Curious little hands and minds are always looking for exploration. And what better way to explore than by getting a little (or a lot) messy?! Cue the panic attacks from parents everywhere. But with summer almost here, there’s no better time to embrace the messiness outside! If there’s one true thing: kids love making a mess. And messy play keeps kids busy, which is always a thumbs up for parents. This makes messy play sensory activities the ultimate win-win. So get ready to grab a few simple supplies and sit back to let your kids get messy for hours on end.
If you are looking for simple and messy ways for your toddlers to stay busy and entertained this summer, you’re in the right place! Messy sensory play activities for toddlers are the ultimate way to play and learn. Let your kids experience messy hands-on play that encourages learning, confidence, independence, and imagination with these 11 messy play toddler-loving activities.
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What is messy play?
Messy play for toddlers is essentially a form of sensory play. Sensory play is a hands-on approach to learning and exploration. When young children are exposed to messy materials and tools, they will learn, experiment, and have endless amounts of fun. Sensory activities for toddlers can help to build fine motor development through various skills:
What are some supplies for messy play?
Messy play activities for toddlers allow your child to develop independent play through open-ended activities. There are so many ways to expose your toddler to safe messy sensory play with easy at-home sensory materials:
- Color mixing
- Food (beans, cereal, noodles, oats, rice)
- Kinetic sand
- Shaving cream
- Shredded paper
RELATED: Wondering how to get your toddler started with sensory activities? Grab these sensory bin essentials on your next Target run!
Why is sensory play important?
Sensory play is so important. Experts and child development research recommend sensory play because it helps develop many critical and essential components of a child’s growth and development. Combining the benefits of sensory play with messiness is the ultimate way to keep your kids engaged, busy, and playing independently.
There are so many benefits to encouraging messy sensory play:
- Brain developments
- Complex tasks
- Critical thinking
- Fine motor skills
- Problem-solving skills
- Social skills
- Thoughts, feelings, and emotional regulation
RELATED: Make sure to check out our list of 40+ Sensory Bin Activities!
11 messy play activities for toddlers
Grab some dirt, water, slime, and coral for your toddler and their pals for fun, messy play this summer! You’re sure to be the coolest (and bravest) parent on the block with these 11 messy play activities for toddlers! And don’t forget to grab all of your outdoor sensory supplies before the outdoor mess kicks off.
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Make this simple 2-ingredient cloud dough recipe for your toddler to dig, scoop and play with in this cute faux-dirt-inspired construction-themed sensory activity.
Adding paint to shredded paper couldn’t make an easier messy activity. Plus, it’s a great way to reuse your recycling!
How to Make Oobleck (Best Ideas for Kids)
Oobleck is just one of those sensory materials that your kids will love! Mix up this easy oobleck recipe to create a sticky, slimy sensory material that your toddler will love to stretch, pull and play with for hours!
How to Set Up A Mud Pie Kitchen (Tinkerlab)
Grab some old pots, pans, and mixing spoons, head outside to a dirt-filled area, and let your toddler’s dreams come true as they bake up their specialty mud pies in their messy outdoor kitchen!
Kinetic sand is one of those cool sensory materials that mimic the look of sand but does all sorts of stretchy things that your toddler will love experimenting and exploring with! It’s not necessarily messy, so I added it to offer a not-so-messy but still feels messy for parents that don’t enjoy sensory play options. LOL
Does the thought of letting your toddler paint inside your house give you anxiety? Don’t bother. Instead, set up a simple outdoor art lab by bringing a few supplies outside. Your toddler will absolutely love painting al fresco, and you will love not having to worry about the mess. It’s a win-win!
Messy Play With Jello (My Bored Toddler)
Food is such a fun sensory material for kids to explore! Your toddler will have so much fun wiggling, jiggling, playing, and eating while they explore during this messy Jello activity.
Let’s bring on the Jello again to bury some pretend food. Dig in, find it, and wash it off for the full sensory (and hopefully clean-up) experience.
Ready for some REAL mess?! The title of this activity says it all. With a few simple buckets, coolers, and other old garage items, your toddler will go crazy and get messy, muddy, and wet in this ultimate outdoor summer messy sensory play activity.
If you can’t make it to the beach this summer, you can bring the beach to you with this cute sand sensory play activity. Grab a few measuring spoons and cups with a couple of handfuls of sand and let your toddler shovel, pour, and build for hours!
Sensory Play with Oats (Fun-A-Day)
Have a bag of stale oats that are headed for the trash? Pour them into a sensory bin, throw in a few toys, cups, and spoons, and let your toddler go wild as they play, pour and dump.
Shaving cream is a fantastic way for your toddler to strengthen their fine motor skills as they squirt, play and build in this messy take on LEGO building.
Are you looking for a new way to play with all those Hot Wheels cars? Squirt some shaving cream and grab a handful of cars for your toddler to drive, zoom, park, and play. Pro tip: let your kids continue the messy fun as they clean them off at the car wash with some water after the shaving cream play is done!
Messy play is the ULTIMATE way to play!
Kids LOVE making messes! So let’s let go of our natural parental panic and embrace the messy sensory play with your toddlers this summer. Messy sensory activities for toddlers will give your child’s curious, wondering, and eager hands and minds a way to play and explore in the ultimate form of sensory play. Since kids love everything messy, you are guaranteed some time to kick your feet back and enjoy that iced latte this summer as your kids splash, pour and mix all things messy!
Messy play is essentially a form of sensory play. Sensory play has been a proven form of hands-on learning that helps young children explore their curiosities and develop independence.
There are so many things that children can learn from messy play. Building confidence, strengthening fine motor skills, and helping to build the imagination are just some things toddlers can learn from messy play.
The benefits of messy play include healthy brain development, critical thinking skills, problem-solving skills, social skills, communication, language development, emotional regulation, and self-control.