Finding Nemo is one of the boys’ favourite films, and they always love playing with water so I decided to do water play activity with them incorporating some of their Finding Nemo toys, and the new Finding Nemo bubble bath we have been sent from H&A.
I had bought some packs of moon dough quite a while ago (it always seems to be on offer in the Entertainer, you can pick up some colours for around £3 if you do fancy it!) but had never seemed to get around to trying it out. Towards the end of the summer holidays we had a few quiet days at home so it seemed like an ideal activity to keep the boys entertained. They do love any messy or sensory play sessions, and I always find these are the kind of things which will keep them all playing and occupied together for so long without any arguments or fighting – which is always a great result!
We had been sent a large oilcloth a while back from Wipe Easy Tablecloths which comes in really handy for messy play. I wanted to do the moon dough in the garden for the first attempt as I had heard it shatters and crumbles everywhere and makes a huge mess (which is partly true!). We have a great picnic table in the garden which is ideal for sitting outside and doing messy activities but it does have gaps in it and the oil cloth is a much better surface to work on than wood with substances like moon dough or play dough, so I covered the table and the workspace was perfect.
The texture of the moon dough feels quite unusual, it has a powdery and smooth feel to it. It is solid, but breaks apart easily – yet if you pack it together really firmly it will hold it’s shape very well. The boys really enjoyed feeling and exploring the texture.
Mr Z also really enjoyed mixing the colours. If you kneed together two colours, you can create a very smooth and consistent new colour. I would say this is easier to achieve than with playdough. He enjoyed selecting two colours the predicting what the result would be when mixed.
We also had some moulds to use. I had bought a moondough diner kit which comes with a burger maker, and pizza and fries mould. The boys enjoyed making these so we soon came up with the idea to improvise and make our own moulds too. We even used just small bowls. When you pack the moondough in really tightly then put the bowl upside down and tap it, the shape will just fall out. The boys were really impressed with the things they had made!
We continued this indoors the next day and the boys set about making some moon dough bricks using the same technique and a rectangular container.
The brilliant thing about moon dough compared to playdough is that it does not dry out, so you can keep it however long you want and go back to it, and it will still be good to use.
The downside is that it does really crumble up so we did loose a fair bit on the ground while playing with it outside. The (many) little bits that fell on the floor were not very easy to retrieve so I had to write them off. Luckily its very cheap to buy and we have loads of colours in stock, so I’m not too bothered if the quantity starts to diminish a bit with every use. You can see in some of the pictures little pieces breaking off. This is fine as long as they remain on the table or play surface. If you collect them all and pack them back together, they will go back together fine.
When playing inside, I laid the same oil cloth mat on the living room floor and asked all the children to stay on the mat to contain the mess. However still some of it ended up escaping from the designated area and going on the rug. It does hoover up, although at first glance when you see a moon dough covered floor or surface it looks like a disaster zone has hit! It does also wash out of clothes fine.
The best thing about it is the texture, I love the feel of it, and the boys all seemed to love the feel of it. They are all quite sensory seeking, and the more variety that can be offered the better. Moulding and pressing the moon dough in the hands is also good for their fine motor skills and will definitely work the finger muscles the more they play with it.
I have heard some parents say they hated moon dough because of the mess, but my verdict is that it’s definitely a great one to add to the messy or sensory play repertoire. It another texture to explore, and it’s lots of fun with loads of potential to expand the play in whatever direction you like so I would recommend it. Just do it outside or on a big mat!
You can see another of our previous messy play activities on the oil cloth surface here
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As it’s the school holidays, and it has been raining, I wanted to think of some messy play activities to do indoors. Luckily, we had recently been sent some oilcloth from WipeEasy tablecloths which works really well as a protective mat and a surface for messy play!
The cloth we have been sent is really big so it covers most of the surface of the boys’ playroom. I haven’t cut it at all, as with 3 of them I think its better for them to have the biggest possible surface to play.
