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7 Messy Play Ideas: Get Your Hands Dirty With Sensory Play

Messy Play Sensory Play Kids Learn
Parties & PlayPost Category - Parties & PlayParties & Play - Post Category - IndoorIndoor

Let’s get messy! Messy play that is. Check out these easy ideas and inspiration for some homemade sensory play.

You’re probably already aware of sensory play — or “messy play” — by now but don’t mistake it for just another parenting buzzword. A great indoor activity (or outdoor if you have the space!) where everyone can let loose, it also has many other positive benefits like:

  • Developing babies’ senses; offering them an outlet to learn and explore new sensations in a safe and fun way.
  • Developing fine motor skills and even helping build nerve connections.
  • It’s just really, really, fun!

There are endless activities you can concoct for the muckiest of play — here are some of our favourites.

Read More: How To Create A Montessori Environment For Your Child At Home

Messy Play Sensory Play Kids Learn Gooey Bag

Sassy Mama number peach 1Sensory Play Squishy Bags

Squishy bags (or sensory bags) are great for little hands to grab onto other than your hair or the front of your shirt and you can go as simple or as complicated as you want.

Using zip-lock bags, you can simply add paint, coloured rice, play dough and/or whipped cream. We’ve had particularly great success with a combination of flour, water and food dye to make a satisfyingly squeezy sensation, similar to that of a stress ball (1 cup of flour, 6 tablespoons of water and food colouring).

Check out this list of awesome ideas for creating an endless number of sensory bags.

Read More: Easy Home Learning Activities To Schedule For Preschool-Aged Kids

rainbow spaghetti messy play

Sassy Mama number peach 2Messy Spaghetti Sensory Play

Cook up a batch of spaghetti but skip the sauce and add some food colouring to make rainbow wriggling worms for the kids to get their hands on. Often the cooled pasta is enough on its own to keep kids entertained, but you can engage older children with different tasks to help develop their fine motor skills, such as having them try to thread the noodles through a colander.

For older kids learning numbers and letters, hide items (these can be fridge magnets, wooden toys or small stones with numbers/letters written on them) and have them pull the pasta apart to find them.

Read More: International Pre-Nursery, Kindergartens And Preschools In Hong Kong

Messy Play Sensory Play Kids Learn Painting

Sassy Mama number peach 3Finger Paint Messy Play

Things are about to get seriously grubby. Finger paints are the best way to introduce playing with paints and colour to your bubba. You can either sit them down on an old sheet and let them run wild or find some plastic pots and contain the fun. 

Encourage them to mix the colours together and see what they can create. There is a multitude of edible finger paint recipes online but we loved this one.

Read More: Art Classes For Kids – Art Jamming, Chinese Calligraphy & More

sensory play bins

Sassy Mama number peach 4Ultimate Messy Play — Bins And Trays

Now, this is where things can get really grimy (in the best possible way). Find some shallow bins or trays, like these ones from IKEA, and fill them with all sorts of gooey goodness. Fill the tubs with water, sand, rice, jelly, sponges, spaghetti, water beads and homemade slime are also fun additions.

The bins work especially well if you’re hosting your own messy play playgroup and you can easily create a baby-to-bin rotation system (let’s not have things descend into complete chaos). Let them explore through touch and even have them stand in the bins and steps between them.

For older kids, you can create themed tubs, and have them find bits and bobs you’ve hidden in the mix — for example, toy dinosaurs in sand or numbers and letters — and ask them to find certain digits for you to add together.

Read More: Your Guide To Montessori Education – Top Montessori Schools In Hong Kong

Messy Play Sensory Play Kids Learn Sensory Bottle

Sassy Mama number peach 5Sensory Bottles — Non-Messy Play

Sensory play can often have a calming effect on kids; it uses up a lot of brainpower and is very stimulating, so they can get pretty zen afterwards (much like after bath time, which can itself be a form of sensory play — try popping in water beads or some water balloons for bath time play!). Chill-out bottles have become a very popular calming aid for kids, especially those who deal with anxiety and autism.

Messy Play Sensory Play Kids Learn Sound Bottle

Sassy Mama number peach 6Mini Rain Sticks — Musical Sensory Play

Obviously, sensory play is designed to get all the senses stimulated. So, music and noise-makers are always a winner (and require less cleanup!). There are plenty of baby-friendly mini instruments on the market, but we suggest making your own rain sticks for soothing sounds.

Simply fill a bottle with a concoction of rice, beads, and cocktail sticks (obviously it goes without saying that any bottle or container should be made 100 percent child-proof).

If you want to add a visual element to your rainmaker, use a clear bottle and coloured ingredients. If your little one has an older brother or sister, get crafty together and help them make their own customised rainmaker for their little sibling.

Read More: Music Lessons – Piano Teachers, Guitar, Singing Lessons And More In Hong Kong

Messy Play Sensory Play Kids Learn Bubbles

Sassy Mama number peach 7Bubbles — Sensory Fun For Everyone!

Do not trust anyone that does not love bubbles. This one might seem like a no-brainer but playing with bubbles is actually a great way to develop movement and auditory skills, as toddlers and tots need to listen to your instructions to have fun; teach your babe how to poke, pop, stamp and clap the bubbles.

If you’re looking for some more relaxed bubble play, consider combining it with some light and music-sensory activities.

Read More: Special Education Needs – Resources For SEN Students In Hong Kong

Editor’s Note: “7 Messy Play Ideas: Get Your Hands Dirty With Sensory Play” was originally published by Lauren Boydell and most recently updated in July 2023 by Sassy Mama. 

  Main image courtesy of Dragos Gontariu via Unsplash, image 1 courtesy of thisheartofmineblog, image 2 courtesy of Getty Images, image 3 courtesy of Ana Klipper via Unsplash, image 4 courtesy of cottonbro from Pexels. image 5 courtesy of Squarespace, image 6 courtesy of Pick A Toy, image 7 courtesy of Leo Rivas via Unsplash  

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