DIY All-Natural Sensory Play Dough

DIY All-Natural Play Dough - Alicia in Wonderland Blog
Play dough is such a great learning activity for toddlers. Unfortunately, I am allergic to a lot of artificial dyes, and it appears that little E is allergic to some as well. I wanted to make him some homemade play dough with natural coloring so that he could play with it without any problems with allergic reactions. I used to buy natural food colors at Sur La Table (for cupcake frosting, etc.), but they have not restocked them in a really long time. Every time I asked about them, they just suggested that I order them online. I felt silly paying for shipping for something so small. Then I realized that the same natural food colors are available on Amazon.com, and they come with free shipping with our Prime membership (I cannot say enough good things about how much I absolutely love having that Amazon Prime membership…I use it for so many things)!

I was quite excited to get started with making some homemade play dough! I thought it would be even more fun to make a bunch of different scents with the dough, enhancing the sensory experience.

Here is the recipe I used:

2 cups flower
2 cups warm water
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 tablespoons baking powder
1 cup sea salt

1. Mix all of the ingredients above into a pot on the stove, over medium-low heat.
2. Cook while stirring frequently, until the mixture resembles mashed potatoes.
3. Let mixture cool, then divide into 6 equal sized chunks.
4. Each chunk of dough got a different color and scent for a fun, sensory experience. I kneaded 3-5 drops of food coloring and 3 drops of essential oil into each chunk of dough.

Here are the color/scent combos that I used:
1. purple – doTERRA lavender essential oil
2. yellow – doTERRA lemon essential oil
3. pink – rose essential oil (purchased at Sprouts since doTERRA does not currently sell rose oil)
4. greenish blue – peppermint doTERRA essential oil
5. green – oregano doTERRA essential oil
6. orange – 1 pinch each cinnamon and nutmeg, to smell like pumpkin pie

Between uses, each ball of dough is stored in its own ziploc baggie in the refrigerator.

*Important safety warning: Since this recipe contains a significant amount of salt, do not let your child play with the play dough around dogs. Salt is toxic to dogs, and most dogs love to eat anything they can get their paws on. Our dogs are especially good at making sad puppy dog eyes at our son, manipulating him into giving them whatever they want, even when they are locked out of the room behind a baby gate. When our son is having sensory dough time, I lock our dogs outside or in one of our bedrooms. One of our dogs has tried a few times now to get E to give him the dough.

E’s favorite scents are the three that he is most familiar with from our garden: lavender, lemon, and rose. The oregano and pumpkin pie scented doughs are not his favorite…sometimes he is in the mood for those, other times those two get pushed away. Here is a funny video of him having so much fun smelling his dough. 🙂

DIY All-Natural Play Dough - Alicia in Wonderland Blog DIY All-Natural Play Dough - Alicia in Wonderland Blog DIY All-Natural Play Dough - Alicia in Wonderland Blog DIY All-Natural Play Dough - Alicia in Wonderland Blog DIY All-Natural Play Dough - Alicia in Wonderland Blog DIY All-Natural Play Dough - Alicia in Wonderland Blog

*Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links for your convenience.

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$2 DIY Barn Toy

$2 DIY Barn Toy - Alicia in Wonderland Blog

Our little guy loves playing with his little farm animals, and I’ve been wanting to find him a little barn for them. I saw a DIY barn on Pinterest recently and it inspired me to make one myself for him. I didn’t have a big tea box to use like in that tutorial, so I started brainstorming about what else I had on hand that I could use. I started picturing some of our favorite barns that we’ve seen at some of the homes nearby, and I had a perfect idea…an empty juice container.

Here are the supplies you will need to make this super simple toy for your own little one:
1. empty juice or milk container
2. sheet of red corrugated 12″x12″ scrapbook paper (I purchased mine at Joann’s)
3. sheet of brown felt
4. sheet of sticky back, stiff white felt
5. glue gun
6. razor blade
7. scissors
8. ruler
9. duct tape

$2 DIY Barn Toy - Alicia in Wonderland Blog
1. I started by thoroughly cleaning and drying the juice box.
2. Then I measured the width of one of the sides (4 inches). I cut up the length of 4 inches along three of the sides of the juice container, starting from the bottom. This created a flap to be the new bottom of the barn. I also cut off the plastic pour spout and trimmed off the tab at the very top of the container that makes the top a bit more pointy.

$2 DIY Barn Toy - Alicia in Wonderland Blog
3. I used duct tape to close and secure the flap to make the new bottom.
$2 DIY Barn Toy - Alicia in Wonderland Blog
4. My son actually picked out this red corrugated cardboard a long time ago when we were shopping for craft supplies, and I had no idea what we were going to use it for. Red is his favorite color, and the corrugated texture makes for a great sensory experience, so I was determined to find a use for it eventually. I realized that it would make the perfect “wood siding” for the barn. I measured the red paper to fit the sides of the carton, and glued on with the glue gun. $2 DIY Barn Toy - Alicia in Wonderland Blog
5. Next I started with the roof. I used two sheets of felt, one sticky back white and one standard piece of brown felt. The white felt gives some much needed stiffness, and also gives the illusion of painted white trim around the roof. 🙂
$2 DIY Barn Toy - Alicia in Wonderland Blog
6. I measured out a piece of each felt for the roof, approximately 7″ x 5.5″. Then I stuck the brown felt to the sticky side of the white felt, and glued the whole thing on the roof with the glue gun.
$2 DIY Barn Toy - Alicia in Wonderland Blog
7. Then I used more of the sticky white felt to create the barn doors. I sketched out my design on the back (paper covering the sticky side), and cut out with a razor blade (cut over a cutting board).

