DIY Sensory Bottles for Babies and Young Children

If you have been hanging around for a little while you know a couple things about me: 1. I don't like glitter.  2. I love the Dollar Tree!

Here is yet another tutorial including things I've picked up at my favorite store!

I purchased these adorable small, plastic milk bottles.  I found them in the arts and crafts section of Dollar Tree.  I knew they would be perfect for small, baby hands to hold and manipulate.

Sensory bottles are a great way for young children and babies to explore items that they may not get to otherwise.  You can fill the bottles with any small items that would attract the child's senses.  When I chose the items for my sensory bottles, I thought about choosing a variety of colors and sounds (when you shake the bottles).

***It is very important that you still monitor the children as they play with the sensory bottles.  Check the lids often to make sure the glue is still holding tight.***

Jingle Bell Bottle

The bells were the only additional item I purchased.  Everything else I got from our art stash at home.  I put in a small handful of bells and glued the lid shut.  Simply put a bead of hot glue around the inside threads of the lid and shut tightly.

Pom Pom Bottle

My daughter helped me fill this bottle halfway full with different colored pom-poms.  I like that this bottle does not make any noise when you shake it. Glue the top shut, like before.

Cookie Monster Bottle

I'm making this set for my 1-year-old niece.  Over Thanksgiving, she and I played a turn-taking Cookie Monster game and she laughed and laughed.  After making this colored rice and googly eye bottle, I thought it reminded me of the Cookie Monster! Glue the top shut, like before.

Water and Loom Bands Bottle

Put 3-6 squirts of clear liquid soap into the bottom of the bottle.  Fill to the top with water.  Put a pinch of rubber band looms into the jar.  Test how slow they sink.  If you want them to go slower, add more soap.  I would let this one sit for a night to make sure you like it before you glue the lid shut.

Complete Set

I'm telling you, you can find everything at the Dollar Tree!  This plastic woven basket makes the perfect holder for four of the bottles.
I think my niece will love this Christmas gift.  If you give it a try, be sure to let me know!  I have already been blown away by your creativity!  Please post pics on FB or Instagram and tag Branch & Blossom Atelier!

If you missed the FB Live video, you can watch my disheveled helper make these sensory bottles with me.

How to dye rice that is taste-safe

This is another super simple tutorial!  If it isn't simple, then I don't know how to do it ;)

I love colored rice, and I love how easy it is to make.  We use colored rice for many invitation activities.

What you need: 

1 Cup of rice
1 tsp vinegar
couple drops of food coloring
gallon size baggy
cookie sheet

How to make it: 

1. Put one cup of rice in the bag.
2. Put 3-4 drops of food coloring into the bag.
3. Drizzle 1 tsp of vinegar over the rice.

4. Seal the bag and squish the rice. Your children will love to help with this step!

5. Empty the rice onto a cookie sheet and let dry overnight.

The vinegar prevents the coloring from transferring to your hands when you are playing. Vinegar is safe to taste, versus some recipes that use rubbing alcohol. 

DIY $2 Advent Calendar

Are you still thinking of a way to present the countdown activities from Play Your Way to Christmas?  

I was too, until I went shopping at my favorite store…Dollar Tree.  I saw these signs in the holiday section.

I first thought that maybe I could paint over top of it, but then I turned it over.  I realized the back would be perfect.

I took one more quick trip down the craft aisle to find these cute little clothespins.

I took them home, glued 24 tiny clothespins on the back of the sled sign.  In hindsight, I should have folded up the activity card papers first to space out the pins a little more. 

I then added just a little acrylic paint to finish off the sign.

I copied the activity cards from the book, cut them apart, folded them, and clipped them in order on my new advent calendar. 

How are you going to present the activities to your children?  If my kiddos had not already tried all the activities, I think I would just give it to our elves to present every morning.  I wanted to create an element of suspense, so I think this advent calendar is the perfect solution.  And cost $2.00!

Wanting more information about Play Your Way to Christmas?  Go here!

Want to give the gift of PLAY?

Did you know that you can gift a copy of the 

Play Your Way to Christmas ebook?

The process is just slightly different from when you purchase your own copy directly from the site.  

If you want to purchase one for a friend or a teacher, you just need to know their email address!

Then go to this form to complete the information.  

What will happen?

