Sensory play with an extra purpose – heartfelt, home made gifts! We made an assortment of things including mini herb planters and necklaces from a simple home made air dry clay recipe. You can make quite the collection of gifts for birthdays, mother’s day, valentine’s day or Christmas with the following added benefits of sensory play.

  • Build tactile resilience with a dough that isn’t as sticky as play dough (this post on scented play dough and its benefits for children that are adverse to wet, sticky or squishy foods may be helpful for you to learn more about building tactile resilience and how it relates to picky eating)
  • Build fine motor skills by painting the finished products (skills that are also SO important for learning to maneuver food with cutlery and plan the tasks associated with eating.)
  • Get proprioceptive input from the push / pull motions of forming the gifts. (read more on proprioceptive systems and mealtimes here.)

When this week’s #getcreativewith challenge on Instagram called for us to work with clay, I was quick to think… Ummm… How do we make our own clay? And can I be a bit clever and get ahead of the game by coming up with a mother’s day gift idea?

Google to the rescue

A quick google search later and I found this YouTube video explaining how EASY it was to make air dry clay. Once I stopped trying to work out how her house remained so clean and I put my inner skeptic back in the corner, I figured I could find the Aussie equivalents to her products and give it a go. What did I have to loose? Well it was equivalent to spending $6.50 on one of the ingredients and a bit of time. I was still umming and ahhing because of my extensive Pinterest fail experiences.

The ingredients we used for air dry clay:

  • UHU Craft Glue
  • Bottled Lemon Juice
  • Corn Flour
  • Vegetable Oil

The dough is very hot as it comes out of the microwave, so I kneaded this myself and let the kids at it after we had lunch and it had cooled down significantly. We stored half of the mixture in an oiled zip lock bag in the fridge so that my oldest could make her own creations after school too. Storing the air dry clay in this way will keep it usable for longer. The creations were dry within 24hrs and were ready for painting.

Yet as Dora the Explorer says “we did it”. And we did it with 3 bubbling-with-excitement 4 year olds. It wasn’t too hard after all.

What we made from air dry clay

Have a look at our little air dry clay creations!

Our rosemary cuttings in mini homemade planters were made by pressing thinly rolled out air dry clay into the lining of silicon muffin molds with some holes poked into the bottom for irrigation purposes (if the cuttings ever live long enough to grow roots). These mini planters made from air dry clay will hopefully make it to some pretty special grandmothers for mother’s day this year. Yet, last year my mum finally got her mother’s day gift on Christmas eve. Ooops! So, I am not sure if our thumbs are green enough to sustain these cuttings for the long haul. As an additional bonus, rosemary is good for olfactory resilience building if smells of new foods and new environments is often confronting for your child. These pressure free ways of engaging with smells helps them regulate their reactions and explore coping mechanisms without the thought of having to eat these foods.

AIr dry clay forming and painting for sensory play (and great for gift making) | Play with Food

We also used a range of shape cutters and molds to spell out words and make some pendants. Anyone else fancy a lobster necklace? The kids have been using their fish, duck, elephants, balls, lobsters, cows and swans in all sorts of imaginative play. They also happily painted them for a while. So unlike some other kids crafting activities, this one has provided literally hours of unplugged entertainment for the kids.

What sensory play do you love to do with kids?



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