Updated: Apr 4, 2022
It is no secret that messy play and sensory play has huge benefits for our children. Not only does it encourage sensory exploration and exposure to different textures, but it nurtures curiosity and imagination, promotes the development of fine and gross motor skills as well as enhancing problem solving and thinking skills. Furthermore, it is fantastic for language development and providing learning opportunities in a fun and multisensory way!
A question I am often asked by parents and care givers is ‘where do I start?’ The whole world of messy play…particularly on social media… can seem overwhelming to many. Parents of children who are sensory avoidant often find the whole experience unenjoyable, both for the child and themselves. So here are my top 5 tips for introducing and encouraging Messy Play in the hope that it becomes a regular part of your child’s week and a fun and enjoyable time for both the child and care giver!
1. Engage in ‘Heavy Work’ activities with your child before you begin. Try a few animal walks with your child, encourage them to do some wall or chair push ups or even help you carry a basket of laundry to their room. These activities will help your child to feel calm and organised which in turn will give them a higher threshold for tolerating different textures.
2. Begin by using dry materials for messy play- things such as porridge oats, plain or coloured dry rice, pasta, chickpeas or cereal. When your child is comfortable and familiar with these you can progress to damp textures and then wet. Give your child some control over this process if you can- why not have a jug available so your child can add water as he or she likes.
3. Use lots of tools for mixing, scooping and pouring. This is particularly important for children who initially may not like the feeling of the textures on their hands or not want to submerge their hands. Use bowls, jugs, spoons, scoops, fine motor tweezers, squirty droppers or pipettes!
4. Use Visuals to support spoken communication. Show your child through visuals what the activity is going to involve. Visuals can also be useful to mark the beginning and end of the activity.
5. Don’t get too disheartened. Some children may appear totally disinterested at first. I often leave out our messy play activities in the tuff tray for the duration of the day. If at first your child appears unsure you may find that he or she plays with it as the day goes on! Don’t force it, this should be a fun time for you and your child so if it doesn’t work this time don’t be afraid to try again. It might take some trial-and-error experimenting with textures to figure out your child’s likes and dislikes.
I hope you find this helpful! Don’t be afraid to send me a message or engage with me on social media for more tips and advice!
Check out our website…we have a large range of sensory bases and tools which are fantastic for Messy Play!