If there’s something that we all remember about our childhood, it was being outside and getting dirty… The joy of messy play. These days, we’re bombarded with information on how keeping our kids indoors… how allowing screen time is detrimental to their health. But free-range living is a thing of the past and our back yards just aren’t as big as they used to be.
Su-Marie Annandale, brand manager at Krayons Baby, says that parents are constantly looking for ideas to keep their kids entertained. Dreaming up healthy, stimulating and interactive messy play activities for our children is not always as easy as you think it’ll be… especially if you’ve just walked in from a day at the office.
So what senses do we need to be stimulating when our children are little? Newborns gain adequate stimulation just from their daily routine. Feeding, sleeping, opening their eyes and hearing their parents voices are enough to keep them occupied. From 6 months up, focusing on touch and sight is important. Introducing different textures into their little lives like sand, jelly and even grass will help them explore the world around them. Bright colours and interesting shapes also work wonders to keep them entertained.
From the age of 2 you can really have fun with messy play activities. They are less likely to pop everything and anything into their mouths and can take a limited amount of instruction.
Here are some sensory play ideas and messy play tips from Krayons Baby to keep your little one happy and stimulated
Take a cup of jasmine rice or lentils and add one teaspoon of food colouring. Mix together until the rice is completely coloured, then lay it out on a paper towel in the sun to dry. Do several cups of rice in different colours to make rainbow rice! Kids love to pour the rice from a jug into cups, down a small toy slide, or just feel the textures with the tips of their fingers.
2. Squishy bags of colour
Collect 1 cup of flour, 6 tablespoons of water and food colouring. Put the flour in a bowl and add the food colouring, and then the water. Mix together well before spooning into a Zip-lock bag (22cm x 22cm). You can also add glitter, laminated shapes or letters before sealing the bag. Remember to lay the bag flat and press out any air before sealing the zip-lock bag and double securing with sticky tape. Kids love to manipulate the bags, feel the sensation in their hands, watch how the liquid can be manipulated and even carve gentle shapes into the squish while the bag lies flat on a surface.
3. Endless fun with shaving cream
This is the simplest of the ideas, but can be the most fun. Find a large window or glass door in your house and squirt shaving foam in fun shapes on the glass surface. Encourage your little one to get stuck in with bare hands and ‘paint’ the surface with the foam. Let them really get into it – smooshing and spreading it this way and that. They can paint letters with their fingers, or just enjoy the sensation of moving it about. A quick once over with a cloth and your window is good as new afterwards.
We often forget the simple pleasure of rolling a piece of dough under your palm and carving out a shape. Homemade playdough is simple to make and lasts for ages if kept in the fridge. Find a recipe online that suits you. Add food colouring and glitter to make it visually stimulating for your toddler. Add a drop of lavender essential oil to give it a beautiful smell.
5. Washing up time
If you’re in the Western Cape, this option is not for you sadly, as it requires water. No child can resist a bowl of soapy water and a couple of plastic items that they need to ‘clean’. Equip him or her with a sponge and sit back (with a clear view of your little washer) and watch them have hours of soapy fun. Instead of washing up liquid, use the Krayons soap bar to create the suds. It’s softer on their skin and will leave their hands moisurised. When they’re done, massage a layer of Aqueous cream into their forearms and hands to lock in the moisture for the rest of the day’s activities.
Free and creative play is not only fun for your child but also stimulates the senses and develops a rounded tactile awareness. Of course, being mindful of what is safe for your child is paramount.