There are loads and loads of designs on the website! This quite plain and neutral design is good for my messy play purposes as it doesn’t distract too much from the activities.
If we are indoors, I would normally limit anything too messy either to the kitchen table, or put it inside a baby bath for the children to play with – but as we had made such a big play surface here I thought it would be great for them to have the chance to get stuck right in to the middle of the play and get really messy if they wanted to!
I went for some simple ideas – shaving foam and paint. Both of these are things my children enjoyed a lot when have done messy play at the children’s centres. It made me smile to see Mr Z acting out all the same kind of stories with his engines and the shaving foam as he has always done since he was quite small! – Aaarghh it’s Thomas, covered in snow – Oh noooo etc
I would have put more shaving foam down, if not that we were almost running out! Still, it left more room for the paint to be included too. The shaving foam started off originally in neat lines marking out parking spaces for the toy cars, and a couple of roads. Soon enough this was all squished and squashed and run over by the boys and the cars as they explored the texture.
There was plenty of space for everyone on the mat.
The paint is great for exploring mark making.
As Mr Z is 5 and able to write quite well now, I asked him to take the paint bottle and squeeze his name onto the oilcloth, which he was able to do and enjoyed. Like the shaving cream roads, it did not stay neatly on the mat for long as the cars and engines were driving through it as well as curious hands smudging and exploring the paint!
I provided the boys with paper to make some car track pictures by driving the cars through the wheels and onto the paper to leave their tracks. They have enjoyed doing this in the children’s centre in the past too.
They also enjoyed just playing with the paint directly on the oilcloth mat. This is quite a new idea for them, as it’s the first time they have done messy play on this particular type of surface so they enjoyed that. It is very easy to clean, you do simply just wipe it, so it is fine for them to put the paint all over the oil cloth and smudge it everywhere.
When it started to get really messy, they wanted to go and wash their hands which is all part of the fun for my little ones as they love water play
Because their hands had been so painty, all the water was red which made it quite fun for them too!
Looking at their hands, it’s not really a surprise they turned everything red!!
After we finished, I let Mr R join in with some of the wiping of the oil cloth as he loves wiping things down with baby wipes in the house (He thinks he is doing the cleaning :D) Wiping paint off the oil cloth is quite satisfying as it comes off so easily, so it was nice for him to have a chance to join in! I am glad that it all just comes off with a few wipes, as I rather that than having to submerge the whole thing in water and scrub – as then you have the problem of where to keep it until it dries. I have already been through the experience of accidently putting away a still slightly damp aquadraw and having it go all mouldy (tbf to aquadraw it had been drenched with cups full of water not used as per instructions, so my fault rather than fault of the product!) – but I would really like to avoid anything like that happening again.
The boys really enjoyed these activities. It has been quite a while since they played with shaving foam, and since they have had such a free full body experience with paint where they have the chance to walk through it and get right in the middle of it!
Mr R, in his PJs, covered in paint, right in the middle of the action! 😀 I let him do the activity in his PJs after all the chance to stay in PJ for half the morning is one of the great things about school holidays 😉 I knew he would get covered so best not put him in good clothes, that way I don’t have to worry what he gets up to!
I’m sure we will be doing more messy play indoors if the weather doesn’t improve over the holidays and this Oilcloth mat will come in really handy for that. It is very versatile so I will keep using it for all sorts of ideas and activities, to keep the house clean protect the carpet!
I am linking up with the Summer Play linky over at Yummymummyflabbytummy. This linky will be hosted over several blogs over the summer, and I am hosting the final week:
1st August – Yummy Mummy Flabby Tummy
8th August – Over 40 and a Mum to One
15th August – The Life of Spicers
22nd August – Mummy of Two
29th August – Mummy’s Little Stars
5th September – My Mummy’s World
12th September – Red Rose Mummy
19th September – In The Playroom
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What is sensory play and what are the benefits of this for children? This is a basic introduction with suggestions of materials to explore for children aged 0-3, 3-5 and 5-10.
