DIY Kids : 2 min, 2 ingredients for sensory play

Khatija SulimanBy Khatija Suliman, owner of Arty Tots Sunninghill. Workshop facilitator, mother of two, passionate about children, creativity and play. A kid at heart.

I am a huge fan of quick and cost effective play ideas. Who has the time and energy or the money for that matter to go around looking for expensive, so called novelty play activities when you can make them at home in a jiffy, with items you can find in your pantry and bathroom cabinet?

Here are your 3 quick and frugal ideas for the week.  Please take note that these sensory play substances should not be eaten by your children and the activity should be supervised by an adult.

We have given you child friendly options for the shaving cream and the conditioner.

Cloud Dough

Cake flour
Baby Oil.

Add baby oil to about a cup of flour till you get a breadcrumb consistency. Voila.
This dough compacts into shapes and crumbles again. Keep in airtight container to use again.
You will not be able to get your hands out of this mixture. Soft and fluffy.

Marshmallow Dough

Baby hair conditioner (hyperallergenic)

Add conditioner to 1/2 cup cornflour till you get a soft dough consistency.
If it is sticky add more cornflour, if its dry add more conditioner.
Great for rolling and shaping. It has a calming stress ball effect.
Variation : add food colour
Smells amazing and can be used as an air freshner block that will last up to two weeks.
Snow Dough

Shaving Foam ( supervised please) or Kaleidofoam from Acornkids ( taste safe)
Bicarbonate of Soda

Add 2 tsp of Bicarb to 2 tablespoons of foam.
Feels cool like snow and has a grainy texture.

Unfortunately you can’t keep this one so instead of chucking it away throw in some vinegar after play and watch it erupt ! Amazing fun.
Variation add Glitter.

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Alternatives to TV time for toddlers

Khatija SulimanBy Khatija Suliman, owner of Arty Tots Sunninghill. Workshop facilitator, mother of two, passionate about children, creativity and play. A kid at heart.

I plead guilty to using the television as a distraction tactic. Out of desperation trying to get just 5 min to get done whatever it is I need to do like cooking, packing my handbag clearing the kitchen, I pop the little ones in front of the TV in hope it will numb their brain and deactivate them. It never works though as within seconds there is this little being hanging onto my leg with puppy dog eyes pleading with me to pick them up.

Thankfully I have found much more creative, stimulating ideas to keep them busy while I get on with my chores. I would like to share with you my secret to success.

I have three minimal preparation, easy to clean, play ideas for different times of the day that are sure to keep tantrums at bay and keep the little ones busy.

Need help with the morning rush?

Sit the little one at the table and provide:
1. a slice of white bread
2. a few little containers of milk tinted with food colouring
3. a pastry brush or teaspoon

Leave them to go to town creating a masterpiece on bread. Provided it’s not a soggy mess pop it into the toaster and serve with butter and cheese. Breakfast masterpiece served…
This is a wonderful fine motor activity.

arty tots sunninghill bread

For the afternoon or trying to get dinner on the table

Have an ice tray prepared in the freezer that contains water and those small odd toys that just keep popping up all over. Provide:
1. a plate
2. bowl of water
3. a teaspoon or squirty type bottle.

Encourage them to pretend to be ice archeologist excavating a glacier that contains the secrets of the ice age. This activity is great for snack time with toddlers; just replace the toys with chunks of fruit. This type of play is great for the imagination and enforces patience and perseverance.

arty tots sunninghill dinner

In the evening at bath time

Take of few minutes to soak your feet and catch a breather while you supervise. Provide them with:
1. an ice tray filled with a mixture of conditioner
2. food colouring
3. an old toothbrush or make up brush

Leave them to unleash their creative spirit in the bath. Awesome sensory activity involving touch, smell and sight and the mess is contained and simply washes away.

arty tots sunninghill bathtime

Have fun and send us more activities you may have for kids.

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DIY Kids: Making coloured rice



By Nadia Tayob, mother of 3 children. She enjoys teaching and playing with her kids in unusual and creative ways.  You can find examples of these activities and more on her blog, Fun With Mama along with printable activities for those pressed for time.  Find her on Facebook and  Twitter .

