Messy Sensory Play for Beginners

My three year old goes through phases of being interested in messy sensory play. Sometimes I can set it up and he’ll play for hours, sometimes I’ll set it up and he’ll play for two minutes. Trouble is I never know which it’s going to be and far be it from me to stop him from doing something he might really enjoy just because it might be a two minute day.

However that does mean I am loathe to go to masses of effort to set it all up just in case. It also means I like things that are cheap to make (and if possible things that can be kept to play with another time).

My sister has a daughter who at 2.5 has never really shown much interest in sensory play. However just recently she has become obsessed with all the creams in the house, scooping them, squidging them and generally enjoying making a mess. This got me thinking that maybe it’s time to try her with some sensory activities, that might be cheaper than the body lotions and creams she’s suddenly taken an interest in.

So this is a round up of some really simple and where possible, cheap recipes for the parent’s first foray into messy play. And a couple of words of advice from a mum who found messy play difficult to get in to.

  1. Firstly I would suggest sourcing something to play on/in. We have a Tuff Tray and stand now, but we started with cheap under bed storage boxes and still find these incredibly useful. They are wide enough and shallow enough to provide space to play in, and can be easily moved to where they need to be. In this gorgeous weather, I’d totally be doing this outside, but in the winter an under bed storage box can go in the kitchen. Or wherever.
  2. When we first started messy play I would also put down a plastic dust sheet (we got ours from Homebase, but you can get them at any DIY store). It’s a option, but actually I found most things easy enough to clean off tiles, so I stopped using it. Carpet might be a different matter though!
  3. Sometimes I get Oscar involved in the actual making of whatever we’re doing (he loved making the Moon Sand), other times it’s better if I make it then call him over. You know your child, and your patience, best.
  4. Once they’re playing, be prepared for them to access the activity in surprising ways. Encourage them by all means, but if they run off and grab a train and start painting with that instead of the brushes you lovingly provided, so be it.
  5. But the best advice I think I can give is to be brave. There is little that wont clean up easily and quickly and what’s a bit of clean up to hours of focused play? And a bit of peace and quiet?

Click on the pictures for the recipes.

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We love Moon Sand and while I dyed it blue here, you don’t need to at all. Also I love this because it lasts for ever. Just scoop it into an airtight container when they finished and it’s good for weeks.

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Painting scared the bejaysus out of me, in our tiny house, but this Shaving Foam paint was one of our absolute winners. Oscar adored it and while it did take a bit of mixing the colours, it was totally worth it. He played for HOURS!

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I love this simple recipe from The Imagination Tree and we’re planing to do this one this afternoon. Simple hardly describes it and I think it would speak to my nieces love of creams!

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How gorgeous does this Slime from Powerful Mothering look. Goooooooooo! Chia Seeds are available in every supermarket now and I love how this makes a simple goopy mass. It takes a bit of planning but hardly any work!

clean mud

Another super simple recipe from Growing a Jeweled Rose. I buy my Bicarb in big boxes online now and have a load waiting to be used. I’m planning this for a summer activity and if it’s in the garden it’ll need no cleaning up!

Rainbow Slime (1)

Now I know this one is a bit more complicated (but even the amazing Allison over at Learn Play Imagine says you don’t have to colour it.) but look at it!!!! I want to play with this forget the boy! However, before you start, liquid starch is really difficult to get hold of in the UK. You can, it’s just difficult and can be expensive.

Soooooo I found this amazing post by Fun at Home with Kids on how to make Slime the UK way, using a kind of detergent from Aldi.

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As we have no Aldi near us I cant test this myself yet. However the detergent and white PVA is cheap as chips so as soon as I find some I’ll be testing it out.

I hope you see something in here you think, “yeah I could have a go at that”. Go on be brave.

Let me know how it goes!

xxx

 

 

#ToddlerApprovedTuesday
Advice From The Heart

The way the cookie crumbles

Since I was a little girl I’ve loved baking. I may have mentioned this before 😉 . My first foray into the kitchen was an independently made Victoria Sandwich at around the age of 7 and I’ve never looked back. Of late my baking has taken something of a back seat, due to a focus on healthy eating and losing weight, but I still love and occasionally miss the process of taking a seemingly innocuous bunch of ingredients and turning them in to something that look, smell and taste amazing.

Last week we had a couple of days where the weather wasn’t so great and decided to stay indoors, not something you do lightly with a ball of energy toddler. First plan was to make a new batch of Moon Sand (our first attempt at which I wrote about here). This time however Oscar showed much more interest in the actual process of making it. To the point where I got him a chair, pulled it up to the work surface and let him pour the cornflour in to the pan. He even, after a while, gave the whole thing a stir. He was mesmerised by the process and that got me thinking.

On Thursday it snowed. Not particularly badly, but enough to stop this wimp of a mother wanting to go out and so I decided to let the boy have a crack at baking. I chose a recipe that utilised what I had in the house (which did not include eggs. I know, eggless baking? Challenge accepted!) I found this recipe for Oatmeal Raisin cookies over on the blog, TransatlanticBlonde, whose son is allergic to eggs. It was a great one to start Oscar on, as the measurements were in cups, which needs minimal fuss (although I can’t help it, I prefer grams and scales. I guess it’s just what you’re used to). We switched the plain flour for Dove Farm gluten free plain flour (as Oscar is eating GF at the moment) and left out the vanilla (as we didn’t have any!) Any who, I scooped the ingredients out and Oscar poured them into my giant Maslin pan. I chose to use this rather than a mixing bowl because of its wide base and large capacity, meaning Oscar could really see what was going on as the mixture took shape.

