I have no idea how I came to be in possession of two boxes of strawberry Jell-O powder.
We tend to make our own homemade jellies if the craving ever strikes, and strawberry flavouring NEVER tastes like strawberries. The packages must have made their way into the basket during one of those “hungry shops” where everything looks good in the store, and then you get home and wonder what you were thinking.
So, what’s a mom to do when she’s staring at not one but two boxes of strawberry Jell-O and the thought of feeding it to six kids (and the resulting mass sugar high) is completely terrifying?
She makes a Jell-o Alphabet Sensory Bin.
This activity was so easy to set up and the kids loved it.
I prepared the Jell-O according to package directions, added it to a small clear tote box, and immediately poured in a bag of alphabet beads. I let it set overnight and it was perfect for exploration the next day.
If you wanted to, or were making more than two boxes of Jell-O for a bigger sensory bin experience, you could add in the beads in half hour increments to ensure that they are all suspended in the jelly at different levels, as the Jell-O firms up from the bottom toward the top, so the beads will not sink to the bottom. (I’d like to thank my college boyfriend for that tip, which he used to suspend my friend’s sunglasses in Jell-O.)
I was saving my energy for the clean-up, so I just mixed the jelly up a little bit before giving it to the kids so that the pieces weren’t all at the bottom.
At first, I just wanted to see how the kids played with it.
They could not believe that I was letting them dig their fingers into jelly and loved the squishy sensation of grabbing fistfulls of jelly. Even my more sensory-averse children quickly dug into the activity, realizing how pleasant the cool (but not cold) squishy jelly was – I also didn’t find the Jell-O too sticky, which helped.
They put the round letters on their fingers like rings, and searched for their first initials. Miss G scooped up some Jell-O and served it to the observing toddlers.
Eventually, I started a letter recognition game, asking them to find letters as I sounded them out. You could even make it an Alphabet Jelly Bingo of sorts!
The children played with this bin for over half an hour, watching the consistency of the jelly become more soup-like, and I used this opportunity to discuss viscosity, and asked them to hypothesize why the jelly was changing consistency. (You can use the word “guess,” but we have some Dinosaur Train fans in the house who love using “hypothesize” whenever possible.)
We came to the conclusion that the jelly changed because we were squishing it and breaking it down, and also that our hands must have heated up the jelly because the jelly was no longer cool to the touch. It was now less viscose.
(For me, having the children create hypothesizes and explain their thinking was the main goal of my question – if they were really curious at the real answer, we would look further into it, but just fostering that creative thinking and encouraging them to add that extra element of scientific thinking and evidence gathering is enough for me.)
What’s awesome about using the alphabet beads instead of magnetic letters or a moveable alphabet is that this activity can really have two parts — searching for and gathering the beads from the jelly, and then making a necklace or key chain from the retrieved letters.
I wasn’t really looking forward to clean-up but it was really easy to clean this activity up with a bit of water afterwards, as Mr. W demonstrates. As for the bin, I just dumped the remaining contents of jelly and beads into a colander and ran some water through it.
We may be discovering more boxes of Jell-O in our cupboards in the near future after the success of this activity. I have already thought of some really fun Jell-O learning ideas that I can’t wait to try and share with you!