Wow, it's one of those mornings. You turn your back for one second and your preschooler plunges her hands in the new flower garden. The muddy flower garden. Good thing the garden hose is right there. Ten minutes later, she's drawing squiggles with her fingers in a messy toothpaste foam at the bottom of the bathroom sink. Next, she's burying her hands in the heavy, warm pile of towels you just took out of the dryer. What is wrong with her? Don't panic. It's normal behavior that benefits your preschooler's developing brain. She's using her sense of touch to learn things about her environment -- the little genius. To exercise some Mommy-control over the situation, buy a sensory table or fill a plastic box with something as simple as cotton balls for sensory activities.
1. Exploring Sizes
Don't worry what the cashier at your local store is going to think, as you buy an armful of cotton balls, in every size. The cashier hasn't walked a mile in your shoes. If she had, she'd know that you need a gazillion jumbo, regular and mini-cotton balls, so your budding scientist can sort, stack and compare them for hours. If you don't have a sensory table -- a sort of dish-pan on legs -- use a box or bowl to hold the cotton balls. Show your little-Einstein how to stuff as many as possible in a tight fist, then open it all at once to watch a cotton ball explosion. So cool.
2. Pull-Apart Activity
Once the novelty of tossing around cotton balls at the sensory table for the sake of tossing around cotton balls at the sensory table has worn off, let your preschooler in on a little secret. Cotton balls can be completely transformed by pulling them apart into long, flat versions of their former puffy, perfect shapes. They could pass for thick cob-webs. Spooky. From there, keep tearing and shredding the cotton until it is nothing but a wispy pile of fluff. Total cotton ball obliteration.
3. Rainbow Cotton Balls
Yay for you, Mom, if you find a store that sells cotton balls in several different colors. If not, making your own isn't hard. Dip white ones in water, mixed with a few drops food color, in a bowl. Dry them on paper towels. Yeah, that sounds fun, doesn't it? But it's worth it because the colored cotton balls look awesome. Fill the sensory table with the 'rainbow' cotton balls. Your preschooler can sort colors, make patterns or just play with and revel in the softness and color. You can revel in being the kind of Mom who makes stuff like this possible.
4. Cotton-Ball Clouds
Stuck inside with a cranky preschooler on a rainy afternoon? Lead the frowny one to the sensory table to turn the cranky off. Break out a fresh bag of that trusty, sensory table staple, the humble cotton ball. Place an inch or two of water in the sensory table, dishpan, bowl or whatever you use for sensory activities. One by one, or handful by handful, your child can saturate the cotton balls, then squeeze out the water to make it 'rain' from the cotton-ball 'clouds'. Cranky is just a memory. Wet, splashy happiness prevails.