Tag Archives: discovery time

Baby Play: Water Painting

After each of my baby storytimes, I include a Discovery Time free-play session that encourages parents to talk to one another and to interact with their children. I include a variety of fine motor, gross motor, and sensory activities that appeal to 0-2-year-olds.

Babies LOVE playing in water, and I love to provide opportunities for them to do so! However, it gets cold in Ohio and not every parent is thrilled about their little one potentially getting soaked after storytime.

Water painting creates the best of both worlds: babies get to play with water while staying dry (and practicing fine motor skills).

Each little one gets a hard surface (trays work well), a piece of construction paper, and a paint brush. Adults get a cup filled about one-third with water. Kids can dip the paintbrush in the water and paint squiggles on the paper (or whatever other surface is nearby).

Setting Up Water Painting Play

Materials: hard surface, construction paper, paintbrushes (that are only used for water play–babies will put these in their mouths), reusable cups, bucket for clean water, bucket for dirty water, paper towels

Steps:

  • Setup station with materials listed above.
  • Put construction paper on a tray.
  • Adult fills reusable cup with clean water.
  • Child “paints” as long as they like.

Cost: < $10

  • Paintbrushes (Dollar Tree)
  • Construction Paper Pack

Time to Setup: < 5 minutes

Pro-Tip: The water shows up better on lighter colored construction paper.

Conversation Starters

Start conversations as babies play with this tool by asking questions like:

  • What does the water feel like?
  • What can you draw?
  • What happens to the paper when you put water on it?
  • Can you draw a circle?
  • What happens if you use less water?
  • How does the paper feel before and after you paint with water?

Stretch Vocabulary

When talking with little ones, use big words and small words. The more new words a child hears, the larger their vocabulary will be when they start to learn to read.

Consider using some of the following vocabulary words when using this activity:

Damp
Dip
Draw
Drenched
Dripping
Dry

Little
Miniscule
Plain
Pour
Saturated
Soaked

Sodden
Soggy
Sopping
Textured
Torn
Wet

Baby Play: Muffin Tin Play

After each of my baby storytimes, I include a Discovery Time free-play session that encourages parents to talk to one another and to interact with their children. I include a variety of fine motor, gross motor, and sensory activities that appeal to 0-2-year-olds.

Using muffin tins as sorting trays can be adapted for a variety of ages. The youngest children just like placing ball pit balls (or other items) in the tin’s perfectly shaped cups. Toddlers start to recognize colors and will match balls to colors in the tin’s cups. Preschoolers quickly turn muffin tin play into a pretend play activity, imagining the balls are cupcakes, muffins, or other treats.

Setting Up Muffin Tin Play

Materials: Muffin Tins, Ball Pit Balls, Construction Paper (optional)

Steps:

  • Give child ball pit balls and muffin tins
  • Optional: Cut colored circles and tape or hot glue into the cups of a muffin tin. Make sure these match the colors of the ball pit balls you have.

Cost: $38 (cost depends on audience size)

Time to Make: 20 minutes (if adding colored circles)

Pro-Tip: If you plan to use these regularly, laminate and hot glue the circles you place in the muffin tins for durability.

Conversation Starters

Start conversations as babies play with this tool by asking questions like:

  • Can you put a ball in each empty space?
  • Can you match the colors in the muffin tin?
  • Where is a yellow ball?
  • What color is this?
  • How many balls fit in the tin?
  • Can you fit two balls in one spot?
  • Can you pretend the balls are food?

Stretch Vocabulary

When talking with little ones, use big words and small words. The more new words a child hears, the larger their vocabulary will be when they start to learn to read.

Consider using some of the following vocabulary words when using this activity:

Arrange
Bounce
Categorize
Colors
Cupcakes
Dump

Empty
Fill
Fit
Grab
Grasp
Match

Organize
Pattern
Roll
Shiny
Smooth
Sort

Sometimes, little ones make their own play:

Baby Play: Cereal Boxes and Straws

After each of my baby storytimes, I include a Discovery Time free-play session that encourages parents to talk to one another and to interact with their children. I include a variety of fine motor, gross motor, and sensory activities that appeal to 0-2-year-olds.

A simple fine motor activity, cereal boxes and straws, is always a success. Babies build their finger muscles while placing smoothie straws in pre-cut holes in cereal boxes. This is especially great because it can be easily replicated at home and appeals to a wide range of ages.

How to Make Cereal Boxes and Straws

Materials: Empty Cereal Boxes, Smoothie Straws, Pencil or other poking tool, Packing Tape

Steps:

  • Collect empty cereal boxes.
  • Tape all sides of the box to make the seams sturdier.
  • Punch holes in the front of the box using a pencil or similar tool.
  • Test a straw to make sure your holes are large enough for a straw to fit but not so large that it flops over and falls into the box.
  • Optional: Make a pattern with your straw holes, such as a letter of the alphabet.

Cost: $0-10

Time to Make: < 10 minutes

Pro-Tip: If you are going to use this activity a lot, consider purchasing reusable straws that can be washed. Smoothie straws can be washed, but tend to get bitten, and the teeth marks show.

Conversation Starters

Start conversations as babies play with this tool by asking questions like:

  • How many straws fit in the box?
  • Can you take a straw out of the box?
  • Can you make a straw fit in the box?
  • What color is the straw?
  • How does the straw feel?
  • What happens if you hit the box with the straw?

Stretch Vocabulary

When talking with little ones, use big words and small words. The more new words a child hears, the larger their vocabulary will be when they start to learn to read.

Consider using some of the following vocabulary words when using this activity:

Fit
Inside
Into
Lay
Length
Lift

Nudge
Outside
Pluck
Press
Pull
Push

Smooth
Stand
Tall
Tight
Tug
Yank