Messy Sensory Play Ideas for Babies 6 Months+
Messy sensory play ideas for babies and toddlers. Including recipes and tips to help limit the mess.
Babies and older children really benefit from messy sensory play. It fosters curiosity and encourages creativity. It also helps babies to make important connections in their brain and aids their physical development.
Creating messy play that’s suitable for a baby can be difficult. They often put things into their mouths, meaning lots of things (like regular paint) aren’t safe. However, there are lots of things you can use to create safe sensory play for your baby at home by using ingredients you already have in your kitchen cupboard.
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1. Edible Sand
Edible sand is the perfect way to have your little one explore a sand-like texture without worrying about them eating it or putting their fingers in their mouth when they’re playing with it. Here are a few ways you can make it:
Blending crackers – HappilyEverMom.com
Blending Cheerios – KidsActivitiesBlog.com
Using oat flour and other ingredients to make gluten-free edible sand – Miascucina.com
Mixing oil and flour together – PlayInspiredMum.com
To create this sensory play for babies, all you need to do is make the jelly/jello according to the packet instructions. Then add it to a shallow tray and put it in the fridge to set.
For older babies, hiding objects in the jelly will encourage them to dig to find it which will develop their fine motor skills.
Pouring the jelly into smaller food containers means babies can play with the jelly more than once. This is ideal for babies who are unsure about the texture (like my little one was at first). The smaller jelly pots can also be used in high chair activities to keep babies entertained whilst you’re cooking.
Cook the spaghetti as you usually would and let it cool before letting your baby play with it. You can start by giving your baby only a few strands of spaghetti first. Then give them the whole dish/tray.
You can dye the spaghetti different colours to make it more appealing for your baby too. To do this, simply add the cooked spaghetti to a ziplock bag, add food colouring and oil and mix together.
If your baby seems reluctant to get their hands into the spaghetti, try adding in objects they’re interested in. Like bath toys for example. In the picture, I added in scoops and animals for my toddler.
Oobleck is fun for kids of all ages to play with, including babies. It looks like a liquid but when you touch it, it turns into a solid. All you need to make is cornflour and water. You can also add food colouring to make different colours.
I often start with 1 cup of cornflour and add a few drops of food colouring. Then I slowly add the water until it reaches the desired consistency. However, if you’re looking for a recipe, check out BabbleADabbleDo.com.
To limit the mess, try letting your baby play with a small amount in the bathtub.
5. Taste Safe Mud
Taste safe mud is very similar to Oobleck. The only difference is that you add cocoa powder to cornflour and water to make it a brown colour. Find the recipe on PlayInspiredMum.com.
6. Baby-Safe Paint
There are a few ways you can make baby-safe paint for your little one to play with.
The first way is to mix natural yoghurt and food colouring. This makes the best baby-safe paint in my opinion because it’s thicker so it paints better. Check out the recipe on TalesOfaMessyMom.com.
If you don’t have natural yoghurt at home, you can also use plain flour, water and food colouring recipe. Add the water in slowly and add more in if it’s too thick. Or more flour if it’s too thin.
Having your baby ‘paint’ on their high chair tray is one of the ways you can limit the mess from this sensory play activity. As your baby gets older, you can make the activity more of a challenge by adding in jumbo paintbrushes.
7. Potato Sensory Play
Potato sensory play is a simple activity that little ones will enjoy exploring. This is also a great way to use up any potatoes that are about to go out of date.
I first saw this on AdventuresAndPlay.com. To create this sensory play first peel and cut potatoes into small chunks. Then bring a pan of water to the boil and add a few drops of food colouring. Next, add the chunks of potato and cook them. Finally, drain the water and let them cool before letting your baby play with them.
You could also try potato sensory play by adding water to instant mash potato, also known as Smash, Then add food colouring if you wish. The potato has more of a playdough texture and can easily be moulded or squished.
8. Water Play
Water play has always been a favourite in our house. It’s so easy to set up and different things can be added to the water to keep little one’s interested. Take a look at some of the things you can add to your little one’s water play here.
Smaller babies will love splashing in a shallow pan of water as part of a tummy time activity.
Older babies will enjoy trying to retrieve objects from water in an underbed storage container or in the bath.
Playing with oats allows babies to explore a different texture. The oats are taste-safe, so it doesn’t matter if they try to eat some.
There are 2 ways your baby can play with oats. You can prepare the sensory play by adding oats to a shallow dish and letting your baby play with them.
You can even dye them with different colours.
Or you can add water or milk to the oats, so they have more of a gloopy texture.
Many people are put off by messy sensory play because of the amount of clearing up it takes. Often the clearing up takes longer than the actual activity!
Here are a few ways you can help limit the mess:
Choose the right time of day
Your baby may well need a bath after messy sensory play, so doing it when you have plenty of time will help. I often find that sensory play works well first thing in the morning before K gets dressed. It means I have lots of time to bath him afterwards and not stress about having to be somewhere.
Set Up Messy Play In the Right Place
Set up messy play on a floor that’s easy to clean. Wooden flooring or kitchen tiles work well because the mess will easily wipe up with kitchen towels or a cloth. If you’re worried about the floor, you can use a washable, water-resistant mat to protect it.
Babies can also engage in messy play in their highchair. The Tidy Tot bib has saved me so much time over the last few months, it catches most of the mess and it can be rinsed under the tap.
Use the right containers
There are many different containers you can use which will help limit the mess from sensory play. Shallow baking trays work well for younger babies because they can access the messy play whilst on their tummy. Tuff trays work well for younger and older babies. They’re big enough for babies to lay or sit in, are shallow and easy to clean. Underbed storage containers are sturdy enough for older babies to pull themselves up to standing and get into.
Think about clothing
Some messy play can stain clothing, especially if you have used food colouring. Running the clothing under water and treating the stain (with something like Oxi Clean), as soon as possible will mean you have more of a chance of getting it out. I usually prefer to let my baby play in just his vest or nappy. It means I only have one item of clothing to wash and it’s easier to get K underdressed before putting him in the bath.
Babies really benefit from messy play and I hope you’ve found some edible sensory play recipes you want to try with them.
Planning where, what time of day and what you’re going to put the sensory play in will really help you to limit the mess and will make clearing up a breeze.