Author Archives: Vicky Armstrong

Icy sensory play

If it stays nice and sunny, little ones might enjoy some sensory exploration of different temperatures using ice. These need a little planning the day before to put things in the freezer but other than that no materials so it’s perfect for during lockdown. Here are a few different suggestions of ways you could add some ice into your play that might suit different ages of wee  ones. It is nice to expand the range of sensations that babies have by including this cold and slippery material. They might not be sure of the feeling at first so don’t force it, just give them time to try it, think about it and try it again. When they are unsure of something new babies also look to you for guidance on if its ok or not so you can reassure them by demonstrating and playing yourself.


This is a way to extend a sensory tray of water like we made last week here by adding an iceberg to your ocean. If you fill a food bag with water and put it in the freezer the night before you will be able to peel out the ice in a nice big shape that you can float in your water. You can dye that water blue with paint or food colouring too, if you like, and add some of your child’s toys so they can do some imaginary play in this small ocean world. This one is also good for babies as you can make sure the ice is big enough that it can’t cause any risk of being put in a mouth. When it starts to break up or get small you can just stop. It can also be fun to make the water a little warm so there is lots of contrast of temperature.

Ice excavation

Freeze some toys (sturdy ones) into an ice block by putting them into a Tupperware or freezer bag of water. The next day you can give them to toddlers on a tray or in the garden along with a toy hammer to excavate the toys from the ice. Or you could let them experiment by running hot water over them to free the toys.

Stained glass ice windows

These look really beautiful and it’s fun to watch them melt. Get wee ones involved the day before laying out the pattern and then they will enjoy revealing it the next day from the freezer. You need a mixture of leaves and flowers (if babies are still putting things in their mouth check these are edible flowers like marigolds or violas). You need water in a shallow Tupperware and show little ones how to put flowers or individual petals into the water in a pattern that they are happy with. Then just freeze it till the next day and reveal their masterpiece. Set it up somewhere so you can watch it melt and look at the light coming through the colours. In the winter this can be fun to do by leaving the water outside to freeze and you can go a whole day without your window even melting if it’s chilly enough outside.

Blue sea sensory trays

This is a really easy sensory tray, perfect for a hot day. It involves no planning at all but wee ones will enjoy getting to use their toys in the water and somehow the water being blue makes it just a little bit better than normal water!

For the tray we used a big, shallow, plastic storage tray like the kind that go under the bed. You could also use a small paddling pool, a tuff spot tray or a baking tin. If its see through the water will look better though. If you are in the house put it on top of a towel so the floor doesn’t get slippy.

Just add a little blue colouring to your water with either a splash of blue paint or some blue food colour, mix, add toys and play! Little ones usual toys might like to join in and if you can add some things for scooping and pouring even better. We are using shells here but you could also use plastic cups or measuring spoons. Encourage them to use their imagination.

In this tray we did for a DCA messy session about islands and hurricanes we added little islands foam shaving foam. If your wee one is big enough no to eat the foam this is a fun addition as they enjoy the islands mixing into the water and having to add more. We also added some paper boats in this one and wobbled the tray back and forth to make a storm.



cardboard tube daisies

We’re doing more art works with materials found around the house today and this time we’re raiding the recycling to use up cardboard tubes.  These make fun printing tools for doing daisies (or they could be nice sunshines) and they are easy for little ones to hold on to and experiment with. This is an nice simple craft which is very quick to set up.

You need:

  • Paper
  • non toxic paints in a tray or on a plate
  • Cardboard tubes from toilet rolls or kitchen roll
  • Scissors
  • Cover the tale or floor with a mat or newspaper


Make a stamp shape by cutting slits around the end of a tube and then folding these outwards into a flower shape. You could help pre-schoolers to do the cutting themselves or do it in advance for babies. Now show them how to dip the stamp you’ve made into paint and make a print onto the paper.

Then just let wee ones experiment and see what they come up with.  They could also use an uncut end of a tube to print a circle shape and use this to make a pattern or form the centre of a flower.


Homemade pavement chalk paint

We had a request this week for a pavement chalk recipe as lots of children have been chalking designs on the pavements outside their house. This recipe will make a chalky textured paint that you can paint onto the pavement or a driveway and will wash away in the rain or with a hose when you are ready.

