This post was contributed by Mary Catherine of Fun-A-Day!
A Citrus Scented Sensory Tray
In my classroom, I’ve always used a sensory tray to help children practice their fine motor skills. They’re also wonderful for teaching letters, numbers, names, shapes, etc. Sensory trays allow children to use their senses, especially their sense of touch, while learning. Kiddos learn best through play and hands-on activities, and these sensory trays fit the bill!
How to Make Your Scented Sensory Tray:
I’ve used a variety of materials in the past; sand, salt, and aquarium gravel are just a few. My favorite sensory trays, though, involve the sense of smell. The novelty of writing and drawing in a scented material in a sensory tray makes it even more interesting for children.
(You can also scent sensory trays using Essential Oils, too!)
Recently, Engineer (my son) and some friends helped me make a Vanilla Spice Sensory Writing mix. They had so much fun helping me make the mix, writing and drawing in it, and playing! At their request, I came up with something a little bit different. To me, the vanilla spice tray smelled more like winter. This time around, I wanted something lighter — something with more of a summer feel.
With that thought in mind, I decided a sweet citrus scent was in order. Engineer helped me make colored sugar as the base for this sensory tray. We put two cups of sugar into a plastic bag, along with ten drops of yellow food coloring. Engineer gave it a hearty shake, then we spread it out in a pan to dry. Engineer was chomping at the bit to play with it, so it wasn’t fully dry, but we moved ahead with it. We added a packet of orange Jell-O powder to the colored sugar and mixed everything up. We’d originally planned to use lemon Jell-O powder, but we didn’t have any in the house.
Use a Straw in Your Sensory Tray!
A few large yellow straws were adding to the sensory tray, and then Engineer dove right in. He drew smiley faces, wrote some words, and we even played tic-tac-toe! His favorite way to use this tray involved lots of numbers! I would write some numbers out, and then he’d tell me what they were. Then it would be his to write numbers. Honestly, I came away impressed with the numbers he knows how to write and recognize on his own! After our number game ended, Engineer continued to use the sweet citrus mix. He scooped it and blew into it with the straws. He drew random patterns and pictures, and then went on to measure how much we had in the tray.
Once we were all done, I stored the extra mix (not the part he’d been blowing into with a straw) in a mason jar for later use. He’s already taken it out a few times since we made it, so I’d say it was a hit.
With just some sugar and Jell-O powder, we managed to cover so much learning through play! We touched on fine motor skills, words, writing, reading, math, and even science with our citrus sensory tray.
(Just a note — I’d suggest a thinner layer be added to the pan for most children. This way, they can see their writing a bit better. Engineer was just so excited; he couldn’t help but add too much!)
More Fun Learning Activities Using Jell-O from Fun-A-Day
More Sensory Activities from B-Inspired Mama:
Mary Catherine is mama to a budding engineer whose favorite question is “why?” She is a pre-k teacher with a background in teaching kindergarten and a passion for early literacy. Mary Catherine loves lazy days with her son, messy art projects, science fiction books, and dark chocolate. You can find her blogging at Fun-A-Day! Come connect with Mary Catherine on Facebook, Twitter, or Pinterest.
Ahh…I thought you were going to say that you used powdered lemonade mix. I think I will try both your mixture and the lemonade mix and compare!
I love, love, love your vanilla spice idea. Not sure whether I’ll be allowed to use this in my preschool classroom, but it sure seems like a fabulous addition to our Five Senses – smell lesson. Thanks!
Thanks for linking this fun post to Tuesday Tots. I’m featuring it this week on Learn with Play at home. 🙂
Krissy @ B-Inspired Mama says
Thanks for the feature, Debs! I love Tuesday Tots. 🙂