When the rainy days seem like they'll never end, it can get tough keeping the kids entertained. We are often faced with echoes of “I’m bored!” One of the ways we like to spend those wet days (or even some dry ones, for that matter) is getting messy. With or without my planning, a mess is bound to ensue. From 7 am to 7 pm, my house looks like a playroom that I've managed to squeeze a couch and dining table into. Therefore, I’d rather foster the mess with a bit of structure.
Besides making our kids happy, this type of messy play also comes with many benefits. For babies and toddlers, it can enhance eye-hand coordination and their fine motor skills. It allows kids to explore the world through their 5 senses – sight, smell, touch, taste, and hearing. Messy play also encourages learning. You can learn measurements while baking or making play dough. You can learn new concepts such as liquids vs. solids. New words can be comprehended. For instance, certain textures like ‘sticky’ or ‘smooth’ will only be understood through touch, thus increasing understanding and vocabulary.
See below for some of our favorite ways to get messy. These work well for various age groups. I’ll often see my 6, 3, and 1 year old delighting in all these activities together:
Making play dough
To create play dough, we follow this simple, uncooked recipe. While making it, you could teach babies colors (using various food coloring) or show toddlers how primary colors mix to create new colors. For kids a bit older, measurements can be learned while making the play dough.
This fluid acts in a way that you would not normally expect a fluid to act. It is simple to make and you are left with this interesting solid-liquid formation. Not only is it fun to make, but it can teach children about various textures. Older children may able to grasp the concepts of ‘solids’ and ‘liquids’ a bit better by pressing on the fluid, holding tight, and releasing it through their fingers. To make this, grab a big bowl and fill it with water (the less, the easier to make). Keep adding cornstarch until the water becomes tough to stir. Then, press your finger against the bottom of the mixture. If there is an initial resistance and then a release, you’re ready to enjoy. Grab some, let it drip through your fingers, poke and prod, try to squeeze it and have fun!
We usually buy some non-toxic finger paints but there are also plenty of recipes to make them at home, too, like this one: Martha Stewart’s Finger Paints Recipe. Again, this is a great opportunity to teach kids about colors and color mixing. It also lets them get creative and use their imaginations!
What floats & sinks?
All kids love this one! We usually start by making a few paper boats. Then, we grab a few toys (with my assistance – or the stuffed toys would be in the water, too) and fill up a bucket or big bowl with water. One by one, place the paper boats and objects in. Watch as some float and some sink. Toddlers will love seeing what goes down and what stays above the water. This can help them learn concepts such as 'float' and 'sink', while young kids can learn about density and what makes certain objects float or not.
Bath time Mess
The bath is a great time for getting messy because you can clean up right away, too! You can make bubbles and blow bubbles! Another fun thing to do in the bath is make bath paints. You can ask the older ones to help make it with you and then let them go wild! Paint on the bath walls, the tub, and themselves! Again, this is another opportunity to allow them to unleash their inner creativity while having fun.
My 6 year old daughter loves science! One of our more recent experiments was layering liquids. Follow instructions here to do this at home. The result is a visually stimulating, almost artistic colorful tube of liquids. While doing this experiment, kids learn that the liquids don’t mix due to their varying levels of density. It helps them understand the basic concepts of mass and volume, and measurements.
Tip: Although all the above activities are sure to keep your kids happy, I love keeping us mamas happy too! You can speed up the cleaning time by using aprons, laying down a mat or newspaper, and providing kids with a designated area for their play!
Wishing you all messy and happy days ahead!