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A toddler playing with food

messy play shapes creative minds: sensory play ideas

2 minutes


If you’ve heard the term ‘sensory play’, but are not actually sure what it is, what the benefits are and how to do it – don’t worry. Sensory play or ‘messy play’ simply means stimulating baby’s senses – sight, touch, sound, smell and taste – through interaction with objects around them. Sensory play also helps babies learn about the world around them and develops their curiosity. And the best thing is, it’s simple to do.

Sensory play: No need for special equipment

‘I went to my friend’s house once she and her baby were having a “green day”, and she’d bought all these things like green squishy balls and green balloons,’ says Kayla, mum to twins James and Liam, 3. ‘It was a sensory play idea which she’d got off the internet, and my immediate feeling was guilt as it had never occurred to me to do anything like that! But, while it’s a really sweet idea, I soon learned that if you have a few pots and pans and a wooden spoon, your baby would be just as entertained!’

Sometimes well-meaning articles or Instagram accounts can make sensory play or messy play seem more complicated than it is. You don’t need to buy anything in particular - there are so many colours, textures and noises in the household objects around you. Here are just some ideas of how to engage your baby in sensory play.

Simple sensory play or messy play ideas

  • Fill a washing up bowl with warm water and bubbles. Let them splash about and put little toys in there (ensure toys are not too small, as they could pose a choking risk)

  • Give them some chalk and let them scribble away on the patio

  • Tupperware boxes make a great noise when you bang them, or fill them with items such as rice and shake them about.

  • Make a simple play-dough out of water, oil and salt.

  • Fill a tray with oats and let them feed toy animals with it.

  • Even things like hairbrushes and hair bobbles offer new textures that fascinate babies (again, nothing too small that could be a choking risk).

These are just some of the sensory play ideas you can easily do at home. And if you’re at weaning stage with your baby and are looking for some edible inspiration, discover some great sensory food play ideas here.

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