$2 DIY Barn Toy - Alicia in Wonderland Blog
8. Here are the cut out doors. Next I put the doors on, using a tiny bit of glue from the glue gun.

$2 DIY Barn Toy - Alicia in Wonderland Blog
9. Last step was cutting out the doors with the razor blade.

$2 DIY Barn Toy - Alicia in Wonderland Blog $2 DIY Barn Toy - Alicia in Wonderland Blog
My little guy immediately took the barn out of the sensory bin, but he has had tons of fun playing with it. He keeps singing E-I-E-I-O when he plays with it. 🙂

DIY Sensory Toys – Pinterest Fails & Mommy-Made Winners

Sensory toys are all the rage these days on Pinterest and elsewhere on the internet. E had his first exposure to sensory toys at a great play date we went to a few months back. The group leader had all different kinds of sensory stations set up, including a bucket of corn starch (E’s favorite), a bubble machine, homemade finger paints, sensory boards, and marshmallow goo. Our little guy had so much fun at that play date that I decided to come home and make a bunch of sensory toys that he could enjoy any time.

I started with the idea of this sensory box, which was inspired by the sensory board at the play date. I liked the idea of putting the sensory activity into a small, portable object that we could bring with us when we are out at a restaurant, etc. I happened to have an empty craft cigar box lying around in one of my craft supply closets and it worked perfectly. I stayed up late one night looking through all of my craft closets for things to glue in the box. I was so excited to give the box to E the next morning, and was so happy when he loved it. 🙂 It was really easy to make…just scraps of fabric and paper with varying textures and miscellaneous items I had in my craft drawers. I used super glue to hold everything in place.

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Next I made him a shaker that he loves using an empty tea tin, some coins and some medical tape. It’s not cute but he loves it! It is shown below in a basket with some more of his sensory toys. In his sensory basket, there are also some rubber sensory balls, a Kush ball, and the sensory bottles that I made.

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As I noticed that E was playing quietly and independently in his bedroom, I thought that would be the perfect time to finally photograph all of his sensory toys (this is something I have been meaning to do for months). As soon as he heard his sensory bottles shaking and making noise as I lined them all up for a photo, he came crawling around the corner so fast that he ended up in my photo. 🙂

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From left to right, the bottles include:
1. Sequins and water (the sequins turned the water pink)
2. Water with green food coloring, body oil and miscellaneous beads and charms. This was a big Pinterest fail…I do not like how the body oil turned so cloudy. It may stay clear with some brands of body oil, but this is how it ended up looking with Avon Skin So Soft. E loves it though so I guess that is all that matters.
3. Water, blue food coloring, dish soap, and glitter. He loves this one.
4. Plastic rhinestones and water.
5. Plastic magnetic letters (from the dollar store) and beads.

I glued all of the bottles shut with super glue, but still make sure he only plays with these when we are keeping a close eye on him since he likes to try to chew on everything.

Next up is his sensory board. I made this using a small shipping box that I cut open and laid flat. I store it folded in half and it works out pretty well. It was quick and dirty assembly with duct tape, and not Etsy style pretty, but I could not care less. He loves the board, it didn’t take me long to make, cost me almost nothing, and that is all that matters to me. 🙂 I used pieces of felt leftover from his room decorations, bits and pieces left over from my bathroom mosaic, carpet sample, miscellaneous beads and rhinestones, pipecleaners, popsicle sticks, and some leftover swatches of textured wallpaper, window covering, and drawer liner. Again, I used super glue to secure everything to the pieces of felt. Then I attached the felt with duct tape.

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Here is his absolute favorite, even after months of playing with it…the container of corn starch!
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Here are two that I saw on Pinterest that were huge fails. I made squishy bags with some little dollar store finds, blue hair gel in one and shaving cream in the other. I closed up the two freezer bags with duct tape. I thought he would love them, but he hasn’t shown much interest in squishing them. He just wants to chew on them and those teeth are dangerously sharp. I am putting these bags away for later, when he stops chewing on everything.

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Another sensory activity that E was crazy about was a small bowl of water with ice cubes. I have stopped doing this activity with him though since it has turned into a frustrating thing every time we are at a restaurant and he wants to stick his hands in everyone’s ice water. 🙂 He makes a pretty big mess with his sensory play time, but the vacuum robot is great for cleanup. My husband is not a fan of the corn starch thing since it tends to get everywhere, but the robot is usually pretty good about getting rid of the evidence of the huge white mess before Daddy gets home. 😉
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As with any homemade toy with small parts, be sure to only let your baby play with these while supervised so the small parts don’t turn into choking hazards! Also be sure that everything is properly adhered with strong glue. I like to arrange the parts in shapes so I immediately will be able to see if something is missing and I can grab it out of his tiny little hands. 🙂