Rainbow Smash Sensory Activity for Kids (with Video)

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A fun rainbow sensory activity for kids, this Rainbow Smash activity is made with baked cotton balls for a crunchy, satisfying sensory activity that lets kids crush their own rainbows using a hammer or kitchen mallet.

A fun rainbow sensory activity for kids, this Rainbow SMASH activity allows kids to use real tools to smash a baked cotton ball rainbow. A crunchy, satisfying sensory activity made with everyday household materials.

Baked Cotton Ball Rainbow Sensory Activity for Kids

Ever since I learned how to make baked cotton balls, they have been a favorite sensory play material for my daycare kids.

Cotton balls are coated in a flour and water paste then baked to form a crunchy, hard coating that kids can smash using play tools, real tools, or even a kitchen meat mallet.

Not only does this activity help develop hand strength and hand-eye coordination, it is a great way to let kids get some energy out and empower them to use real tools. The fibers of the cotton balls hold onto the shattered plaster casing pretty well, so there aren’t flying bits of plaster in the air but I still always had my kids wear safety googles – just in case. (Most of them loved it because they were just like what they see grown ups wear when using tools.)

This sensory activity is one-time use, as after the cotton balls are smashed they no longer have that same crunchy effect, but it is so easy to make these and you can make them up to a week in advance. You can do shapes like we did here (or with our heart-shaped baked cotton balls) or bake the balls individually.

Tips for Best Experience:

The baking time for your baked cotton ball rainbow may differ slightly from ours – it has to do with how thick your plaster coating is and how much water your cotton balls retain. The rainbow should feel hard to the touch when it is done baking and make a hollow sound when tapped with a fingernail.

Try not to smush the cotton balls too close together as the coating won’t bake up to be as crunchy. Allow the coated cotton balls to touch slightly so they stick together, but that’s it.

Use a kitchen tray or cookie sheet to contain the mess. While the plaster doesn’t really go flying, it does create some dust when crushed. We also do this activity on the floor or outside so as not to damage furniture.

Teach your child how to properly hold the hammer and supervise their use closely, even if they are using play hammers or a kitchen mallet.

 

Check out our quick video to see how to make your own baked cotton ball rainbow (and how much fun it is to smash and tear up) – and then don’t forget to scroll down to grab your free printable recipe card to make your own:

Materials for Rainbow Baked Cotton Balls

Scroll down to the printable recipe card for full measurements.

Tip: I highly recommend grabbing a couple of these sturdy plastic lunch trays (we have one in the pictures in this post). I use these for almost all of our craft or kitchen activities, as well as in our Montessori practical life activities. Ours have lasted for over 6 years and are still going strong, plus they are so great for containing messes and allowing the kids to set a project to the side while it dries (or if you have to clear off the table for supper).

 

How to Make a Baked Cotton Ball Rainbow

Preheat your oven to 300ºF.

Place a large piece of tinfoil or parchment paper on a cookie sheet and draw a large rainbow shape directly onto the tinfoil or parchment paper. Set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, combine the flour and water and stir until no flour clumps remain and mixture is uniformly combined.

Divide the plaster mixture into six bowls, but do not divide evenly as you will need more pink or red plaster than you will need purple plaster. (Starting on the outermost edge of the rainbow is which color will require the most plaster mix, while the innermost layer will require the least.) I also reserved a bit of the plain plaster to create white clouds.

Dye the individual bowls of plaster to correspond to the colors of the rainbow. 

Dip a cotton ball into the red or pink plaster and then place on the prepared tinfoil, on the outermost edge of the rainbow. Repeat with as many cotton balls as is necessary to fill out that arc of the rainbow.

Repeat this process with each rainbow color and optional white clouds at the bottom of the rainbow arc.

Bake in the preheated oven for 45 minutes, until the cotton balls are hard to the touch and sound hollow when tapped with your fingernail.

Allow to cool completely before removing from the cookie sheet.

Set the cooled cotton ball rainbow on a kitchen tray, along with a hammer and safety googles.

Allow your child to use the hammer to smash the cotton balls to their heart’s content.

 

Pin this Fun Rainbow Smash Sensory Activity for Kids:

How to make a baked cotton ball rainbow for a smashing sensory play activity for kids. A fun sensory activity for kids, perfect for Spring or St Patrick's Day. Kids get to use a real hammer to smash a baked cotton ball rainbow, for a crunchy, satisfying sensory experience.

Grab your free printable recipe card for how to make your own rainbow smash activity:

Yield: 1 rainbow

Rainbow Smash Sensory Activity for Kids

Rainbow Smash Sensory Activity for Kids

A fun rainbow sensory activity for kids, this Rainbow SMASH activity allows kids to use real tools to smash a baked cotton ball rainbow. A crunchy, satisfying sensory activity made with everyday household materials.

Prep Time 20 minutes
Active Time 45 minutes
Total Time 1 hour 5 minutes
Difficulty Easy
Estimated Cost $2

Materials

  • 2 cups Flour
  • 2 cups Water
  • Paint: all rainbow colors
  • 1lb bag Cotton Balls

Tools

  • Mixing Bowl
  • Spoon
  • Tinfoil or Parchment Paper
  • Cookie Sheet
  • Hammer
  • Safety Goggles

Instructions

  1. Preheat your oven to 300ºF.
  2. Place a large piece of tinfoil or parchment paper on a cookie sheet and draw a large rainbow shape directly onto the tinfoil or parchment paper. Set aside.
  3. In a large mixing bowl, combine the flour and water and stir until no flour clumps remain and mixture is uniformly combined.
  4. Divide the plaster mixture into six bowls, but do not divide evenly as you will need more pink or red plaster than you will need purple plaster. (Starting on the outermost edge of the rainbow is which color will require the most plaster mix, while the innermost layer will require the least.) I also reserved a bit of the plain plaster to create white clouds.
  5. Dye the individual bowls of plaster to correspond to the colors of the rainbow. 
  6. Dip a cotton ball into the red or pink plaster and then place on the prepared tinfoil, on the outermost edge of the rainbow. Repeat with as many cotton balls as is necessary to fill out that arc of the rainbow.
  7. Repeat this process with each rainbow color and optional white clouds at the bottom of the rainbow arc.
  8. Bake in the preheated oven for 45 minutes, until the cotton balls are hard to the touch and sound hollow when tapped with your fingernail.
  9. Allow to cool completely before removing from the cookie sheet.
  10. Set the cooled cotton ball rainbow on a kitchen tray, along with a hammer and safety googles.
  11. Allow your child to use the hammer to smash the cotton balls to their heart's content.

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I hope your kids have a smashing time with this activity! (Sorry, couldn’t help myself.)

For more sensory play activities for kids, check out our full collection here:

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