Aim of the game:
Messy play is great for your baby’s development. It offers opportunities for tactile and sensory learning as well as opening up a whole realm of new vocabulary. It inspires curiosity and intrigue for the world around them and allows them to explore using all the senses, which makes for stronger learning. Messy play can be wet or dry and babies should have the opportunity to explore both.
Remember babies love to explore using their mouths so it’s important that you choose safe items (as suggested below) and closely supervise them.
Be mindful of allergies. Always follow your Doctor’s advice and avoid any foods or products which your baby may be sensitive or allergic to.
What you will need:
Something to contain the mess! Things we’ve found that are useful include paddling or ball pools, oil table cloths, old bed sheets, towels, trays, wide based laundry tubs/baskets. You could invest in a Tuff Tray or if you fancy getting creative you could use a large upturned box with the sides trimmed down (probably not for wet messy play though as you may end up with soggy cardboard!). Alternatively, wet messy play is great the bath tub and easy to clean up afterwards!
Dry Messy Play Ideas:
Papers and textiles: scrunch up lots of materials such as foil paper, grease proof paper, sugar paper, bubble wrap. You can even include different fabrics for them to explore using fabric samples for curtains or sofas (e.g. corduroy, velour etc).
Edible ideas: Cereals such as Cornflakes, Rice Krispies and Cheerios are great for edible dry messy play.
Dried foods: Dried pasta shapes, lentils, pulses, dried rice.
Craft fun: Craft accessories are great for sensory exploration such as little pom poms, feathers and felt shapes.
Cottonwool Balls: Dry messy play without the mess and a great texture for babies to explore!
Wet Messy Play Ideas:
Ice cubes: Allow your baby to explore the sensation of cold and melting ice cubes.
Edible foods: Cooked pasta and spaghetti are great textures for children to explore in wet play, don’t cost much and are pretty easy to clean up afterwards. Warm puddings and cakes are great too, let your baby get stuck in squishing it in their hands, smelling and tasting.
Gloup: This fascinating goo is a combination of cornflour and water. Gloup’s texture changes state with the warmth of your hand and changes from almost solid to runny so it’s fantastic for babies to explore.
Jelly: Jelly is great as you can just make one big blob of Jelly or get creative using moulds or different colours for your baby to explore and mix together. They will love getting their hands and feet stuck in!
Paint: You can now buy edible finger paint which makes exploring the different colours and texture of paint and mixing colours together safe for babies.
Squirty Cream: Shaving foam is great for messy play but is probably best to avoid with babies. Instead let your child explore the same texture safely with squirt cream.
How to play:
- We recommend stripping your baby down to their nappy so you can pop them in the bath to clean them off afterwards.
- If you have a container for your baby to sit in then you can pop them in first and add the messy play second or, if you are just using an oil cloth or floor covering then it’s probably best to lay this out first and then let your child explore.
- Be face to face with your child and first watch as they explore the different sensations and textures. If your baby is reluctant, then you can show them how to explore encouraging them to copy.
- Using noises, gestures, single words and short phrases comment and add language to your baby’s play. Leave lots of space for your child to respond by making a noise, giving you eye contact or a facial expression or gesturing to you.
How to extend:
- Rainbow rice – add different colour to dried rice by simply mixing it with a food colouring and leaving it overnight to dry.
- Spaghetti worms – make different coloured spaghetti worms in wet messy play by colouring cooked spaghetti. Simply add a food colouring as you cook it.
- Different smells – jasmine rice has a different smell so adds an extra sensory layer to your baby’s experience or add vanilla or lavender
- Mix dry and wet messy play – try doing ‘ice and rice’ so that your child experiences the contrast of dry textures to wet.
- When your baby is a little older create a hide and seek game by hiding toys in the mess to make it more exciting and add an extra layer of learning. For example, hide animal toys in shaving foam, fruit items (e.g. apple, banana, orange) in rice.
- Go outside! In the warmer months this is a great way of limiting the mess and giving your baby the opportunity to see how sunlight can reflect differently off different materials.
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