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Monday, May 20, 2013

How to Be Awesome at Messy Play

I have to start by showing this picture.  One of Cricket's friends was playing with a Rice Krispies sensory bucket yesterday, and apparently it was really stressing out her Daddy.

You'd think he only had tweezers to clean with.

This does not have to be you!  Messy play can be fun and low-stress!  I promise!

I will admit that it can be intimidating.  I like things clean, and a large part of my day is dedicated to keeping things that way, so I understand the hesitation.  However, I also understand that kids need to get messy, and exploration is about getting in there and getting dirty, so I make a point to do messy play activities with Cricket.

She does not always care for them, though.

Actually, until recently, she hated them.

I made her some play dough, which isn't even really that messy, and she hated it.

Wouldn't touch it.
But I keep trying, because I don't want her to have sensory aversions, which is a real problem and is being diagnosed more and more.    We tried homemade bath paint.

That's her looking at the tiny bit I put on her fingers like, "WHAT HAVE YOU DONE TO ME?!"

We have played with spaghetti, and at first, she hated it, but the second time, she actually liked it.

I consider that progress.

She wouldn't even smash her birthday cake!

See that look?  That's disgust.

So yeah, messy play is lots of fun, most of the time, and she really is getting into it more and more.  Really, I can't complain.  I mean, who complains because their child doesn't like to get messy?!

What she does like is a cross between messy play and sensory boxes.  I started off with just a small bowl of dry oatmeal.

Cricket at eight months.
Once she was comfortable with that, I started adding toys and things she could scoop with.

Then we started doing the same thing with dry rice.  We started with just a small bowl full.

Then we moved to bigger containers and more toys.

Often I get asked how I keep her from eating it.  At first, she would explore it for a little while and then put it in her mouth.  I always use the same phrase, "That's not for eating" as I take it out of her mouth.  If she continued to try to eat it, the activity was over and I would clean up and put it away.  Then we'd try it a few days later.  Usually she would throw a little fit and be mad for a few minutes, but she just gradually got better and better at not putting it in her mouth, or catching on to the reminders if she did.  It took several months of being very consistent about it, though, so don't be discouraged if your little one isn't there yet.  They'll get it.

I kept expanding our play times to include other containers for her to pour into, like muffin cups, egg cartons, and sieves, and scoops like measuring cups and spoons.  I usually put a shower curtain under us to make clean up easier.  (I get them at the Dollar Tree and reuse them many times.)

Recently, I tried a box full of Cheerio's.  This was great for a couple of reasons.  One, she loves Cheerio's, and they make a fun sensory substance, but two, it helped me work with her on things we do eat and things we don't eat.

I used Cheerio's (something she knows she can eat), marshmallows (something she didn't know she could eat), and small sponges (something she can't eat).  I also put in some measuring cups for scooping.  I carefully told her which things she could eat and which things she couldn't.  It helps that we have a sign for "eat" that she knows well, so she understands that when I make that sign, she can eat whatever it is I'm offering.  It worked well.  She tried the marshmallows, but she didn't like them.  She made a motion like she wanted to try the sponges, but I reminder her that they were not for eating and she put it down and didn't try it again.  She played with this box for a week or so.

Another idea if you have a little one who loves to put things in their mouth is a sensory bag.  I made one for Cricket when she was younger using hair gel, glitter, and buttons.

You can get all the supplies at the Dollar Tree, and you just put them in a Ziplock!  I used clear packing tape to tape the top shut because she was banging on it really hard and I was afraid it would pop open.  (It eventually did.)  Also, I used more clear tape to tape it to her tray because she was trying to chew on it and I was afraid if it popped open, she would eat the gel.  We reused this one several times before it started to leak, but since I had taped it shut, I noticed the leak before it actually got out of the bag.

There are lots of other messy play materials you can use, so I'm sure I will revisit this again, but hopefully it helps give you some ideas of how to encourage your little ones if they are hesitant about sensory play or getting messy!  Have fun!

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