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Messy Fun, Easy Clean Up a Win Win for Sensory Play

Messy Fun, Easy Clean Up a Win Win for Sensory Play

Messy Sensory Play is More Than Just Fun For Kids

The Benefits of letting kids get their hands dirty are well recognized.  Falling under the umbrella of sensory play this kind of fun allows kids to embrace their inner scientist.  Exploring their environment through their senses helps foster brain development and encourages creativity.

With Sensory Play the Purpose is the Play

This kind of play is usually more about exploring and discovering as kids play.  Often there is no real end goal and nothing lasting is created.  Sand castles are built and washed away again.  Playdough can be used to simply roll, squish and squeeze or built into something fun.  At the end of the play time playdoung is squished together back in its container ready for a fresh start next time.

The Play May Be Fun But Often the CleanUp is Not

Kids love sensory play.  However while parents, caregivers and educators may recognize it’s benefits the mess it can create is not so appealing.  Just the memory of the many run-ins our family has had with slime and it’s aftermath can still make me shudder.  

It is possible though to create opportunities for good messy fun for kids without hours of cleaning at the end.  A little planning and some good cleaning tools can make sensory play a happy experience for everyone. 

Painless Clean-Up Sensory Play 

There are actually many kinds of sensory play that will not have you on your hands and knees scrubbing the floor for hours afterward. 

Water Play

One of the easiest cleanups is with water play.  Kids love playing with water and all that's required at the end is a mop and a dry cloth, and maybe some dry clothes!  In warm weather, when you can play outdoors,  its even easier.

Tactile Play

Grab a bin and fill it with something like rice, lentils or beans.  Throw in a few spoons and measuring cups and let kids explore.  When you’re done simply close up the bin for next time.  Aside from a quick swipe with a broom to sweep up any stray bits that fell clean up is minimal.

Play Dough

Play dough is easy and inexpensive to make.  Kids love to help with the pouring and mixing of ingredients and are quick to offer an opinion on the color.  Once made a single batch can offer hours of fun.  Clean up is usually as simple as squishing all of the play dough back into a sealed container.  Kids are helpful with this step and after a quick washing of hands and wipe down of the play surface with a damp cloth sorts everything out.

Messy Play With Easy Clean Up

Of course now and again, especially with long sunny summer days to fill, you might find yourself game for some sensory play that is a little messy.  Here are a couple of ideas that kids and adults can love.

“Painting” With Shaving Cream

Did you know that can of shaving cream sitting in your bathroom is actually a great tool for sensory play?  

What You Need:

  1. Can(s) of shaving cream
  2. Rimmed baking sheets, shallow bins or just a clear surface
  3. Food Coloring (optional be prepared for colored fingers after) or tempura paint

What You Do

Begin with defensive dressing on the kids.  Smocks, bathing suits or minimal clothing is a good place to start.  Then grab some rimmed baking sheets or shallow plastic bins.  Squirt a healthy pile of shaving cream in the middle and let kids at it.  Little scientists will love smoothing and spreading it.  Mounding it back up and even “painting” pictures in it.  If you wish you can add a few drops of food coloring or washable paint and watch while your little ones mix that in creating billowy blues and soft greens.  Learning about color and mixing of different substances as they play.  When finished, simply wash hands, rinse out the baking sheets and wipe up any shaving cream left behind.

Discovering Oobleck the Perfect Marriage of Science and Literature

If you’ve never played with Oobleck before your kids are in for a treat.  In fact you may find yourself fighting for a turn to get your hands in this simple but unique mixture.  Inspired by the Dr Suess story Bartholomew and the Oobleck, Oobleck is a mixture of corn starch and water that combines into a substance that is neither solid nor liquid but can feel like both at once.

What You Need
  1. Corn Starch
  2. Water
  3. Mixing Bowl or Deeper Bin
  4. Food Coloring or Paint (optional)

What You Do

Begin by dressing your kids for messy play.  Grab a sturdy mixing bowl or plastic bin or several if you have a crowd.  In each bowl or bin begin with a cup of corn starch and about a cup and a half of water.  Then just get hands in there and start mixing.  It feels amazing!  Silky and soothing the glossy white mixture that begins to emerge feels wonderful.  Adjust your mixture adding more corn starch or water as needed to make a honey like solution.  If you like you can add some washable paint or food coloring and watch as the color mixes in.  Squeeze a handful of Oobleck tightly in your first and it feels like a solid mass, but then slowly open your hand and you’ll feel the way it slides through your fingers like a liquid.  When playtime is finished wash hands and clean up any spills with a damp cloth.  If you like you can finish off with a read through of the story that inspired it all.  

Oobleck can be stored in a covered container to play with multiple times.  The Oobleck may separate between plays, but qorking it back together is half of the fun.

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