Adding ingredients

Adding ingredients

Enjoying the process

Enjoying the process

And look at what was going on, he really did. I can honestly say I’ve never seen him so attentive to an activity we’ve done together. And we really did do it together. I’d measure, he’d pour and we’d stir. He was even repeating words I was saying, such as “OK, “so” and “now”. Believe it or not he even had a crack at “Cinnamon”! At no point did he get bored or look away or want to do things ‘his way’. Even when I was scooping the mixture onto the baking sheets, he watched until the very last one was done and in the oven. And he watched as I took them out the oven, interested in what happens now. And when I let him have one, well… Let’s just say his new word of the week is “cookie”!

Egg free, gluten free, oatmeal raisin cookies

Egg free, gluten free, oatmeal raisin cookies

I never expected baking to be such a resounding success with my boy, but that’s the thing I guess. You never know until you try. It’s been such as success in fact that we’ve just made another batch, using a (slightly more complicated) recipe from Jamie Oliver. He was just as involved and interested as the first time round. And really what could be more gratifying than throwing a bunch of ingredients into a pan and having cookies come out at the end?

I think we may have found a shared love. I can’t wait til he’s old enough to stay up for Bake Off with me!

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Gluten free Oat and Raisin Cookies

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A shared love

 

 

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You crafty thing….

Despite only using it it for the past six months, Pinterest and I have had something of a bumpy relationship. I avoided it for so long because I worried that, once I jumped in I wouldn’t find my way back out! To be honest I have had moments like that, but all in all I have found it to be a great resource. I don’t tend to pore over it, looking at interiors I would never be able to replicate, and homes so tidy I’d be scared to breathe in them. Doing that tends to make me feel a tiny bit miserable. So instead I tend to use it to find ideas for specific projects, like when we redecorated our room, and the Pretzel Pumpkins I made at Halloween. Just lately I’ve been trying to be a bit braver when it comes to crafting with Oscar. I wrote recently about how he’s started to really enjoy play dough, so last week, with the rain pouring down and me without a car, I decided to pull my finger out and try some ideas for entertaining toddlers with cabin fever.

The first thing I tried was home made Moon Sand (using this post from the wonderful frugalfun4boys.com) and I can’t tell you how easy it was or how successful it was. To make it I emptied one can of shaving foam in to my maslin pan and mixed in a few drops of blue food colouring in until it was evenly distributed. Then I mixed in one box of cornflour a bit at a time to make sure it was all mixed thoroughly. The end result was the texture of damp sand and smelt like my Grandad (I’d forgotten he used to use Gillette Sensitive until I squirted it out!).

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I then dumped the whole lot into a cheap underbed storage box (wide and deep), covered the kitchen floor with a plastic dust sheet (I had no idea how messy this stuff might get, so thought I better play it safe), put a few of Oscar’s toys in it and called him over. I couldn’t believe I’d managed to prep and set up a craft in such a short space of time and with the boy in the next room!

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He was a little cautious at first

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Then he realised he could bury things in it

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His favourite game was driving the car into the drift of moon sand. I think he was re-enacting the episode where Thomas (the Tank Engine to those not in the know!) gets suck in the snow!

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We played together and when I tried to leave him, he came and got me and sat me back down – most unusual for the boy!

We had a great time together. He listened when I asked him to keep the stuff in the box and I loved making little sandcastles with him

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He’d fill the ‘bucket’ and I’d press it down. He’d then shout Ready, GO! and I’d turn it out

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His favourite thing to do was to pick up the ‘sandcastle’ and crumble it back down.

This stuff was amazing. Let’s forget for a moment that I got the recipe from Pinterest and it actually worked for me (Yay!), he absolutely loved playing with it. The sand stayed pretty much in the box and what did get on our hands, clothes and the floor came off so easily (I patted myself on the back for the bright colouring – it meant I could see it to clear it up!). It was easy to assemble, the ingredients were easy to get hold of and cheap. But the best bit was it is reusable. After we finished with it, I shook as much off the toys as possible and pored the sand into a smaller airtight container (you could leave it in the box you used to be fair, it was just easier for me to store it in a smaller container). Then on Sunday we set it all up again and Daddy got to have a play with it too!

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Second time round he had just as much fun. As did Daddy!

Buoyed by my success with the moon sand I decided to have another crack at my own playdough, with a recipe I’d been given by our local Children’s Centre.

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I didn’t use glycerine in mine and I coloured it red. I would say 1 minute was probably enough in the microwave for me, but your machines may vary so start with a short burst and keep checking it. It came out a treat. Wow! I can do crafting after all and the boy loved it!

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I was so proud! Really pliable and not at all the colour of surgical stockings

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Not sure Percy was so thrilled about the set up though! Looks to me like Toby is smirking in the background! Don’t worry Toby, your time will come!

I think I just need to be a bit braver when it comes to crafts (and mess). I’ve been looking into making my own paint and I found an awesome post of how to get any stain out of children’s clothes. I just need to find a good, reasonably priced craft supplier. Where do you guys get PVA and glitter from? I miss Woolworths!