love to scoop, dig, and pour sensory materials.  This makes it much easier.

(Pictured:  Upcycled Milk Jugs from Plain Vanilla Mom)

5.  Dirt

Good old dirt!  It's really a two-fold material, since all you have to do is add water and suddenly you have squishy, goopy, lovely MUD!

Ways to play with Dirt/Mud!

(Pictured:  S and friend playing in the dirt)

From left to right:
Mud, Mud, Glorious Mud from Housing a Forest
Mud Party for Kids from Growing a Jeweled Rose
Mobile Mud Patch by Happy Hooligans

6.  Water or Ice

Even just a small dish of water is enough to excite a small child!  And two ways to play with water - freeze it for ice play and add a whole other slippery and cold option for play!

Ways to play with Water or Ice!

(Pictured:  Water Play from Fun at Home with Kids)

From left to right:
Ice and Warm Water from Fun at Home with Kids
Ice Painting from Mamas Like Me

7.  Leaves

Fall leaves are so gorgeous and giant piles of them are inviting, but even spring leaves or branches can be fun for play!

Ways to play with Leaves!

(Pictured: Nature Faces from Happy Hooligans)

From left to right:
Red Leaf, Yellow Leaf Sensory Bin from Stir the Wonder

8.  Grass

Fresh cut grass smells so wonderful - just like summer.  And it is such a vibrant green!

Ways to play with Grass!

(Pictured:  Farm World from Fun at Home with Kids)

From left to right:
Cutting Grass Sensory Tub from StrongStart

9.  Sticks

(Pictured: Alligator Stick Pals from Growing a Jeweled Rose)

From left to right:
Kids Craft:  Stick Man from Red Ted Art

Play doesn't have to be expensive to be fun - here are nine examples of playful materials that are FREE!

Follow along with Fun at Home with Kids on FacebookGoogle+Pinterest or Subscribe by Email or Bloglovin'!

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. Hi! Your blog is great and I'm obsessed with your cute lil X and his expressions! I'm a teacher and a mom to a 9 month old son. I tried your foam sensory bin last Saturday (it was a hit!) and am looking forward to trying more ideas this summer. I'm curious about how old X is for each sensory bin and how you extend play with them. Thanks for all the great ideas!

    1. Hi Amyzing! Thank you so much!!! So glad to hear you tried the foam sensory and that it was a hit! I love hearing that! :) :) :) He is all different ages (and of course sometimes we play and don't photograph). I'd say with a 9 month old, any are fair game so long as you are comfortable with them and are closely supervising! My kids love doing them over and over again, and every time X is a bit older, he plays in a different way. By the time he's a full fledged toddler, I know he'll be all about pouring and dumping. In my opinion, they get different things out of them each time they play and each time they develop a new skill.

      Great question! I extend play with X by playing with him more directly - showing him how to make noise, how to use feet and/or hands to play in different ways (squishing, stomping, swirling, clapping, etc). If it's a solid thing, I like to tickle his cheek, tummy, feet, etc. to help him experience the texture all over! We do keep it pretty low key, though. When he's done, he's done. He'll play anywhere from 5-60 minutes - it depends on his mood, etc. The average would probably be about 15 minutes, I'd say. Hope that helps! :)

    2. Thanks for such a detailed reply! Again, I'm very inspired by your blog. Tried Cheerios in muffin tins the other day. He spent about 4 minutes picking them up and moving them from one hole to another and then wanted to dump the whole thing and see the bottom of the tray.

    3. That's awesome! Muffin tin play is soooo fun for little guys - what a fabulous idea to do Cheerios. I love that fine motor practice! :)

      Oh, yes, dumping is so much fun. X loves that part, too. ;)

  2. Terrific round up, Asia! You know how much we love FREE around here! So many great ideas here. Thanks for featuring us twice in your collection!

    1. Hi Jackie! Oh yes, I do! And you always make the most amazing things out of all of it! Thank YOU for having such great stuff for me to raid for the round-up! :) It made my job a lot easier!!!


Well, hello there!

Click here to read more about us!

Powered by Blogger.