I see red…

Today I was going to unveil my new toy storage shelves but I’ve become distracted. After reading a post about toddler play on my girlfriend’s blog Motherwho I’ve decided to share some of the sensory box play I do with C. It also kicked me out of lazy Saturday morning mode and inspired me to make a new box and get snap happy as C played with it for the first time (always the best and longest play experience!).

As I’ve mentioned my background is in primary school teaching and childcare settings. I have spent the most time working in Year 1 and 2 classrooms (6-8 year olds for non-Victorians) and in 0-2 year old rooms. I bring more of my teaching background into my home than I realize. I innately look for learning/play experiences and enjoy thinking of new ways to engage C’s interests. My teaching philosophy revolves around a child centered approach and in the classroom I believed in immersion and fostering a love of learning. Sadly things are becoming more data driven in schools with publicized standardized test scores driving curriculum planning. In my last 2 years in classrooms I suffered 2 miscarriages, went through my mother’s breast cancer diagnosis and treatment and then my nervous pregnancy with C. I did become jaded and my heart became focused on my home and my family but I also think the changes I was seeing in my workplace were conflicting with my core beliefs. At home I can be me and as C is growing I am discovering and developing my beliefs about learning. I have also made a shift away from wanting C and L to be showered with heaps of toys and seek quality, multi-purpose toys for them. The ‘plastic fantastic’ sound and light shows that serve one purpose are not a hit with C and the ones we have lay mostly dormant in our toy box.

I stumbled across the idea of sensory boxes in one of my many evening Google searches! I probably typed something along the lines of ‘play ideas for toddlers’! I feel terrible that I can’t link you to the site I originally found the idea on as I found it sometime ago and honestly can’t remember. Pinterest will be loaded with ideas I’m sure!

My criteria for a sensory box:

-Materials must fit in my designated sized container for sensory boxes!
-Materials need to be cheap or better still free and easy to find.
-C must be able to engage with the contents independently – sometimes I sit beside her and play in the hope she will mimic my play and use the contents in a new way.
-Where possible C involved in putting the boxes together.
-Must be able to use the contents in different ways or change the use easily with the addition of different materials.


On my shelf at the moment I currently have 4 sensory boxes*:


C asks for the Playdough several times a week. Some things we have used with Playdough
*Cookie cutters
*Toothpicks (a favourite!)
*Icy pole sticks
*Toy animals
*Duplo blocks


On one of our park visits we collected some sticks, leaves, bark etc to make a ‘park in a box,’ of sorts! We have added toys animals to this, little bowls and spoons for pouring. This box has not been popular at this point but this week C has developed a fascination with the rock mulch in our garden so I plan to add rocks to this box this week.

    Pasta Play

C and I spent a rainy afternoon dying dried pasta with food coloring. I placed the pasta and some drops of coloring in a snap block bag and gave to C to “shake,shake,shake” to her hearts content! The result? A fantastic container full of fun! C has loved this box! We have used cookie cutters, bowels, spoons etc in it and she just loves pouring and spooning the pasta back and forth from one container to another. When she was 17months old she became interested in toilet training and this box was used a lot as she sat on her potty playing whilst we waited eagerly for any signs of wee or poo!

And that brings me to the last box – I’ve labeled it ‘Thematic’ which feels a bit silly outside of a classroom but basically the contents of this box change according to interests or areas I would like to introduce C to. We have used it as an Easter box, Water play box, Floating and Sinking box just to name a few.

I have recently begun informally introducing C to colours mainly through talk whilst playing. She takes in more than I will ever know but generally appears disinterested in my ramblings!!! This morning I made her a ‘red’ box following her interest in her Colours book. This box was completely free and took no time at all to set up. This is what I came up with:


In this box I put:
*A toy car (trying to subtly encourage the inclusion of more “boy” toys in her play – having little success!)
*Click together shapes
*Duplo blocks
*Icy pole sticks
*a small ball of Playdough

Non- red items I included were her Colours book, some paper and a small bowl.

Unfortunately the introduction of the box didn’t go as planned. I pulled it off the shelf and then L promptly became very unsettled and then C started complaining, so I ended up grumpily tossing the box on the end of the couch next to me feeding. The quality of photos are not so great either as I had one hand and was on the wrong angle to all the action!!


Interestingly the first thing C did was remove the car and take it to her table which is out of the playroom. Not sure why she did this. Perhaps she felt it didn’t belong with the other materials.


She next got out the icy pole sticks and laid them flat. She said ‘painting’ and pretended to make a painting motion with them – we have used these as a painting tool in the past.


For the most part her attention was focused on the Playdough and how she could use the other materials with it.


She built towers in the Playdough, stacked feathers in it, pushed buttons and pasta into it. She enjoyed a quick scribble with the crayons and stuck the stickers on the paper but then scrunched up her work and put it in the bin – she’s never scrunched her work up before so not sure what prompted this. The heart shape crepe tool she held up and said ‘daddy’ – the last time she saw it D had used it to make crepes.


This box of goodies kept her entertained for around 40 mins until helping put pants and socks on L distracted her. Once she moved away the box was packed away.

*I don’t claim any of my ideas to be original. It’s what teachers do – we steal share ideas!

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4 Responses to I see red…

  1. motherwho says:

    FORTY MINUTES!? I am definitely going to try this idea out! The pasta sounds like lots of fun too. Loving that you have a blog now xxx

    • graceofmae says:

      I know right! I think C is a bit unique in here length of time she spends on things. It helped that I was sitting next to her so there was conversation as well. No way she would have stayed so long if I had walked away. Obviously mood dependent as well. She was very settled yesterday and not over tired – other days she just seems to pace and won’t settle at anything. The joy was in opening the box and digging around it – won’t give me as much time next time!!

      Enjoying have a blog! Feel like I’m up with the times! Soon I’ll have the guts to tell people I have one!

  2. Love this post. I’m definately going to do this with K!! Thanks 🙂

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