Whether you have a toddler or young child, the chances are that their energy levels are through the roof. Keeping your kids busy can be a challenge. Spoiler: Children need things to entertain them throughout the day.
The last thing you want is them feeling bored or spending hours and hours in front of a screen. Instead, it’s fun to mix things up with immersive activities that get them excited.
Of course, if you can make these activities educational too that’s a win-win scenario. So, where should you get started?
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The Best Sensory Play Activities for Kids
It’s not merely about getting mucky. Sensory play is important to your child’s development. Getting involved in some messy play activities could help your child develop their problem-solving skills, boost their memories, support their motor skills, and help them become more creative. With that in mind, setting up some rainy day activities for your little ones could be a smart way of encouraging their ongoing learning.
Since there are countless benefits to messy play, including it in your kids’ routine is a smart move. Creating a bunch of games or activities that suit your family will mean that your little ones are never at a loss for something to do. Some of the best sensory play activities are fun for you too. That means that you can get involved and show your children how it’s done. If you’re ready to give it a whirl, let’s take a look at some simple options.
1. Gloop or Slime
Let’s face it—kids love anything that looks icky. Gloop and slime have come to be huge trends in recent years. Children love messing with the stuff and even sticking it to things.
Of course, you can buy premade slime at loads of shops, but why not take things one step further? If you have a little time, you can make your own slime at home using household ingredients. This could be one of the best messy play activities for young kids.
To get started, gather your basic ingredients. One of the easiest concoctions includes school glue and laundry detergent. When you have used these two things as a base, you can start to make your slime or gloop unique. For example, you might want to use some food colouring to make it a certain tone or even add some glitter for some pizazz.
If you want something a little different, why not try our cloud slime recipes?
Note: When you’ve made the slime, be sure to watch your kids when they are playing with it. The last thing you want is for them to try eating the stuff or needing to remove slime from their hair! Parental supervision is advised at all times—especially if your little ones have a habit of chewing on things.
2. Marshmallow Painting
Ready to get creative? Here’s one of the easiest activities for kids to do during a rainy day. Marshmallow painting is ideal for children aged three to seven and makes for a great task. Before you get started with this messy play idea, you will need:
- A bag of marshmallows (preferably stale!)
- A paint box
Ahead of letting your kids go wild with paint, you’re going to want to protect your home furnishings. Use the newspaper to cover the area you’re planning to use—i.e. the floor or table. That way, you can be sure that there will be less mess to clean up later on.
When you’ve done that, open the bag of marshmallows and set them out. Pour some water in a shallow bowl and give each of your children a piece of paper. Tell them to use the marshmallows to paint with by dipping them in water and then the paint.
You can set challenges and ask your kids to create pictures of dinosaurs, teddy bears, or even just clouds. The choice is yours. You might even want to make it a competition and say that you will judge the pictures when they are finished with them. Easy!
Pro tip: Use other types of food for this activity! For example, you may want to use uncooked spaghetti and glue to make shapes on the paper.
3. Sand Play
Don’t fret if you live far away from the beach! You don’t have to jump on a train, plain, or automobile to watch your kids play with some sand. If you buy some of the stuff, there are plenty of ways that you can set up fun games and activities for your kids.
One of the easiest ways to use sand in messy play is to use a messy play tray. Simply get a box or a shallow tray and pour the sand into it. When you’ve done that, the next step is to find some household items that your kids can play with. The following work well:
- Egg cups
- Tea cups
Give your children the above and let them play in the sand. Encourage them to be as creative as possible. For example, your kids may want to make mini sandcastles using egg cups or even just move the sand around the tray using the spoons. It’s up to them!
Pro tip: If your children are making shapes with the sand, why not add a smidge of water into the mix? Doing so means that the sand will stick together and hold its shape too.
4. Painting with Cars
Beep, beep! Here’s one of the best early years messy play ideas. If you have some old toy cars lying around (preferably with thick tires!), here’s a game that your children will love. To get things set up for this quick and easy activity, you will need the following:
- Toy cars
- Large pieces of paper
Again, you need to lay the newspaper on the surface that you’re planning to use. That means that there will be less mess when your kids get creative with this activity.
When you’ve done that, smear the paints out on a large plate. Give each of your children a large piece of paper and tell them to get started. They need to run the cars’ wheels through the paint and then on the paper to make various patterns and shapes.
Pro tip: Look for toy cars that have patterns on their wheels. Using different textures and styles will mean that your kids can make some seriously interesting pieces of art.
5. Colourful Jelly Play
Wobbly jelly will always be a load of fun for kids! If you have ever seen your little ones playing with their dessert, here’s one of the most engaging messy play ideas for them.
Start by making some jelly at home. You can use some premade packs or just some water and strips of gelatin. The choice is yours. Either get a few different flavours of jelly for this fun game or use food colouring to make different tones instead.
When the jelly has set, it’s time to get playing. Create a messy play table with loads of bowls of jelly. (Hint: You might want to lay out a waterproof tablecloth first!)
Once you’ve done all of the above, it’s time to let your children go wild. Encourage them to play with the jelly and feel its texture between their hands. You can even get in there first and show your kids how it’s done.
Pro tip: This is one of the best edible messy play ideas for kids. Your children may want to play with their food and then eat it too. Remember, anything goes here!
6. Shaving Cream Art
Grab a bottle of shaving cream for this final messy play idea that is suitable for children ages seven and above. This game is really easy. All your kids have to do is use the shaving cream to draw a picture on the window or—if you want—the bathroom wall.
Of course, you will need to supervise this activity at all times. Get creative and show your little ones how it's done. For example, you could start out by drawing a huge smiley face on the wall using the cream. Next, ask your kids if they can copy what you’ve done!
Finding the best messy play ideas for your kids doesn't have to be hard. Sometimes, it’s all about thinking outside of the box—literally. Why not try some of these games and activities for yourself? You never know, you might just find that your kids love them.
What can I use for messy play for babies?
There are plenty of things you can use including jelly, marshmallows, sand, flour, baking powder, and more. Make sure that you are safe at all times!
Why is messy play important?
Messy play (or sensory play) is important when it comes to supporting your child’s development. It can help bolster motor skills, learning, and problem-solving too.
What age is best for messy play?
When your child reaches around six months, they will get curious about the world around them. This could be the perfect time to introduce some messy play into their routine.
What is sensory play?
Sensory play is essentially any type of game or activity that stimulates the senses. That could mean touch, seeing, hearing, taste, or smell.
What is creative play?
Put simply, creative play is any type of game or activity that allows your child to be creative. It might be painting, building something, or even making a cake.