What About the Mess?

When it comes to sensory play friends often ask me, "What about the mess?" My answer is, embrace it!

Set expectations for yourself and start small. There are lots of non messy sensory ideas for you to start with if you're new to sensory activities. Like putting paint in a baggie and taping that to a table with masking tape for your little one to squish with no mess!

When it comes to sensory play with dry foods, such as rice, oatmeal or pasta, expect it to get everywhere. Expect to find it in your hair later. Expect to find some behind the chair next week. Expect it to get messy. 

Painting is a great sensory activity. You may lay a drop cloth down and cover your child in a smock. However always expect that some paint may make it just past the drop cloth! Expect that you may encourage your one year old while she's painting. You may say, "You're painting so beautifully with your paint brush!" Then she'll look at you curiously and slowly sweep the brush in her hair. Because after all, you said brush. Or maybe that was just our experience!

Those little mishaps are a great way to teach your child language and help them to make those connections through play. For example, I said, "You're thinking of a hair brush. We use hair brushes to brush our hair on our head. This is a paint brush. We use paint brushes for art, to make pictures with paint. Paint brushes don't go in hair, they go on paper." and then I dipped the paintbrush back in the paint and swiped it across the paper. 

Always use washable paint!

Play. Create. Explore. Clean Up.

This is my motto when it comes to sensory play. Allowing children the ability to explore during sensory play gives them the confidence to create amazing things. You may be surprised with the things they can create, or the things they imagine in pretend play. Teaching children to clean up after sensory play is all a part of the activity. Give your one year old the dust pan. They will sweep the rice everywhere for a few minutes before you grab a vacuum. They won't actually clean up at that age but they will learn the basics of clean up time. They'll learn that playtime is over now and it's time to clean up. Have them say bye bye to whatever they were playing with, "Bye bye oatmeal, bye bye beans."

These basic skills that were learned at 18 months, though it seemed like oatmeal was being sloppily poured all over the floor, have grown into a 2 and a half year old who is an expert at pouring, and can fill the bird feeder on her own. Fine motor skills are at work with this basic sensory play. 

Tips for Messy Play