Making coloured rice with children is a process activity that is fun while teaching them some life skills without them even realizing that they are learning something. Yes, Mom can make it at home while they are at school but then you miss out on some valuable fun teaching moments. All you need are ingredients you probably already have in your pantry!


  • White Rice (use the cheapest one).
  • ¼ cup Vinegar for each color
  • Food Colouring
  • Ziplock Bags
  • A container to keep your rice in or ziplock bags.
  • What can children learn?

    Children will learn to carefully scoop and pour while trying to balance their cups and the ziplock bag all at once.
    They will then need to measure out the ¼ cup of vinegar and pour that in slowly.
    The mixing part is just plain fun!
    If doing this with more than one child they will both have to work on their patience by waiting for their turn.
    They will also learn the value of teamwork when they see their finished product (gorgeous coloured rice).

    Lets get started:


    Add your desired amount of rice and the food colour you would like to your ziplock bag.


    Put in about a ¼ cup of vinegar and shake it all up. Mix it in so the color distributes evenly.

    Untitled 3

    Lay out to dry in the sun for a few hours or in the oven under low heat. Transfer to your desired container.

    What can you do with coloured rice?


  • Let your child add it to their paintings or play dough.
  • rice 3

  • Hide items inside and let your child search for these items.
  • valentine

  • Use the coloured rice in your sensory bin.
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    Christmas gift ideas, from freebies to cheapies and biggies

    Tiffany Markman latest feb 13. jpg


    By Tiffany Markmancopywriter, editor and mom to an almost-four-year-old, who tries to balance her workaholism with cuddles, books,caffeine & reining in her intrinsic kugelry. Follow her on twitter.

    You may have read my last column, ‘Help! My kid has too many toys’. (If not, here it is.) You may be wondering what the hell else you’re supposed to get your friends’ and family members’ kiddies this Christmas, if they’re already at Max Toy Capacity.

    If you’re not a maker/upcycler and you’re not into toy-swapping, here are 11 ideas:


    Salt dough

    Google ‘salt dough’ and you’ll get 4.9 million results. Used to create crafts, sculptures and ornaments, it’s super-easy and ultra-cheap to make at home, requires basic ingredients, is paintable and can be fired in a domestic oven or air-dried. Got salt, flour and water? You’re sorted. Recipe here. Salt dough is great for kids aged 3+.


    Floam is like slime with polystyrene beads in it and kids can mold it into shapes. They can sculpt with it or use it to coat other objects. They can store it to reuse it or allow it to dry, for permanent creations. I love the stuff, which comes in an awesome range of colours, doesn’t seem to stain anything, is pretty cheap in most SA toy stores and is easy-ish to make yourself. It’s most suitable for ages 3 and up.

    Bath crayons

    My daughter loves these and uses them to ‘decorate’ the bath, the tiles and sometimes our faces and bodies. The best part? They wipe off surfaces incredibly easily and don’t stain the kid. Ours came from Woolies, but you can find the Crayola and Munchkin ones at most toy stores. While they’re affordable at about R150 per pack, there are recipes online for making your own. Ideal for toddlers and littlies.

    salt dough and alphabet shapes



    This film is an oldie, but such a goodie. To be honest, although it was one of my own tweenage faves, I was surprised by how much my three-year-old and our resident 10-year-old enjoyed it. The songs are catchy, the characters are fun and an 18-year-old Christian Bale is the lead, should you need the eye candy. It’s rated PG.

    Pigeon and Pals

    My in-laws are in their 60s, my husband and I are in our 30s and my daughter is 3. We’re all besotted with Mo Willems’ Pigeon and Pals DVDs. They’re silly, funny, heavily ironic and gorgeously animated – plus they’re narrated by creator Mo. Pigeon and Pals retails online for R200 for the Complete Cartoon Collection Vol. 1 & 2.


