Sunday, January 29, 2012

Sensory Solvers

We had an awesome professional development day last Friday. The best part was that teachers gave seminars on areas where they had a lot to offer, knowledge and idea-wise. I went to one given by two fab teachers about sensory needs and behaviors. It was not only very enlightening, they let us make some of the tools they showed us. One of the ones I liked the best were these squeeze balls made of balloons and playdough.

This is one that I made last night. I was so inspired that I ran out and got the materials pronto so that my girls and I could do a "little project". This is a double-layered balloon filled with a handful of playdough. The rubber stretches and gives so that the playdough can be manipulated by a pair of small hands. I can attest that squeezing them is totally soothing.

Here my 12 yr-old Bailey is squeezing it. Both of my girls asked to have one when we were finished. It doesn't surprise me; I squeezed on the one I got to make during the seminar all the way through my own seminar on technology. I think I have some sensory needs of my own.

Here is what you need to make them:

2 balloons (the heavier-duty the better). I chose black for the outside hoping it wouldn't show first grade grime as quickly.

Playdough. You can use two of the teeniest size, or one of the middle size. I got 3 stress balls out of one big container. I bought the 4 pack for just under $4, so budget-wise it made the most sense. You cannot use homemade playdough, as the salt erodes the rubber of the balloons.

Now you're going to stuff the inner balloon with the playdough. Tear off smallish pieces of playdough and roll them into snakes. You can drop the think snakes right down into the opening in the balloon. If you ever-so-gently squeeze it together in the bottom after you add each piece, it will make it easier to get the playdough all in. DO NOT squeeze the playdough with any force at all; it will cause the balloon to stick to it and you'll never get it unstuck.

Once the balloon has enough playdough in it (you can guess how much to put in by measuring it out in your hand before you begin. You want the amount that would fit nicely into the size of the hand you are making them for. I used about 1/4 cup for mine. If you fill the balloon too full, you will have a lot of trouble getting the outside balloon over the inner one. Also, you don't want the inner balloon to stretch out, because this can cause it to tear during the next part.

I won't lie to you - this is the tricky part. Once the inner balloon is filled, you want to squeeze the excess air out, and then tie a knot at the top. Try to squeeze it into a longish shape, but be gentle.

Now, don't give up on this next part! It seems impossible at first, but you'll get the hand of it. I worked my thumbs into the opening of the outer balloon, and then slipped my pointer fingers under the edge so that I could pull the opening wide. If you   scrunch down the rubber of the opening, you can get the balloon to open up near the fat part.

Holding the outer balloon open with your pointers will free up your thumbs to help stuff the inner balloon in. Once you get it started it goes a little easier. Once the outer balloon is completely over the inner balloon, you can squeeze out the excess air and then tie the top off. I recommend cutting the opening of the balloon off close to the know; this will eliminate any noise-making potential the stress ball will have.

It took me 1 hour to make 10 stress balls. My hands were a little tired by the end, but it was totally worth it. All together the materials costs me $2.50 for the balloons + $4.00 for the playdough. $6.50 for all 10 stress balls. You can't even get those cheapy ones in the dollar aisle for that.

A few tips:
You can break the stress balls open if you use them vigorously. I looked down at the end of my presentation to see my hands covered in playdough; but adult hands are much stronger than kids. I was also really hauling away on that thing in my nervousness about presenting.

Don't use pink balloons. Look at the top photo and use your imagination. The girls and I giggled terribly for about an hour after we had made the black ones. Inappropriate? Immensely. Serious fun? You bet!

Using playdough instead of flour/rice/corn starch will eliminate a big mess if they do eventually break. After a long time, the playdough will dry out and you'll have to make new ones.

Happy squeezing!


  1. I tagged you!
    Come on over and see what it's all about!

    Going Nutty!

  2. Thanks for the tutorial! I'm your newest follower.

    First Grade Delight