1. You will complete the form including a special message to the giftee.
2. You will receive a PayPal invoice for the cost of the eBook ($10.00).
2. Once you pay, you will receive an email confirmation.  Your giftee's eBook will be on the way!  The giftee will receive an email with download instructions and your special message.  

Want to purchase a copy for yourself?

You can do that by clicking the button below!

Turkey Invitation

Last night, I shared this play dough invitation with you all on Facebook Live!

You can see the video on the Branch & Blossom Atelier Facebook page.

Here's the invitation: 

Invite your children to form a turkey out of the play dough.  You can find my favorite play dough recipe here.  

If you have a dice, or a play group block (make your own dice, I wrote numerals on mine) have the child roll it to see how many feathers to put into their turkey.  Use the popsicle sticks as feathers.  

This encourages numeral recognition and counting using one-to-one correspondence.

You can extend this activity by writing letters on the bottoms of the popsicle sticks.  When a child chooses a stick, he needs to tell you the letter name.  Older children can tell you the sound the letter makes.  If they get it right, they get to keep the feather and put it into their turkey.

If your child is in preschool, you may want to right only the letters of his/her name on the sticks.  Challenge your child to put them in order.

Younger children can sort the popsicle sticks by color.  They will build fine motor strength by pushing the sticks into the play dough.  

Helpful Hint:

If you are planning on doing the Play Your Way to Christmas countdown activities, you can save this play dough in a ziplock bag.  When you get to Day 19, take it out and put a few drops of green food coloring in!  It will be perfect!

My Go-To Playdough Recipe

Looking for a play dough recipe that lasts a long time?

I have the perfect one for you!  

I have been meaning to write this post for quite a while now.  I posted this recipe on my Instagram stories a few months ago. I tried to save it to my highlights, but the last half of the video was deleted.

Well, the last half of the video is pretty important!

A few weeks ago, my daughter's teacher messaged me in a playdough crisis.  She had followed all the instructions...until the video cut off.

So the part that was missing from the have to cook it on medium heat!  I felt terrible.  We had a good laugh, and she tried again the next day.  And then I vowed to write this post!

Here is the video in FULL:


Combine the following into a large pot: 
2 Cups flour
1 Cup salt
2 Cups water
1 Tablespoon vegetable oil
4 teaspoons cream of tartar
Couple drops of food coloring

Stir all together and heat on medium heat.  
Stir continuously until the dough starts to form a ball. 
Once it forms a ball, scoop it out of the pot onto a cutting board and let it cool a little.
When it is cool enough to touch, knead the dough.


You can store this dough in a large gallon size ziplock bag.  Try to remove as much air as possible.  It will keep for a very long time!  Just depends how many dirty hands play with it :)


You can add in different spices for different seasons!  When my daughter's teacher finally was able to get her hands on the correct recipe...she added pumpkin spice to her dough.  It does smell amazing!  Remember that the color of spice will affect the color of the dough.  You may need to add a 1/2 Tablespoon more oil also.

Play Your Way to Christmas eBook is now available!

Want to make memories this Christmas?

Childhood is a beautiful time, and Christmas during childhood is even more beautiful! Take a break from the hustle and bustle and sit down to play.  

This eBook takes the guesswork out of planning engaging and meaningful activities for your children this Christmas season!  These pretend play and sensory activities are great for ALL children!

What is included?

I have planned 24 kid-tested (my children had a blast) activities.  You will start on December 1st and complete an activity a day until Christmas!

You will receive activity cards that you can print to share with your children.

You will receive a complete list of materials. Most of the materials can be purchased from the dollar store or can be gathered from your own home.

Each day has complete instructions on how to set up the activity and how to play.  There are 72 pages in this eBook!  You will see photos of my children testing each activity.


The activities in this eBook coordinate with some of my favorite Christmas children's books.  You do NOT have to have these books in order to enjoy these activities.  If you want to watch me read these books, go to this page.


Frequently Asked Questions:

What’s the return policy?
Since you can’t really send back a digital download, I don’t accept refunds.

How will I receive this eBook?

Once you complete the purchase, you will receive a link to download the file through the email registered with your PayPal.  The PDF file can be read on any computer, phone or tablet. If you’re an Apple user, save the file to your Books app for easy access anytime. The system is set to allow you to download this 50 times (if you're like me you forget to save it the first few times you open it).  I suggest saving it to your computer or to your Books app on your smartphone or tablet.