    The Sneetches

    One of my personal bests, this little story by Dr Seuss is about a society of haves and have-nots, in which access to life’s goodies is determined by whether or not you have a star on your belly. For me, it’s a clever commentary on racial, gender and other social categories that are socially constructed, and my pre-schooler loves it. A great conversation-starter, The Sneetches is also fantastic for older kids.

    Charlie Cook’s Favourite Book

    Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler (of The Gruffalo) just rock my socks. For one thing, their rhyming irreverence make the stories fun for adults to read. For another, the illustrations are magnificent. And for a third, kids never outgrow these books.

    Charlie Cook’s Favourite Book is about a boy, Charlie, who is reading a book about a pirate captain, who is reading a book about Goldilocks, who is reading about a knight, who is reading about a frog … and so on, until the story comes full circle via burglars, aliens, a friendly ghost and kings and queens with a giant birthday cake.

    Mrs Noodlekugel

    The name of this book appealed to me, because it sounds like a Yiddish dessert. In the world of Mrs Noodlekugel, cats converse and bake cookies, short-sighted mice join the party and two children in search of adventure are drawn by the smell of gingerbread and the promise of magical surprises. Sparsely illustrated, it’s ideal for kids aged 4+ and as a practice reader for new-ish primary school readers.


    This is the pricey category. For spoilies. But each of these toys is ama-ZING! They’re available at leading toy stores; recommended retail prices range from R900-R1299.


    First, Xeno, who I’ve reviewed before. He’s squishy and squashy to touch, with eyes that light up; multiple facial expressions, gestures and sounds; a ‘language’; the ability to play games; an app; and a gross drop of green snot, that you can tug on.

    Complete with sneezes, tummy aches, burps, farts, crying, and the chronic need for love and tickles, Xeno needs your kiddies to learn to understand what he’s saying so that they can care for him. Think Tamagotchi 10.0. Ideal for kids aged 4-10.

    Furby Boom

    Remember the Furby? This is the Furby Boom, which looks like an owl and comes in a range of bright patterns (ours is zebra-striped). He/she/it can respond to music, motion and your voice, plus there’s an app that lets your Furby take a shower, go to the loo and choose what to eat. Your Furby can also interact with other Furbys.

    And then, oh then … Furby has a number of different traits and, depending on how you treat it, will develop its character over time. Ours appears to have the personality of a drunken sailor, without the swearing. I’d recommend him/her/it for kids aged 7+, who have a sense of humour and lots of patience. You’ll love him too. Promise.

    My Friend Cayla

    This is a super-cool toy. Think of an extremely high-quality doll, about 45cm high, with brushable hair, nice clothes and Wikipedia inside her. And that’s Cayla.

    Completely interactive and powered by Bluetooth, Cayla can answer questions, understand and chat, tell stories and play games. She doesn’t just speak pre-set words and sentences – she can also listen. So if you ask, ‘What’s an elephant?’ and she’s online (via your smart device), she’ll look it up and tell you.

    (Note: Cayla needs to be quite close to your device and you can’t use it for anything else at the time. You also need a wifi connection while playing with her. But she’s completely safe for kids aged 4 and up, with all sorts of built-in firewalls, and she will charmingly resist any attempt to get her to talk porn, sex or bad stuff.)

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    Make your very own Easter eggs



    Supplied by Daleen ter Wolbeek, mom of two beautiful girls who combines her love for children and passion for food by running workshops, holiday programs and parties at Tots n Pots Helderkruin Johannesburg. Click here  for more info.


    Hard boiled eggs – Do not remove shells!
    Food colouring – any colour you’d likeUntitled1
    Vinegar (1 tbsp per colour)
    Separate bowls for your food colouring
    Water (enough to submerge an egg)
    A cooling rack for drying eggs
    Acrylic paint, koki pens & glitter glue


    1. Make sure your eggs are nice and cool.
    2. In a bowl (or bowls) mix 1 tbsp food colouring, 1 tbsp vinegar and water. Add more food colouring if you wish.
    3. Submerge your eggs in the colouring one by one – keep it submerged for longer periods for deeper colours!
    4. Remove from colouring and let it rest on your cooling rack to dry.
    5. You can draw or paint on the eggs too!


