Creative Activities + Sensory Play For Kids During Lockdown

  • Mums & Bubs

Are the kids getting restless? Are restrictions/lockdown driving you a little loopy? Trying to keep babies and toddlers active and entertained during a pandemic is no easy feat, and there's only so much Playschool you can watch—so it could be time to whip out your creative craft box!  

Art educator, owner of Mini Monet Art School and Mum, Georgie Doherty, shares some of her open-ended, creative mess-making, sensory activities to fill your afternoons with bubs.

1. Themed Sensory Bins

Sensory bins
The options are endless with these fun, themed sensory bins!

Sensory bins are a hands-on tactile experience for children. Most sensory bin setups engage multiple senses (touch, smell, taste, sight, sound) and encourage key development milestones like fine motor skills, language and hand-eye coordination. First, choose your bin or tub – use what you have! A baking dish or shoebox will work just fine. Then choose your filler. Our favourite bin fillers include dyed rice, dye pasta, plastic balls, water, lego, oats, cloud dough (oil + flour). Next use a kitchen utensil to act as a “scoop”. The last objects can relate to a chosen theme. Have some plastic sea creatures? And suddenly your hunting for sharks. Coloured gems? Try digging for them under a mountain of rice. The options are endless here and I can guarantee your kids will be wanting more.

2. Pasta Art Wall Hanging

Pasta art wall hanging
An easy and fun play invitation for little ones, their eyes will light up at the sight of colourful pasta!

Luckily the panic buying of pasta has calmed down recently and you’ll most likely be able to space a couple of cups of pasta. Find a couple of varieties or just one will do! Turning your plain pasta into a rainbow colour palette is an afternoon of fun and activity your little one can take charge of. Place 1 cup of pasta in a zip lock bag with some food dye and a tsp of vinegar. Shake, shake, shake the bag to your favourite soundtrack or until your pasta is covered in dye. Then leave it to dry on a tray and you have instantly created tiny coloured mosaic style pieces to make some art. Create a pattern by glueing each pasta piece onto cardboard. Be sure to make a single row of pasta at the top of the design, then thread a stick through and attach a string to hang.

3. Finger Painting Rainbows With A Baby

Mini Monets will adore getting messy with some rainbow finger painting.

Rainbows are the universal sign for all things amazing, playful and childlike. They look gorgeous in any colour and are an easily relatable topic for children. The simple shape to paint encourages little hands to “flow” in one swift arch stroke across the page. Have baby sit on your lap, load a paintbrush with paint and let them squeeze it between their fingers. Linger here, it’s a beautiful sensory moment for them!

Next guide the baby’s hand to the page starting in the bottom corner, moving toward the top centre and back towards the bottom corner. Have a little bowl of water or some baby wipes on stand by to wipe little hands between each colour.

4. Gelatin Play

This is code for “gooey fun!”. A tub of gelatin can submerge your little one’s favourite bath time toy – needing immediate excavation! All you need is a tub, gelatin powder, water, food colouring and a plastic object. Mix up the gelatin as per the label instructions. I always add 2 or three extra gelatin scoops to make it set firmly. Add the food colouring and some objects like; lego, plastic animals, pom poms, gems or rocks! The next day set your tribe up with some excavation tools and a bowl of water to “wash” them clean.

5. Hand Print Flowers

Hand print flowers
Create some artwork to treasure with these beautiful handprint flowers!

A beautiful garden of painted blooms can be made with little handprints. After drawing a flower stem and centre on your paper (you can use markers, cut paper, pencils or paint for this) load your little one’s hand with paint. Let them print their palm and fingertips onto the page to create each ‘petal’. This artwork can be fun for parents and their baby too.        

6. Bubble Wrap Prints   

Bubble wrap prints
Little mitts will love the texture of this fun bubble wrap activity.

Bubble wrap prints are a fun and easy activity for any kid old enough to hold a paintbrush. They can explore different colours and patterns to create frame-worthy works of art or use the prints to create lizards, whales, seahorses or snakes. I often use bubble wrap prints as a background texture for other painting projects like rainbows and flowers. All you need in stock for this activity is bubble wrap, paint, a paintbrush and some stick tape. To start with tape the bubble wrap to your table or a piece of newspaper. Next, add paint. This can be done in a pattern such as zig-zags, one colour or a mix up of coloured brush strokes. Once enough paint has been applied, place the paper on top and let your little one gently press. Slowly peel back the paper and wait for the delight in your little one’s eyes when they reveal their gorgeous print!

7. Leaf Prints

Leaf prints
Combining an outdoor foraging session AND creative craft time? We're sold! 

This activity requires an expedition to the garden or park. With a little investigation and return home with a bundle of flat-ish leaves. All you need is paint, a paintbrush or paint roller and some paper. Let your little one experiment with how much paint to cover the leaf in order to create a good print on the paper. This requires some critical thinking, trying a few times, and curiosity on your their part. Once they have created a good print, then repeat, repeat, repeat to create a pattern! These leaf prints could become gift cards, wrapping paper or even look great on some fabric.

8. No Mess Painted Canvas

No mess painted canvas
You had us at "no-mess"...

If you’re not in the mood for mess today, then this activity is for you. Working along the lines of abstract art this canvas will resemble a kaleidoscope of colour and texture to impress your whole Mother’s group.

All you need is a canvas (from your local $2 shop) or thick cardboard (aka pack boxes will work!). A zip lock bag, make sure it's bigger than the canvas. And some paint. The hardest part is selecting your colour scheme. Keeping your palette either ‘warm’, think of a sunset, or ‘cool’ will work well. Squeeze a generous amount of paint on the canvas and zip it shut in your zip lock bag. Now let your little one squish paint beneath the plastic, give it a whack, push it from side to side and just enjoy to no mess painting. Once you're done pull it out and leave it to dry. You can top it off with some cut-out letters or even dip it back into a fresh bag of paint for layer two.

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