I would love to purchase this as a gift for a friend.  Can I do that?
Yes!  The process is just a little different.  Go here to get started.  You are such a great friend!  Spread the love for play!

I want to hear from you!

Once you purchase the eBook and begin the activities, I would LOVE for you to post to Facebook or Instagram using the hashtags #branchandblossomatelier and #playyourwaytochristmas

Thank you!

I am so honored that you would make Branch and Blossom Atelier a part of your Christmas celebrations this year!  Have a very Merry Christmas!  Let's PLAY YOUR WAY TO CHRISTMAS!

Fine Motor Play: Must Have Toys Series (Part 4)

Huge thanks to everyone who joined me for the Facebook Live about fine motor toys.  If you missed it, you can watch the replay on Facebook or check it out here

What is fine motor play?

Fine motor play is any type of play that increases the use of the small muscles between the fingers and hand.  Fine motor skills become more sophisticated as a child develops and practices using the skills.  Fine motor skills are important for self-feeding, getting dressed, drawing, writing, typing, sewing, painting, etc.  

Many toy creators make toys that encourage the development of fine motor skills.  In fact, most of the toys we have already talked about in this series give children an opportunity to strengthen their fine motor skills.  If you missed the posts on dramatic play, small world play, or construction play, check them out!

Today I am sharing all the toys that I could find in my house, that encourage fine motor skills but did not fit in the first 3 series.  This post does contain affiliate links.  These are all toys that have been well-loved in my house and have gotten lots of use from my 4 children over the years. As with all toy suggestions, you will need to use your best judgement as to what is best for your child.  Some of these suggestions do have small pieces.  


Do you enjoy completing puzzles?  I am not very good at them!  I used to cringe when I was a preschool teacher and the puzzle shelf was left a mess at the end of the day.  It took me longer than I am willing to admit to put the puzzles back together :)

My children, on the other hand, are puzzle gurus.  Well, we haven't mastered the 100-250 piece puzzles but they loved doing them as young children. And puzzles are great for children. 

Inset Puzzles

When you are ready to introduce puzzles to your children, you will want to start with inset puzzles. These are puzzles where each piece is a distinct shape and picture and sets into the puzzle frame.
The pieces in the Winnie the Pooh puzzle are large and chunky.  Most children will use a palmar grasp, using their whole hand, to pick up the pieces. The great thing about these puzzles is that the pieces can also be used for small world play!  

Another type of inset puzzles are ones with peg puzzle pieces.  These small pegs encourage children to move to a pincer grasp, which is the same grasp you use when writing. This farm puzzle is fun because it makes the animal sound when you put the piece in the correct spot. 

Interlocking Puzzles

Once children are comfortable with the inset puzzles, they are ready to move to simple interlocking puzzles.  These are jigsaw puzzles.  First choose a puzzle that does not have too many pieces and has a frame.
An easy hack can be seen on the 9 piece Paw Patrol puzzle above.  You can trace the shapes of the puzzle so children can match the correct piece to the correct spot.  You can also number the pieces in order for easy clean up.

I love these 12 piece puzzle box sets!  We have the pets, farm animals, and dinosaur sets.  I love that they have their own box to keep all the pieces.  Each set has 4 different puzzles inside.  Each puzzle has its own identifying shape on the back to help you sort the pieces.  The lid acts as a frame for the puzzle.  

Do you have favorite puzzles?  A favorite brand?

Pattern Blocks or Tangrams

Brickston has always loved this pattern blocks set.  He will sometimes make his own pictures using the shapes. My kids also have a travel set with a magnetic board, but it was in my office this week.

Stringing and Lacing Toys

Stringing and lacing toys encourage children to use both hands to complete a task.  One hand stabilizes (holds the string), while the other hand does something different (put the bead on).  I actually do not have any commercial stringing toys at the moment.  My children string real pony beads onto pipe cleaners (with supervision).  Because beads are a choking hazard, I found these great wooden and plastic napkin holders at a thrift store.  I placed them in a basket with some ribbon and tulle.

Lacing cards are also well-loved in my home.  We have this ocean set.


My children love playing with magnets while I'm working in the kitchen.  They put them on our dishwasher or on a cookie sheet.  We have these animal and dinosaur magnets that they have loved over the years. 

Other Must Have Fine Motor Toys

Here are some other must haves that I mentioned in the FB Live video:


What are the fine motor toys in your house that we need to add to the list?