  • Before placing eggs in the colourant, bind an elastic band around. This will give a cool a stripey look to your eggs!
  • Use Latex gloves to prevent colourant staining your hands
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    Children and creative flow

    ira bekkerBy Ira Bekker, a mosaic artist and facilitator for adult creative explorations who runs workshops in ZenDoodling, mark-making and eco-printing.  Visit her website 

    I started my own creative journey six years ago when I was incubating my second boy. Until then I thought that creativity was something a lucky few are born with. I also limited creativity to artistic expression. Over the last six years my views on creativity have shifted dramatically and through the workshops I do I  have found that a lot of the misconceptions and fears adults have around their creativity starts in early childhood.

    My most important realisation was that we are all born creative. Many of us loose our connection to our creative spirits through conditioning and negative beliefs we are imprinted with at school and home but in reality we all have access to unlimited ideas, skills and insights that we can ‘download’ from the creative soup. Young children do this all the time if allowed to experience and explore.

    The second shift I made was to understand that creativity is simply the yearning or drive to create. It can be to make delicious meals,  to play music, to design skyscrapers or a beautiful home and yes, also to create art. As we grow few of us are given half a chance to develop these skills.  Instead we are told to  focus on sport and end up believing we are not creative.

    When I enrolled my two and a half year old son into nursery school I asked if I could have a look at the classrooms to see what they do with the kids creatively. I found the usual prescriptive and contrived sausage machine type ‘art’ and on enquiry the headmistress, who was also a teacher, told me that she was not creative and so the work they do is quite structured. Having watched my little one paint and draw and build with lego countless times I know that creativity does not have to be taught, it is our natural state and should simply be allowed to unfold.

    What can we do as adults to nurture creativity? Switch off the TV. Allow them to make a mess. Allow them to do things for themselves and get it ‘wrong’. Allow them to do it their way, to explore and get lost in play without interfering. The main conditions for creative flow are silence, an uninterrupted chunk of time, a space where you can create where you will be allowed to make a mess and materials that you enjoy playing with. Give your child a pot of paint and a piece of paper and allow them to figure it out for themselves or allow them to ransack the recycling and help them stick it together with a glue gun. Dig a hole in the back garden and add a bucket of water. Above all, allow them to take the lead.

    Kids love sharing creative processes with their parents and you will learn so much from copying them rather than trying to show them how to do stuff. Paint with your hands, build crazy structures that don’t make sense, smear yourself with mud and shout like a banshee while running all over the garden…They will love you for it!


    Kiddie art: display or chuck away?

     Tiffany Markman latest feb 13. jpgBy Tiffany Markman, a mom to a two-year-old, tries to balance her workaholism with cuddling her daughter, reading books, consuming caffeine & reining in her intrinsic kugelry. Follow her on twitter.

    As I type this, I notice that three of the five nails on my right hand have badly chipped polish. Not because I’m so busy I can’t groom (although, now that I think about it…), but because we’re in the process of moving house.

    I’ve been packing boxes for three days. Not a fun activity for a kugel.

    My husband and I have been on an unrelenting auditing campaign, with my fighting to keep things and his insisting on binning them. You see, I’m a hoarder – but mostly of sentimental items. They needn’t be valuable…

    A hideous vase given as a wedding gift by someone I was once fond of but no longer see? Keep. A ratty old love letter from a Grade 9 admirer? Keep. The first picture my daughter ever ‘drew’, aged 18 months? Keep. Of course.

    My clipboard display solution, mounted on Madam’s wall

    My clipboard display solution, mounted on Madam’s wall

    But we haven’t done the play-school art yet…

    If I’m being honest, some of my daughter’s less magnificent, less meaningful art will not survive the audit process. I won’t even fight for all of it. I don’t feel bad – mostly. I’ll keep most of it – probably. And she won’t notice – certainly.

