I don’t know what it is about motherhood but since I have had my daughter, I have channeled the spirit of Violet from A Series of Unfortunate Events into me in regards to inventing bits and pieces to keep Alice entertained without always resorting to Amazon prime. In times of desperation, when the British weather has attempted to foil my walks with Alice with too much sun or sudden downpours, the protection for her I can fashion just using a hairband and whatever is in the bottom of her pram has proven that necessity really is the mother of invention. And what is more necessary than doing anything you can think of to keep your beautiful little bub from shrieking the house down or using your hair as their own personal bungee rope.
This brings me onto the purpose of this first post, in a series, that look at how I have created my own easy, low-budget baby sensory experience that is ideal for the anti-social, not-really-an-all-singing-all-dancing mother. I do currently attend baby sensory classes, as any new mother-to-be, when I was pregnant I looked up all of the classes my baby could do or should be doing to develop their mind and booked onto to them asap. There are many positives to these classes – quality time with my mummy friends who are just as awkward as me during the song and dance numbers, and Alice gets to see her besties, as well as a chance for me to see if anything capture’s my daughters interest. On the flip side, I have never been one for trying to copy song actions in public with a lack of co-ordination that has an embarrassment level rivalling dad-dancing and the class generally coincides with when Alice decides she wants to sleep for the first time that morning. As a result, all hell breaks loose when I have to wake her up to get her into the car, again when we get to sensory, by which point she is crying hysterical and my sanity is in shreds. We will arrive, late, sweaty and having to do the mummy walk of shame as I try and bundle her into a room full of perfectly fresh-faced mummies and their non-screaming children who are singing and dancing in sync, as Alice howls from within her fluffy blanket cocoon and I look like the Wicked Witch of the West post-meltdown. For a Monday morning, it’s just a tad too stressful. This is where the seed of creating my own baby sensory began to grow in my mind, where I could control the songs (Disney all the way, obviously) and we wouldn’t need to take a ten minute playbreak in a 45 minute class (yeah, I’m not convinced by it either…), and more importantly, I could remain in my pyjamas with an Alice who is well-rested and not a screaming she-demon.
So one night, in desperation to distract Alice out of her hissy fit because I didn’t whip the boob out fast enough for her, I rattled some rice at her and the sound instantly distracted her enough to stop crying. Boom. My first baby sensory idea was set in motion – brightly coloured rice in a bottle!
Rice in a Bottle
You’re right – it doesn’t sound much, and even better it took little to no effort to create, but my god is it effective. All I did was separate dry long grain rice into three bowls (as this was the three colours of food dye I had to hand), put a little food dye in each, mix it up so it was all covered, emptied onto kitchen roll and left to dry over night. By the next morning, I popped all the different coloured rice into an empty and dried out water bottle – voila! I had made Alice something that made the same sounds as a rainstick for a fraction of the cost, and the bright colours kept her attention as she enjoys watching the motion of the rice in the bottle. Hours of entertainment for the bub that cost me nothing as I had it all in the house, and means that there is one less bit of brightly coloured and noisy plastic in my house. Wins all round.
The Purple Concoction
Drunk on the success of my first homemade baby sensory prop, and my lack of a social life, I decided to keep making baby sensory props to amuse Alice. Next up was the purple bottle. It looks like something that George and his quest to create a Marvellous Medicine, would have whipped up. This bottle is simply: water, glitter, a dash of washing up liquid, and some buttons.
The key thing for Alice, who is much more driven by sound than anything else, was that the water bottle had ridges. This means when I am tipping it back and forth in front of her mesmerised eyes, she can hear the buttons running up and down against them. So all I did was mix a tiny splash of fairy liquid with water to make it a bit frothy and the water a bit thicker, then I threw in some purple, blue and silver glitter, and tossed in some buttons that I either found around the house or bought for £1 at The Works. Mixed all together, Alice loves to watch the glittery water but loves the sound of the buttons sloshing about. Easy to carry about and develops her sight/sound senses, boom. That’s two points to baby sensory at home.
The ‘Something Shiny’ Bottle
The final bottle I have is literally just to appeal to the inner magpie in my daughter – like her mother, obviously. It’s a mix of sunflower oil and baby oil to create a really thick liquid base (the sunflower gives it a bit of a golden sheen), gold and silver glitter and some buttons again. This is a great bottle to have to hand when Alice is in her general, happy awake stage and wants something to entertain her. As the liquid is thicker, it moves slower and the buttons float more in it and she just has a lot to look at. It’s particularly great if you shine a light on it and all the glitter sparkles and reflects – Alice honestly looks like she is staring at something from out of this world. And she never seems to get bored of it. The key thing – just make sure the bottle is clear (so preferably one without ridges or glue from the bottle label) and that the bottle isn’t completely full so it can sloshed around more easily.
Other Bits and Pieces
Alice has a deep love of bubbles, alas, I cannot make this from random bits in my house (apart from refills of bubble mixture using fairy liquid and bubble wands that I kept from my best friend and brother’s wedding… Hoarding mementos definitely paying off there!). So I caved and went to the Early Learning Centre – what will be my future place of residence I’m sure – and bought a wind up Bubble Fish in the sale for £6. Quite the bargain actually. I just wind this bad boy up and soon the entire room looks like something out of The Little Mermaid. Alice is in bubble heaven, I’m getting to re-live my dream of being a mermaid, everybody wins.
Other than that, I am currently in the process of making Alice a sensory tree (as she has a love for trees… She gets it from her father) using fleece blankets, towels, and crisp packets. It’s an unusual mix but here’s hoping it works out and won’t be something she just tries at, especially after all the sewing injuries I have encountered from it!
Watch this space for more budget, introvert baby sensory ideas!