Sensory play set ups don’t have to be big and messy to still achieve a whole host of benefits for your child. This simple water-based activity makes the most of Learning Resources’ fabulous fine motor tools and is sure to get your child working their hands hard.


What you need:

  • Helping Hands Fine Motor Tool Set
  • Small ice cube tray (we used a fun silicone star shaped one)
  • Bowl of water (one cold for making the ice cubes and one warm for melting them)
  • Selection of gold sequins (we used stars and leaves) and glitter
  • Tray or container to help contain the mess


Let’s Freeze the Gold!

What I love most about this type of activity is that there are actually two components of play all rolled into one. Making the gold-filled ice cubes is just as much fun as melting them!

I set up a tray with all of the supplies needed and simply invited my 3 year old to add some golden sequins and glitter to each star compartment. She loved carefully selecting each compartment’s ‘ingredients’ and choosing different tools to transfer them. This was great for getting her to work on her pincer grip and we even added in some simple counting too.

Next up it was time to add some water. The Twisty Dropper tool is perfect for toddlers due to the large squeeze area on the handle. As the nozzle hole is not too large it also allowed my little one good control on how much water was added (avoiding flooding the compartments and all of their contents!).

The final step was to add one last sprinkling of golden glitter, because let’s face it no amount of glitter is ever enough in the eyes of a toddler! Now they were ready to be carefully set in the freezer for a few hours. If you are using larger ice cube compartments it is likely that they will need to set overnight to be fully frozen.

Time to Rescue the Gold!

There was so much excitement when we retrieved the ice cube tray from the freezer! My daughter’s face lit up when she saw her gold stars and leaves buried in glitter sprinkled ice cubes. Her first task was to simply get the ice cubes out of the mold. This is where a silicone mold is great because her little hands could manipulate it and the frozen stars just popped out.

As soon as the stars were free she got to work trying to pick out the golden treasure with her hands. She managed to get some free, but needed a new tactic to get the really frozen ones out. That’s when the bowl of warm water came in handy. She used the Twisty Dropper again to squirt warm water onto the ice cubes and watched as they started to melt. You could also add salt to this set up and investigate the speed at which the ice melts.

As the frozen stars melted, my little one was able to rescue more and more gold. She carefully put the ‘treasure’ back on her tray and again we snuck in some numeracy by counting each piece of gold she rescued.

Even though this sensory play set up is on the smaller scale, it has so much to offer in terms of sensory exploration and fine motor development. My toddler was constantly using the different tools which all worked her hand muscles. She was also using her senses to explore all of the different materials. We discussed what we saw and felt as the water changed to ice cubes. Such a fun early link to science for any inquisitive kiddo! And best of all, she re-filled the ice cube tray ready to repeat the activity all over again tomorrow!