    But we’re only 7 months into 16 years of school. And the art I will be keeping (openly or secretly; it’s hard to tell at this point) needs a BIG box. So how the hell are we going to store what’s coming? And please don’t suggest the fridge. I’m totally over having a fridge that looks like it has Tourette’s Syndrome.

    I asked around. Here’s what some people do:

    1. They store selectively: keeping stuff that is truly awesome, that shows a developmental leap or that says ‘I love you Mom/Dad’. Okay. I get that, since the preciousness of the art decreases as its volume grows. But how do you secretly trash art? At night? (If you don’t, this might happen.)

    2. They take photos of it, either consigning it to the depths of a hard drive or sharing it on Facebook, Instagram or Picasa. A friend of mine uses her photos to make amazing framed ‘galleries’ of her kids’ art, with post-card sized images of each picture displayed like tiles on a white background.

    3. They scan it, using an A3 colour scanner and photo book software to create books of their kids’ creations. I love this idea, but it reminds me of scrapbooking. I’m not one of those crafty people who crochet stuff. Also, what happens to the photo books? Do you keep them on your coffee table and make guests admire them? In 16 years that’s a lot of books.

    4. They have empty picture frames on the wall, and rotate the art as it comes home from school, so that it’s always displayed with importance. We already do this in our toddler’s room, with three mounted clipboards. But they’re stuffed to the gills. And what happens to stuff that’s rotated out?

    5. They share the love, giving pictures, paintings and ‘sculptures’ to grannies, aunties and whoever else will take it. I’ve tried this, but it only works up to a point. (Bizarrely, my mother irons the art before displaying it in pride of place on the Moet et Chandon board in her kitchen, in case it’s ‘wrinkly’.)

    6. They recycle them, using paintings as gift wrap or to customise birthday cards. Again, this solution requires craftiness – the Pinterest kind, not the foxy kind. And I’m short on craftiness. When that particular skill was being doled out at birth, I was probably in a corner being quietly massaged.

    7. They use cool apps like ArtKive and Keepy, both of which I’m going to try.

    Turns out, there’s a lot of options. And you’ve probably got your own to share with me, right? In the interim, the hub has wrapped all of our audited kiddie art in cardboard and we’ll use some mix of these and other ideas on the other side. Except, of course, the scrapbooking. My nails are in enough of a state.

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    DIY Kids: Secret Messages with Glitter and Glue


    Shannon Walbran wrote these DIY Kids columns but now works full time as a Spirit Guide interpreter, on the radio and TV, bringing people angelic messages.

    Today’s project takes “glitter art” to the next level: making it into a pre-reading activity by drawing secret messages with the glue stick.

    What You’ll Need:

  • construction paper or typing paper
  • glitter or fine dyed salt
  • glue stick
  • Step 1:

    Jozikids sprinkle Collage

    Doing art with glue sticks and glitter is a classic pre-school activity.  It works on fine-motor coordination as the child unscrews the glue stick cap, smears glue on the paper, and shakes glitter or salt onto the surface.

    Large motor skills get developed as the child lifts the paper and shakes the glitter off (preferably into a cup so it could be used on the next project!)

    Jozikids art done Collage

    Step 2:

    Taking glitter art to the next level, this now becomes a pre-reading activity.  You, the adult, take the glue stick and write a secret message on to the paper.  Then hand it over and let the child discover the message by pouring the glitter on and revealing the secret!

     jozikids glitter words Collage

    What secret message would you write? You could also do shapes, numbers, or a picture. Leave us a comment below and tell us how this project turned out for you.

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    DIY Kids: Edible Art – Dyed Salt Project

    shan headshot cu

    Shannon Walbran wrote these DIY Kids columns but now works full time as a Spirit Guide interpreter, on the radio and TV, bringing people angelic messages.

    Today’s project addresses my question about the art project my son brings home from pre-school: “Nice, but what do we DO with that?”

    If you would ever like to make something with your child that is beautiful and even slightly useful, this one’s for you.  Once it’s finished, the salt can still be used on food.

    The Dyed Salt Project is appropriate for children from about 2 years on up to adults — in fact, you may enjoy making one yourself!