Sensory play is a topic that really interests me. My 4 year old Mr T has Autism and as with most children on the Autism Spectrum, that comes along with sensory issues. Mr T tends to be hyposensitive to sensory input, meaning that he is under sensitive to it and can be sensory seeking. Whether children are hypersensitive (over sensitive), hyposensitive, or neurotypical children with no sensory issues – sensory play is beneficial to every child to help them to understand the world around them.
Sensory play is often thought of just as messy play, and although lots of sensory play ideas can be messy – it is not just all about messy play but any play involving the senses.
- Tactile – Touch, like exploring textures
- Gustatory – Exploring Taste
- Visual – Sight which could be exploring colours and light
- Auditory – Exploring Sound
- Olfactory – Exploring Smell and Scent
- Vestibular – Exploring Balance
- Proprioceptive – Exploring the relative position of your own body
All of this sensory play helps with creativity, problem solving, and supports children’s brain development!
Here’s a quick list some of ideas to get some inspiration at a glance, if stuck for something to do!
Ideas for 0-3
- Treasure Baskets
- Exploring textures with their hands – paint, shaving foam, jelly, spaghetti etc
- Light boxes
- Nature walk to feel the wind on their face and explore the grass and trees
- Edible paint (recipe is on the imagination tree)
- Exploring different textured balls
- Foam pieces stuck on a window with water
- Nature hunts, and make a collage
- Popping pom poms through holes in containers
- Baby massage
- Listening to music
Ideas for 3-5
- Treasure Baskets
- Making instruments from Pea shingles, Lentils or Dried rice to explore cause and effect
- Burying treasure in a sand box
- Exploring light with torches and different coloured cellophane
- Gloop from soap flakes and boiled water – left to cool over night
- Spagetti as paint brushes
- Hands in paint or finger printing
- Painting with frozen paint ice cubes
- Bringing stories to life with props or musical instruments
- Experimenting with different flavoured and coloured drinks
- Mark making in sand (even better with shiny card underneath, exposed when marks are made)
- Making crayons (from broken crayon pieces, shape them and then bake)
- Removing objects from science putty
- Experimenting with moving sand on a sheet
- Colour spotting walk with paint cards – to find the matching colours in nature
Ideas for 5-10
For this age group, the idea is more about adding a sensory focus to an idea or experience. I find my almost 5 year old often likes to use the textures or different sensory items as a background for his imaginary play rather than just experiencing the senses for its own sake. Sensory play can be incorporated into a lot of science and learning for this age group. Play can be linked to an idea or topic, or special interest of the child and then sensory elements incorporated into that.
- Spellings in shaving foam
- Fill containers with spices or herbs and identify the smells. You can make 2 of each and challenge them to find the pairs.
- Make fossils by imprinting shells, bits of plant or plastic dinosaurs into Playdo. You can then bake and hide in sand.
- Any form of cooking or baking
- Making elf or fairy doors from wood or any natural items you can find
- Building bridges with wood or bricks
- Floating or sinking activities, with different items in water
- Making a lego boat to float on water
- Lay coloured paper on the floor outside and put objects on it to explore the shadows and silhouettes
- Make a sensory car track, driving through mud, sand, leaves, dried rice, slime or any other texture
- Blindfold taste test games
- Making gloop or borax
- Colour mixing with paint
- Making dens
- Cinnamon sticks for number bonds
- Excavating frozen dinosaurs or other toys from blocks of ice
- Growing crystals
- Large scale junk play, or loose parts play
Ideas for things to use or explore
- Cinnamon sticks
- Glass cubes or beads
- Water beads (use with care these are dangerous to babies if put in their mouth)
- Underwater lights
- Fairy lights
- Natural Wood
- Cotton Wool
- Pea shingles, Lentils or Dried rice
- Coloured foil or cellophane
- Soap flakes
- Shaving foam
- Lemon or lime
- Glitter or sequins
- Metallic surfaces
- Fibre optic lights
- Pom Poms
- Organza and streamers
- Crazy Soap
For more in depth examples, check out our sensory play resource post where I share many sensory activities that I’ve enjoyed with my kids.
