This $27 Toy Has Entertained My Kids for Hours of Indoor Play
Water is the ultimate sensory play experience for kids, but, when you’re in the midst of a pandemic in winter (and in my case, holed up in a New York City apartment), there’s no pool, sprinkler, or ocean on offer. However, you still have two options for water play: One is bath time, of course, and the other is what I like to call “Mix and Measure Time.”
Two years ago, my son received this Learning Resources Mix & Measure Set for his third birthday and it was a surprise hit. This unassuming toy comes with a scale, three sturdy measuring spoons, and a set of chunky measuring cups and pitchers. (It also comes with colorful activity cards to make puffy paint, slime, and more, but we’ve only done those once and gathering ingredients feels like too much of an ask these days, so put those aside.)
With a few minutes of setup from you, this back-to-basics toy is an invitation to play that your child will be engaged with for a serious chunk of independent playtime. (For younger kids, you will, of course, want to keep an eye on their water play.) I was blown away at how long my son would measure and pour, and how it’s still an engrossing favorite he comes back to years later.
I set up in the bathroom because the floor is made for water, so spills are no issue, and I throw a beach towel down to absorb excess water. I also like to place the mixing tools on trays to have a stable, flat surface, but it’s not necessary. Next, fill up the largest bowl with water, and set it down on the towel or tray. Call your child in and watch the magic happen.
Your kid will love pouring the water from cup to pitcher and using the spoons to transfer liquid. Using the measuring cups is a perfect early introduction to the concept of fractions. Pouring from vessel to vessel builds gross motor skill confidence. And your child’s imagination will light up as he or she whips up “cake batter,” “coffee,” or “magical potions.” Just refill the large bowl as needed.
There are so many ways to extend playtime once your child has gotten their fill of pouring or as they get older. This set is perfect for ages 3 to 6, but also enjoyable for older siblings to join in as you add more to the play invitation. Here are some ideas:
- Supplement your set with pipettes or bulb syringes to encourage water transfer on a smaller scale.
- Add a plastic tea pot and tea cups to transition into afternoon tea. Plastic animals or figurines make the perfect guests.
- Create a bubble bath for plastic figurines. Fill up a plastic basin to create a “bath,” and add dish soap for bubbles. Set out some spare toothbrushes and washcloths for a true toy spa moment. (Adding dish soap means the water is no longer taste-safe, so adult supervision is necessary for young children.)
- Explore other senses: Add ice cubes to change temperature. A drop of peppermint extract or a squeeze of lemon will enhance smell. You can also color the water with food coloring, but I only do this outside.
Know that your child will end up getting wet while playing. My dude loves to wear a bathing suit so he’s not sitting in soggy sweatpants. You can also offer some goggles (swim or science!) to add to the mood.
Once Mix and Measure Time is over, throw those towels in the laundry, but I guarantee you, they will be back out as soon as they are dry. And hopefully, you got a minute to break into that dark chocolate stash, take a scroll down Insta lane, or to just zone out for a second, with the soft sounds of splish-splash in the background. Thank you, Mix and Measure.