You need:

  • cornflour
  • food colours or watercolour paints


Mix together the flour and the water. It’s quite tricky to stir at first due to the funny texture of the cornflour but if you keep mixing it will eventually get nice and creamy (I made it a bit too runny this time as you can see from the pictures). Then divide it between paint tubs or jars and add a drop of food colour or a squirt of watercolour paint to each one and stir in.  Now pick a dry day and let your wee ones try them outside. If there is a gap between making the paints and using them give them a good stir first as they tend to settle. We don’t have any pavement or drive so this week our neighbours kindly agreed to test run the paints for us.


Stained glass windows

This is a nice activity if you don’t feel like getting too messy but still want to help wee ones be creative and explore colours in a different way.

You need:

  • Some thin papers – tissue paper shapes are ideal or thin coloured paper but you can also add in others from home, like kitchen towels, baking parchment, packing from gifts etc. Even tinfoil works quite well
  • A window
  • Some water in a spray bottle or in a pot with a brush
  • Ideally a sunny day outside for maximum bright colours!

If they are not already in shapes, cut your papers into shapes before you start this activity, or older toddlers might be able to help do this. Lay out a range of shapes and colours for them to choose from.

Now you need to wet your window either by brushing on water or spraying with a bottle. This is my ones favourite bit and often ends with a soggy mum!

Now let them choose different papers and press them gently onto the window surface where the water will help them to stick. They can keep going till they build up a pattern that they like. It’s also fun to show bigger ones how the different colours can make new colours when they overlap and how some papers are see through and others like tinfoil are not.

When they are happy take a photo as these are temporary art works – bits will fall off as it dries out. On a sunny day you will get a stained glass effect but at night, if your light is on, your neighbours will get to see them. This might be a nice way to do a rainbow for your window.

Printing with baking trays and cake tins

This is a fun way to bring something different to painting with little ones. Doing a contact print from paint on a surface rather than straight on to the paper gives a different effect to the finished painting and you can do several from one surface to get a set. Wee ones seem to like the chance to paint on something normally out of bounds and the smooth surface lets them push about the paint in a different way to when it’s on paper. We particularly like the mini paintings from the cupcake tin as they are easy to handle when you’re small and look cute all together or stuck onto cards to send to relatives.

You need:

  • Cover the table or floor with newspaper or plastic
  • Metal baking trays
  • Cupcake or muffin tins
  • Non-toxic water based paints (or our flour paints recipe)
  • Brushes if you have them but you can also just drip and spread
  • Paper – big bits and cut into little squares (you could also use cereal box card if you’re out of paper)

Let little ones pour or brush paint onto the underside of a baking tray. For babies you might want to put the drips of paint on yourself and let them feel it and smear it about.

When they are happy with their design, help them to lay on a sheet of paper and gently rub the back before peeling off to reveal the print.

You should be able to print several before the paint runs out or they can add some new drips and try again.

For the little cupcake prints we cut our paper into small squares and then did the same thing. Spreading colours over the underside of the cupcake tins and then printing each one. This would also be a good chance for toddlers to practice mixing different colours and seeing what happened as each little circle is a different experiment.

These look lovely put up as a collection or you could use them for collage. Today we decided to make ours into a caterpillar by cutting out each circle as we’d been on a bug hunt in the morning.



Lid paintings

Sometimes we know that wee ones like to use every drip of paint out the bottle and it just keeps getting thicker until it pours off the paper. We want to find a way for them to explore the thick, drippy paint without it getting too chaotic. So if you find painting with your wee ones gets more messy than you can handle, try this. Paint into the lid of a box. You can use the lid of a shoe box or cut one side off a cereal box, or whatever you have to hand.  It will let little ones make the paint as thick and satisfyingly drippy as they like but it will all be nicely contained in the lid. They look really nice afterwards too and you could extend the activity later by using them as a set for toys or puppets. Several clustered together can make a wee village of houses.

A giant family painting

This week we are trying making life size paintings by drawing round bodies on to paper. Children usually enjoy the attention they get as you draw round them and it’s also a fun game not to wriggle as it tickles. It’s also nice for children to get to step back and look at themselves and it’s a fun way to learn the names of all the body parts with little ones. Then they get to decorate, maybe with colours chosen for how they are feeling? Or you could try using the right body part to print on, using a hand print on the hands and a footprint on the feet? Babies could just be allowed to spread paint over the top of the drawing and then you could cut it out or bigger kids could design the clothes?

It’s even more fun if you let the little ones get a shot of drawing round the big people! We didn’t have quite enough big paper to manage to do one for each of our family so we decided to draw them one on top of the other on the same piece and turn it into a pattern. This makes a nice end painting of a whole family unit that is a very visual way to show togetherness but it could also be very funny to have a picture for each family member. There are lot of variations so give it a go.

