Lets be honest- for a toddler, pretty much every mealtime is sensory play! So why not bust out the ice cream and let your kiddo have fun feeling the cold temperature, the smooth texture and enjoying the yummy taste! Below you’ll find instructions for doing just that, along with other ice cream themed sensory play and art ideas you can do with your 1-2 year old (and your preschooler too!). I’m including a supply/shopping list at the end of the post too so you can make sure you have all the supplies you need to complete the activities! The supplies are anything I’m using that wasn’t already mentioned in my “Basic Supplies“ post.
–Sprinkle Ice: Oh my gosh both of my kids LOVED this one (especially the toddler) and it’s so easy to set up! Just throw some water in an ice cube tray, add sprinkles to each spot and pop it in the freezer. When they’re frozen, take the cubes out and put them on a baking sheet (this makes for easier clean up). Give your little a squirt bottle with warm water in it and let them squirt water on the ice cubes to melt them and reveal the sprinkles! I highly suggest doing this one outside because it can get messy (we had a puddle under our baking pan and my toddler got drenched because he was sitting in it!). If you have to be inside because of rain, just throw a towel down to catch the excess water and you should be fine! Both of my kids also tasted the sprinkles, but isn’t taste one of our senses too?
–Sprinkles sensory play: Fill a cake pan (or tupperware or shoe box) with several large jars of rainbow sprinkles and let your little scoop and play! They can use their hands, or you can also provide scooping instruments like spoons, measuring cups, etc. I highly recommend putting down a blanket on the floor before you begin and doing this on a day you plan to vacuum- it’s a ton of fun, but the sprinkles do tend to get EVERYWHERE, even with a towel down!
–Dancing sprinkles experiment: This one is so much fun to watch- and super easy to set up! We ended up doing it over and over because both boys loved it! You simply fill up a glass with water, throw in some rainbow sprinkles (we also tried flat sprinkles, but the rainbow ones worked far better!) and pop in an Alka-Seltzer. The sprinkles dance up an down while the Alka-Seltzer fizzes and when it’s finished they “magically” continue to float back up, even if you stir them or push them down with your finger! SUPER cool!
–Homemade maple vanilla ice cream: My toddler was a little bit too young to do this one (although he did enjoy eating it!), but if you have a little who’s 2 I can totally see this being a huge hit! My 3 year old had fun with it for sure! I got the instructions on Busy Toddler and just modified them a little bit! We used 1 cup of Ripple pea milk (for my diary intolerant kiddo), 1 teaspoon of vanilla, and 1 1/2 tablespoons of real maple syrup (because solid sugar has a hard time mixing into cold liquid) and it came out super yummy! We also made two batches- one we did with the ice and salt in a bag, and the other one we just popped in the freezer! Both methods work just fine (and actually the freezer one froze better!) Shaking it in a bag is pretty fun though- just be sure to throw on some mittens because it gets COLD!
–Ice cream sensory play: It’s cold, it’s slippery, it smells and tastes great- ice cream is a perfect sensory play treat! Rather than putting it in a bowl, give some small scoops to your little on their high chair tray along with some sprinkles and let them explore!
–Sherbet colored bath paint: My kids both love bath paint- and this recipe is the easiest to whip up ever (I don’t know why I didn’t think of it before!). You just squirt about a tablespoon of shaving cream into a mini muffin tin, add a few drops of food coloring and mix well! BOOM! Bath paint. The best part is, it dissolves into the water with basically no clean up! I made it in pretty pastel colors reminiscent of cool sherbet to go along with our ice cream theme this week. Definitely a win!
–Dropper and cotton ball ice cream art: Cut out and glue some paper cones to a page of construction paper. Glue some cotton balls (or “ice cream scoops”) on top of each cone. Mix a little water with a few drops of food coloring in a mini muffin tin. Have your little use the dropper to squirt the colors onto the cotton balls! (You may need to help them fill the dropper and aim if they’re closer to 1 than 2- but I’d still give it a shot! It teaches cause and effect and they love watching the colors absorb into the white cotton! You could even do the dropper for a younger toddler and they’d probably be interested in watching!) I got this idea from Toddler at Play!
–Ice cream puffy painting: These came out SO CUTE! I mixed a tablespoon of glue, a tablespoon of shaving cream and a drop of washable paint in a mini muffin tin to make the puffy paint- it should feel thick and gooey when you’re stirring it. (There’s also a flour based recipe for it at Woo! Jr. if you don’t have shaving cream on hand!) I let my preschooler mix the paint himself, which he found quite fun! I gave each kiddo a white piece of cardstock with a cone or ice cream bowl on it and let them paint! When they were finished, I let them sprinkle sprinkles on top!
- Shaving cream (I like Barbasol because it comes out white and creamy and it’s cheap!)
- food coloring
- sprinkles (lots of them!)
- cake pan
- scooping tools- measuring cups, spoons, plastic easter eggs, etc.
- ice cube tray
- baking sheet
- ice cream
- small ziplock baggies (2)
- gallon ziplock bag
- rock salt
- maple syrup
- vanilla flavoring