Sometimes it’s easier to get messy

There’s a point in the afternoon that every parent I know dreads. As 4pm ticks ever closer, my blood pressure starts to rise. I’ve heard some call it the “Witching Hour”, while others call it “Tantrum O’Clock”. Either way, 4pm in our house often signals a one way ticket to Tantrumville. And it’s not pretty.

The thing about 4pm, is that it often coincides with the exact minute that my energy levels have dipped below zero. By this time in the afternoon, all I want to do is crawl under a blanket on the sofa and give in to exhaustion. My toddler’s fractious behaviour, however, would never allow it. So I’ve started trying to ward off 4pm and greet it head on, with a pre-planned activity. Yesterday, it was all about the Sensory Box.

Sensory Box for Toddlers

I filled a plastic tupperware tub with a couple of cups of rice, which I then mixed with red food colouring. I added three different types of dried pasta to the mix, along with some red glitter, a couple of little pots and a spoon.

And then I let her go wild.

Inevitably, there was rice on the floor and I’m still discovering bits of glitter in the cracks between the tiles, but – astonishingly – there was no tantrum. Not even a tiny whinge.

As the (self-proclaimed) Northern Love Machine returned from work, grumbling about my “hippy ways with motherhood” and questioning why it wasn’t enough just to let our toddler play with her nice tidy jigsaws, I felt a bit smug. Yes, I’d caused a mess. Yes, I had glitter stuck to my eyelashes and had experienced my first (forced) taste of dried pasta with sticky bits of red rice attached but, for once, I’d averted a tantrum.

Sensory Box cupcake

My two year old was so busy making dried pasta cupcakes and spreading glitter and rice on the table to trace out letters, that she forgot to get cross. She became absorbed in her Very Important Task and paid no heed to me as I bustled around in the kitchen, preparing tea and sorting out the washing.

I’ve come to the conclusion that this is now the way forward. When 4pm rolls around, I will now be ready and waiting with some kind of activity that doesn’t involve Frog’s usual toys. Something she’ll actually be interested in doing, that will distract her from the fact she’s tired and a bit bored and a bit hungry.

Failing that, I’ll just push her around the floor in the washing basket. She seems to like that.

Toddler in a washing basket


Linking up to Tot School Tuesday at See Vanessa Craft.



  1. says

    Hooray for rice and food colouring. I have found that risotto rice (that is a bit rounder and fatter than normal rice) is a big hit with my little man, in a box with a plastic polar bear and some cars. Haven’t tried the laundry basket yet though so we will have to give it a whirl!

  2. Ghislaine Forbes says

    Is it a boat? A flying saucer? An aeroplane, a magic basket? Don’t forget that other game she loves so much. I’ll get her into tip top drama fashion by the time she hits secondary school! Love ma x

  3. says

    Fab idea, very creative. I’m a bit simpler, usually go for the paint box and always end up groaning about how much effort it is…. but I know the girls love it, so it’s always worthwhile x

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *