Yup. This muddy water sensory play gets you…a little messy. And after 90 minutes of pure play, conversation, and joy, I will flag this water play activity as a huge success.
Don’t run away! You know I will give you simple cleanup solutions at the end. Stick with me, and I’ll walk you through the steps for sensory messy play success where everyone wins. – including YOU!
RELATED: Kids learn a lot through play! Check out our 50+ activities for kids list here.
Why messy play is important.
Messy play allows the whole child to shine. With messy play, children dive deep into hands-on learning, allowing them to take risks, make predictions, and experiment with texture.
A few years from now, our children will be reading vocabulary words such as capacity, erosion, and absorb.
Let’s provide opportunities for our preschoolers to play and connect the dots down the road rather than just memorizing a definition on a flashcard.
So just like decorating the cake with shaving cream, this messy play is a hoot!
Tell Me More! Why is sensory play important for development? I created a guide to help parents understand the importance of sensory play and offer some nonmessy sensory bins that won’t take over your home.
How do you make a messy play?
This sensory activity began with a simple idea of filling water in the cooler and evolved into so much more.
The truth is, it was my six-year-old that created this “mess.” After filling the water into the cooler, he came trotting over with a measuring cup full of soil. It can be tempting to stop such actions that lead to a mess.
But instead, I allowed it, and magic and teamwork emerged.
RELATED: Interested in sensory play but not quite ready for the mess? Here is how to introduce sensory play at home.
How can messy play increase sensory stimulation?
Here, my boys are not only working on sensory stimulation and exploring textures but are also exploring some essential math and science concepts!
Don’t want to include mud? No problem! This water activities for kids list has everything from colored water to freezing toys.
Water play sensory activities help build these skills:
- expressing feelings
- higher-level thinking
- increasing vocabulary
- making observations
- spatial awareness
- trial and error
Did you know that messy play could reach so many levels? All it takes is a simple setup and then allowing the thinking to unfold. (with a hose nearby too, of course)
Messy play is self-guided and self-directed.
Seriously, my camera just continued to shoot this epic messy play as I sat in my chair, watching the entire activity unfold.
There was more movement, discoveries, and critical thinking that would be happening on a worksheet.
RELATED: Looking for outdoor toys for kids? I made this list with all of our favorite ways to play outside.
How we clean up the mess from messy play
Let me reassure you that cleanup is easier than you may think when the play is outside. – I am not encouraging muddy water sensory play inside. If I did that, you would never come back to my site for more ideas.
- Hose everything down. We want to put everything away clean for the next use.
- Lay supplies on the driveway to dry out in the sun.
- Hose down the children if they are up for it. (some kids like this more than others)
- Have the kids take their clothes off before walking inside.
- Hose down the clothes outside.
- When supplies are dry, we all collect them and put them in our storage bin for the next time.
The next time we enter some amazing messy play, the same clothes go back on, and I repeat the same process.
I assure you. The amount of time spent with messy play almost always outweighs the cleanup time by MANY minutes.
More water play activities
Mud and messy water, not your thing? Here are cleaner ways for your toddler and preschooler to play:
Sometimes indoor toys need a change of scenery, and sometimes kids need a new way to play outdoors. This new configuration is exactly what we all needed to turn a long day around with play.
My MIL gifted me this treasure chest to use on a pool trip. Right after we got home, it swiftly transitioned into the water table. This treasure chest screams summer water play.
My favorite color exploration and science experiment is recycling markers into watercolors. And, if you are like us, I can find washable markers on tabletops or in the marker drawer of the art cart on any given day.
Water sensory play is a household favorite. Here are 40 sensory bin ideas for kids to guide your play and set up instruction at home with kids.
We love using the bed storage bin and an indoor cycling mat to sit on as my children play. Read how to introduce sensory play here.
The main thing I consider with sensory bins is texture. I use it as an opportunity to introduce new objects that taste safe and are not a choking hazard depending on my child’s age and stage. Our favorite sensory fillers are beans, water, rocks, and kinetic sand (not taste-safe).