Tag Archives: liquid tiles

Baby Play: Liquid Tiles

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.

Sensory play is very important for all ages but especially for babies. Babies are exploring concepts (like gravity and motion) and textures for the first time. Their brains are growing at exponential rates as they learn how they can manipulative the world around them.

I’ve been using textured tiles for a while. These are liked by all and allow babies to explore different surfaces in a safe environment. The foam puzzle tiles allow for adults or kids to create a path, a large block of textured squares, or any other shape they can think of.

However, my textured tiles have been put to shame by my coworker’s amazing liquid tiles. These have gone through many iterations, and, unfortunately, are not leak-proof.

We recently purchased factory-made liquid tiles that have also been fan favorites. These have been well-loved in the last three weeks with no signs of breaking. They are especially loved by the larger kids and adults, who can safely step on these without being concerned about them breaking.

Both types of tiles have different advantages–read on to see my pros and cons of each style, plus how to make those awesome handmade liquid tiles.

DIY Liquid Tiles

This method is developed by the talented Sarah Simpson, who I would make write this post except she is at home with her own new baby at the moment.

Materials: lamination pouches (the thicker the better; example is 5 mil), iron, baby oil (4-6 oz. a tile), food coloring, various items to add into bags, duct tape

Optional: Foam Puzzle Tiles (any size, extra large in images), Industrial Hole Punch, Zip Ties

Steps:

  • Trim lamination pouch to your ideal size. If you are planning to attach it to a foam puzzle tile or other surface, measure to fit that surface while leaving some space around the edges for eventual attachment.
  • Iron three sides of the pouch shut, at least 1.5″ around each edge.
  • Insert 4-6 oz. of baby oil into the open end of the pouch.
  • Insert a mixture of other items. Consider water with food coloring, plastic bingo chips, large foam shapes, googly eyes, or tissue paper squares.
  • Remove as much air from the pouch as possible while ironing the last side closed.
  • Wrap colorful duct tape around all edges. Leave a margin of duct tape around the edges (at least 0.5″ thick) that does not have any lamination bag in between the duct tape.
  • You can stop here, unless you want to attach your bag to a tile. The tiles create a different sensory experience for babies, but, be warned, we have never had a tile last more than 3-6 months (sometimes 3-6 days) before some part starts leaking. We think the leaking has to do with the industrial holepunch in the steps below, since bags not attached to tiles have not had this issue.
  • Use an industrial hole punch to punch a hole through the duct tape towards the edge of the bag. Do your best to only punch through the extra duct tape flap you created above, NOT through duct tape and lamination pouch.
  • Use the industrial hole punch to punch a hole in the foam puzzle tile.
  • Attach your lamination pouch using zip ties.

Cost: $25+ (depends what you have on hand)

Time to Make: 15 minutes

Pros: From watching interactions, I think this bag style is better for really little ones than the purchased tiles. Babies can see the movement inside the tiles and can use their hands and body weight to move objects around.

Cons: We have never successfully made one of these tiles that has not eventually leaked. Mostly, those leaks don’t occur until after 2-3 months of regular use. These bags can also take a while to make, especially if you refresh your collection after they start to break.

Purchased Tiles

We recently purchased the Excellerations Large Liquid Tile set from Discount School Supply. While pricey ($142 for the four tiles), these are sturdy to the point of being heavy to pick up. Each tile has a different color inside, and it takes some weight (or gravity if you pick them up and lean them against a wall) to make the liquid move. Adults can stand and jump on them with no sign of any wear.

There are very similar looking tiles available from sellers on Amazon, though those generally have questionable reviews.

We have only had these for about a month, with consistent use 2-3 times a week for only about three weeks, but there is no sign of leaking or damage.

Pros: These are sturdy and require no staff time to make or setup. Cleaning is a breeze–I just use cleaning wipes on them after each story time.

Cons: They are costly. Depending the materials you have on hand, you may be able to make quite a few liquid tiles yourself for less than $10. I also don’t think these are as exciting for the babies, as it takes a lot more force to move the liquid. The adults and walking kids really like this style.

Conversation Starters

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

  • What do you see in the tile?
  • What does the tile feel like?
  • What colors are inside the tile?
  • Can you stomp on the tile?
  • Can you make the colors move?

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:

Bend
Dry
Examine
Explore
Find
Flexible

Grasp
Hunt
Inspect
Investigate
Mushy
Search

Shape
Smooth
Spot
Squeeze
Squishy
Wet