How to Entertain Your Kids for Hours With Adventure Tubs
Want a fun (and messy) activity that gets the whole family involved?
With simple household supplies and a lot of imagination, you’ll take your kids on an exciting journey that involves their senses.
In this article, I will show you how to create an adventure tub.
It’s a simple, inexpensive project that your kids will enjoy for hours of messy, feel-good fun.
What Is Sensory Play?
Sensory play involves stepping back to let your child explore with all five senses. When you do this, something wonderful happens—kids take the lead using their imaginations!
But what my 4-, 6- and 8-year-old boys love most is to get their hands dirty in a tub of squishy, slimy, messy gunk.
For the minimal time and expense of this project, it’s well worth the reward—hours of entertainment.
#1: Getting Started
To make an adventure tub, you just need three basic items:
- 1½ boxes of corn starch
- 1 can of foam shaving cream. (NOTE: Keep in mind smells your kids might like.)
- Plastic bin (size can vary, but recommend one with walls 11″ or less).
Make your tub even more fun by adding some extras.
The sky is the limit here. Just look around the house for things that can be easily washed and repurpose them.
- Spatula, large spoon or anything interesting to stir with.
- Paint (we used fingerpaints) and paintbrushes. (NOTE: The brushes are totally unnecessary, but amusing for the kids to experiment with.)
- Plastic animals or creatures.
Lay Down the Rules
I make a rule that everything put in the tub must stay in the tub.
If anything is thrown out of the tub, the activity is over.
No eating it—even if it does look like whipped cream. Also, no punching or whining allowed (hey, I have boys).
#2: Get to the Fun
Once you have corralled the supplies, it’s time to start the party. Putting the two ingredients in the tub is half the fun.
Step 1: Spray shaving cream into the tub.
Step 2: Dump 1½ boxes of corn starch into the tub.
Pick a solid surface so your concoction doesn’t get into the cracks. I picked the kitchen table, but the counter or an oil mat (or similar) will work, too. Of course, you can do this inside or outside, whatever you prefer.
#3: Mix, Mix, Mix
Let your kids get their hands mooshy as they squish the concoction around the bin. This is so much fun, I dare parents to try it. You’ll be glad you did!
Ask your kids what would happen if you added more corn starch. Try it and see if their guesses were accurate. There’s a lot you can do with the squishy mixture. Try all different things:
- Mold shapes
- Mix with different kitchen utensils
- Add color or scent
- Be creative with whatever you have around the house
Since we included plastic sea creatures in our adventure tub, my boys imagined it was an ocean, making waves and reefs out of the glop. You could also:
- Color the mixture with greens and browns and add dinosaurs. The mixture could even be molded into a volcano.
- Add colored rocks or gems. See if the kids can be a team to find all the red gems…or blue… or whatever you have on hand.
- If you have a second- or third-grader, put coins in it. Have them count the money they find.
- Put some toy construction vehicles to work moving around mounds and building structures.
I thought there might be a lot of fighting with six hands in the bin, but my boys surprised me by playing well together.
#5: Play and Interact
While the kids play, facilitate conversation and let them share their experience. This is a great opportunity to get a family conversation going. For example:
- “If you could go back in time, would you want to go see a real dinosaur?”
- “If you found a treasure worth lots of money, what would you buy?”
- “If you could build anything, what would it be?”
My kids love sea creatures, so I listened to them prattle on about the different traits of fish and whales. They educate each other and become more confident in their knowledge. If they have a question about something (Do frogs hibernate? Do dolphins have lungs?), they’re ready to listen and learn.
During your adventure, observe and listen for opportunities to start conversations.
All kids have different engagement levels. Here’s the breakdown of play time at my house:
- Six-year-old played for 30 minutes.
- Eight-year-old played for an hour.
- Four-year-old had to be dragged away for lunch.
Follow up with a related book or YouTube video. Read about ocean animals, dinosaurs or pirates… wherever your children’s interests have been piqued.
When you are finished, simply sweep the stray globs to clean up and then wipe down. It only took us a few minutes to clean everything, including rinsing off the creatures.
When we were finished, I put the lid on the bin and put it in the cool garage.
To change it up, we added some other colors to the mix, switched plastic critters and let them spray in a bit more shaving cream and it became a whole new game.
It’s possible that the kids could play with the mixture for the next several days. Just pay attention to heat and humidity and let common sense be your guide. Throw it out after a week.
A Few Final Words…
Sensory tubs are a great activity, no matter the weather. It’s an inexpensive home adventure; a simple way to distract the kids from electronics and engage with the family. Enjoy!
What do you think? Tell me about your adventure tub. Show me a picture of your kids’ messy hands. What do you intend to try out for your next one? Please comment below and share your ideas!
Kristin Ammerman is a mom, creative writer and the evangelist of fun for My Kids' Adventures. Her three kids love that their mom's job includes trying out new family activities. Other posts by KJ Ammerman »