    What You’ll Need:

  • salt – 2 kg of fine salt, not coarse, Himalayan, or Kosher salt
  • food coloring – how about red, yellow, and blue?
  • 4 or plastic more mixing containers – mayonnaise jars or yogurt cups
  • spoons
  • glass jars with lids, like baby food jars, jam jars, or a pickle jar if you’re feeling ambitious — and if you’d like to make this as an edible gift, how about a used spice jar with shaker holes in the lid?
  • eyedropper, optional but helpful. Save one from medicine.
  • Step 1: Dye the Salt

    Salt takes food coloring very well. Pour about a cup of fine salt into a plastic mayonnaise jar and add 3 drops to start (from an eyedropper if possible). Screw the lid on the jar and shake shake shake! This part is fun for kids.

    This is also an opportunity to teach your kids about colour mixing. Red + blue = purple, yellow+blue = green.

    colored salt art powdersIf you just have open cups like small yogurt containers, fill them halfway up with salt and stir in the food coloring with salt — also fun, but potentially a bit messier.

    Step 2: Fill the Jars

    This is great practice for fine-motor coordination.  In our house, it’s also a chance to play “excavator and dump truck.”

    Using a teaspoon, dip into the containers of coloured salt and fill up a glass jar layer by layer.  Turn the jar so you can see the patterns you are making.

    Try to hold the jar relatively still so that it fills up colour by colour rather than making a mishmash.

    tommy colored salt art spoon in motion

    Step 3: Learning Points

    Depending on the age of your child, this is a time to expand vocabulary into areas such as volume (“more, less, halfway, almost full, full”) and colour (“contrast, brighter, darker, same, different”)

    It is also OK to taste the salt, to test if different colours taste the same or not, and to feel the salt with the fingertips and check the texture (“grainy, rough, smooth”).

    Step 4: Finishing the Masterpiece

    colored salt art jars cu

    Scoop salt in layers of colours until the whole jar is full. If you leave too much space at the top, the salt will tend to slide around and mix (although the pixelated multicolour effect is also interesting, in case your child does decide to shake it up as mine did).

    Cap your masterpiece with a shaker lid if you’d like to give it as a seasoning, or with a screwtop lid to serve as a decorative piece or perhaps a paperweight.

    Post us a comment below if you try this art project, how old your children are, and what your wins and learning points are!

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    DIY Kids: How to Use Your Car to Make Dried Fruit

    shan headshot cu

    Shannon Walbran wrote these DIY Kids columns but now works full time as a Spirit Guide interpreter, on the radio and TV, bringing people angelic messages.

    Today’s project is something completely different, but it will make sense to all of you who have been sweltering in our summer’s heatwave.  What do you say when you’re stuck in the car? “This feels like an oven.”  Exactly!

    This project teaches kids about where food comes from and how most of our processed food could be replicated at home if we just had enough time and skill.  For this project, we certainly have both.

    What You’ll Need:

  • a car
  • a cutting board
  • a knife
  • 1 kg of fresh fruit: we used apricots
  • Step 1:  Cut your fruit into thinnish pieces.

    car dehydrator fresh nectarines 2

    Step 2: Lay the fruit out on a cutting board.  It’s OK if the pieces touch, as they are going to shrink in the heat.

    car dehydrator fresh nectarines on tray

    Step 3: Park your car so it’s facing the sun.

    car dehydrator toyota

    Place the cutting board full of fruit on the dashboard.

    car dehydrator fresh on dashboard

    Step 4:  After 4 to 5 hours, check to see that the sun is still shining directly on the dashboard.  If not, move the car.

    Step 5: You can leave the fruit in the car overnight.  Our tray took 2 days to dry out.  But we even overdid it a bit, and the pieces were very crispy.

    car dehydrator done

    On the second day, or after 8 hours of sunshine, be sure to check the fruit and see if it’s dried to your liking.

    car dehydrator tommy dried in hand

    Ours was so yummy and so much cheaper than buying dried fruit!  It was a great lesson in solar energy as well.

    Please leave a comment below to let us know if you try this recipe!

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