In early development, a child begins to piece together information about their world using their seven senses: vision, hearing, smell, taste, touch, proprioception (position sense), and vestibular (movement sense). Children use their sensory experiences to make sense of their environment. As a child grows, the information they gain from their environment through their sensory systems shape their development. Cognitive skills are developed through curiosity and exploration. Physical skills are developed through a desire to move to objects or areas of interest. Finally, social skills are developed through interaction with objects and people in their environment. So, how can you facilitate this growth through sensory experience? The answer is simple – MESSY PLAY!!!
Messy play is an excellent way for your child to use all of their sensory systems. It encourages curiosity, exploration, and creativity. Because there is no wrong way to messy play, the child gains confidence as they are successful in their activities. Messy play can be used to learn letters and numbers, to interact with peers, and to develop fine motor skills. Here are some messy ideas to get you started:
Cook some spaghetti noodles, strain and place in a large bowl (or on a high chair tray or play table). You can add food coloring if you choose. You can hide small toys in the noodles for your child to find or use the noodles to form shapes, letters or numbers.
Corn starch and water
Mix corn starch and water in a large container (flatter surfaces work better, i.e. casserole dish). This should appear to be a fairly solid mixture. Pick up a handful and watch it melt in your hands!
Mix equal parts Elmer’s glue and shaving cream. Add your desired color (food coloring or paint work well). Paint onto paper of your choice with your fingers (or paint brush if you must) and let it dry into a puffy masterpiece.
Gak is a gooey, slimy, glob of fun. Making it with your child can teach sequencing skills, following a recipe, measuring, and attention. The finished product can be stored in a plastic bag to play with again and again.
Similar to Gak, following any recipe is a great way to teach kids valuable skills such as counting, sequencing, following directions, attention and social skills.
For a simple, uncooked Play-dough recipe, click here
Finger Paint/Shaving cream
Great way to get messy while practicing writing letters, or just drawing using a pointer finger.
A dry alternative to other messy play options, but still a great way to gain the desired sensory experiences. Fill a small bucket or large bowl with rice or beans (uncooked). You can hide small toys inside for a treasure hunt. Make two or more bowls to make it a race or work together to find all the treasures.