The ideas and activities are endless really and this is just a taste, but hopefully it will help you out if you are ever stuck for a sensory activity to occupy your little ones! If anyone has any ideas that I have forgotten, which you would love to recommend – please share it in the comments, and feel free to tell me which ones you and your children enjoy!
If you have blog posts or pictures of sensory play ideas that you have done with your kids, why not share them with us on the In The Playroom Facebook page, by posting them on the wall.
As the weather is finally getting nicer, we are able to play out in the garden after school. This gives a great chance to do some more messy activities. The activity we did today – Sensory play with rice and lentils – I wouldn’t have wanted to do inside the house, as it can be a bit hard to keep it all contained.
But out in the garden without needing to worry about mess, the boys had a lot of fun!
I first heard about GelliBaff when they came to Playfest recently to support red nose day, by providing the Jelly for people do something funny and raise money. It’s a great material for sensory play and we were lucky enough to win a pack by participating in the Playfest discussions, and with all the kids at home for the school holidays – Messy play with GelliBaff seemed like a fun activity to keep them busy for a while!
GelliBaff is designed to go in the bath, but rather than filling a whole bath and putting the kids in it I decided to put some of in a baby bath and let the children play like that. They are used to doing messy play with their hands in trays, or the baby bath which I always use at home, so they didn’t hesitate too much. This would be a better option for any children who are unsure about the texture.
We had the “lava red” colour as you can see above. I would say it looked more of a pinky purple to me, but it was quite a nice colour.
It’s very easy to make, just add the gelli powder under running water and mix it until you are happy with the consistency. It can be made thicker or more watery, according to whatever you prefer.
Adding toys to it definitely helped to keep the children’s interest on the activity for longer. The tipper truck was a really good one, as they can fill it up with the GelliBaff and empty it to cover and bury the vehicles and any characters that have been placed inside. Having a tool like a plastic spanner or wrench was also good for them to use to dig out the buried vehicles and “rescue” them.
We also decided to pour glitter into it just to add a bit of sparkle, then use the empty glitter containers to do filling and pouring with the Gelli.
This was all very easy to prepare and quite easy to tidy away afterwards. It washes off hands and toys very easily. I purposely made sure they only chose hard plastic toys which are easy to wipe down, but none of the toys have been discoloured or marked in any way by being played with inside the GelliBaff. Some of it was dropped onto the floor, thanks to my youngest – but it was quite easy to clean off and didn’t leave any marks.
I had been wanting to do this outside, but as the weather hasn’t been too good we just did it indoors and it was fine. As messy play goes its not too bad at all in terms of tidying up. To dissolve the GelliBaff you add a 2nd powder and then add water and mix until it becomes thinner, then it is fine to go down the drain.
The feel of the GelliBaff is quite slimy and gloopy but its not unpleasant and all of the children were quite happy to play in it. My 3 year old normally loves all the messy play and sensory things so I thought he would be the most keen, but actually the other 2 spent more time in it and he was slightly unsure although he did join in and play for a while.
It kept all of the children entertained and next time I will probably try and find different toys to put into it to mix it up a bit and make it different. All sorts of different play scenes could be created, like getting the blue gelli baff and putting artic creatures inside it to make a kind of slimy polar world or the green with space ships, astronauts and space creatures!
It’s definitely a good one to have in the cupboard to add variety to your messy play 🙂
You might also like these sensory play posts:
- Playdough made with Gelli Baff
- Rainbow tactile sensory bin
- Make your own snow for sensory play
- DIY mini light table
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