If you haven’t already guess, we mommies at Jelly Bean Attic are totally into sensory play and experiences for toddlers and preschoolers. And we wanted to share a recent favorite sensory play idea that is suitable for babies / toddlers all the way to 6 years old or any young at heart really.
Tea bag painting is one of the few activities that naturally uses all senses, sight (the different colors), touch (texture of tea leaves and tea bags), taste (the tea, of course we only use fruit teas), hearing (the rustling of tea bags and tea leaves as they shake) and smell (the different teas smell really nice). Other sensory activities, we usually have to make the effort to include more of the senses, for example, we add in a scent such as lemon, vanilla, pandan essence on top of color to our play dough to get the extra sensory stimulation.
Tea bag painting is so simple to set up and can be done in various ways to make it more interesting. Plus, we all have some teabags at home, and at the basic level, all you need is just tea bags and paper. Water color paper is preferable if you intend to keep the “artwork” as normal drawing block or printer paper could tear and rip with the amount of water used. Fruit teas are the best as they come in various shades of pinks to purples, i don’t go out specially to buy teas to do this activity, but whatever i have at home on the day. I love it as it could be an impromptu activity. But in general, fruit teas for shades of pink to purple, black tea for the brown and green teas for a green tinge. You could buy some empty tea bags and get the children to fill in their own tea bags and “create” their own color. You could buy an assortment of teas that come in different tea bag types, e.g. some in the regular tea bags, and some in the “newer” triangular bags, so the younger children can have a more varied tactile experience.
In one of our classes that we conducted in the botanical gardens end of July, we incorporated tea bag painting with some pretend play, and the children not only got to paint, but they could “brew” the tea in little teapots and pour it out. They had snacks and really explored. Some, ripped the tea bags and they played with the contents, they mixed it with water and called it soup etc. But its great fun as children at all ages could play with the same thing in a different way that appeals to their interest level and age.
At home, i put out picnic mats and the children will pretend to have a picnic, my daughter will “cook” for her toys and the puppy, and sometimes she and her brother will make a “potion” together using the tea leaves. The baby will splatter the tea bags in water and the puppy will try to lick the tea, but its all good fun, and all three kids and the puppy can be entertained for a while. I have to admit it is a mess, hence the picnic mat (its dual purpose see? not only to feed into the picnic theme), i will just bundle everything into the mat and bring it to the bathroom to wash. The only good thing about this mess is that the mess smells really good……..