You need:

  • Big paper – this is flexible to what you have though, you could use newspaper or the back of old wallpaper like we did or you could stick together lots of smaller pieces.
  • Pencils, crayons or pens for drawing round people
  • Paint or other decorations – this one works well with the home made flour paint from our previous instructions
  • Some floor space – roll up those rugs!

Have wee ones lie down on a big sheet of paper and draw round them gently. It’s tickly so make this part a fun game. They will then enjoy getting a chance to draw round the older people in their family, with some help if it’s tricky.

It’s a good idea to do this step in pencil so they don’t get pen on your clothes and then you can draw round in pen afterwards.

If you draw round one body on top of the other from smallest to biggest on the same page you will be left with a crazy pattern of lines. It is then a game for the painting of trying to fill in every shape that the lines have made without letting the same colours touch. This is a definite team effort so get everyone involved!

Now you just need a really big wall to hang your family portrait on!

Butterfly prints (or fish or dragons!)

Today we were revisiting the classic kids painting technique of butterfly prints. But this one is too good not to keep coming back to. Because the outcome is a bit random it means there is no pressure to do beautiful painting so wee ones can enjoy the process and the surprise of what they get.

It’s really easy, you will probably remember it from when you were small too!

You need:

  • Any kind of paper you can find. We used newspaper and some bigger sugar paper. Thicker paper is better so the paint doesn’t tear it but we are not being fussy at the moment.
  • Kid safe water-based paint – or this on works great with the homemade flour paint from our previous post which you can find here)
  • Something to cover the table or floor

You just need to let wee ones blob paint onto the paper nice and thickly. They can move it about with a brush if they like but it’s not necessary. Then help them to fold the paper in half and show them how to gently rub over it to transfer the paint. Then help them to open it out and look at your beautiful butterfly print.

When I was little I used to then add a body and head to turn them into butterflies. My children were a bit more ambitious and wanted me to cut out different shapes for them to print. We started simple with hearts, then fish, then increasingly complicated sea animals. By the time we got to requests for dragons I was struggling to keep up but we did our best and the patterns look great. See what you can come up with together.




Some easy egg box makes

We are still thinking about activities that can be made using recycling from round the house. If you are able to save your egg boxes there are loads of craft ideas for little ones. A quick google will find you millions. Here are a few that we’ve been making this week. We started with daffodils in time for Easter and I’d planned to make chicks as well but my wee ones were much more interested in snails and turtles, and why not, they make a perfect shell! As always, how much wee ones can help will depend on their age. For older toddlers they can help you cut out but with babies you can cut out the parts yourself first and let them play with the shapes and then paint them. You can adapt these ideas for what you have at home and you can use last week’s homemade paints to decorate them if you like. Children also come up with the best ideas so go with the flow of what they are interested in making. You can also adapt the decorations to whatever you have about the house.

We used:

  • Old egg boxes
  • Water based, non-toxic paints (but you can also decorate with pens or chalks or whatever you have at home)
  • scissors
  • tape or pva for sticking together
  • scrap coloured paper
  • pipe cleaners (you can also use straws or sticks or simply stick the daffodils to a painting)
  • play dough or clay if you have it
  • some bits and bobs for decorating
  • A daffodil for inspiration!


You need to cut out the tall middle cones of the egg box to make the trumpets and the egg holding sections make the petals. We cut ours into four petal shapes.

Handily the trumpets already have a wee hole so you just need to poke a hole in the petal section and let wee ones thread in a pipe cleaner if they’re big enough. Then thread on the trumpet and roll a ball in the end of the pipe cleaner so it can’t pull back through. You can also add a blob of pva to keep it all together.

And then get painting. For babies it will be easier to paint before you thread the pieces together.

If you don’t have anything for a stem these also look really nice glued on to a painting. Here is an example from our neighbour.


We used the egg sections to become shells for snails and turtles. Where they were joined together there is already a handy hole for the head to pop out.

You could use some old play dough if you have any around. Roll it into a slug shape and then magically transform it into a snail with a shell. Add antennae and then paint. We did the same with a turtle adding a head, legs and tail.

You can also make the body parts from paper or card. Here we rolled up one end of a strip of paper to be the head and tail and added extra legs for the turtle.

My wee ones decided the snails needed a garden and so we went off on a tangent painting some grass and sticking on flowers cut from some of our junk mail. Delicious for the snails to eat.

Here are a couple more of our egg box creations. They make cute little nests and jazzy glasses! Have a go and see what your family come up with.