Let’s have some messy fun! Sensory play is an extremely hands-on activity, which lets kids engage with their senses through the exploration of different materials…
Edible Sensory Play Activities
This article has been written by Katie from Sensory Sensations
Sensory and messy play is so important and beneficial for babies and younger children. Not only is it lots of fun, but there is a lot of learning going on when they are playing that you might not realise. When a child engages in sensory play and messy play, they are:
- Improving their communication skills
- Enhancing their memory
- Learning cause and effect
- Learning and developing new tastes, textures and smells
- Exploring shapes and colours
- Growing independence through play
- Developing fine motor skills to use for grasping and writing when they are older
- Learning new vocabulary
- Improving their social skills with other children
At Sensory Sensations, we offer many different sensory play and messy play party options for children up to five years old. Amongst these is our very popular ‘Edible Experience’ package for toddlers and babies, which is perfect for providing something a little bit different for a first birthday party or a sensory and messy play session in your nursery, preschool or early years setting. Children up to 18 months can still be putting things in their mouths, so it is important for me to provide a party that is completely safe for our youngest messy play explorers! Our ‘Edible Experience’ package can be tailored to suit all allergies and intolerances and includes coloured spaghetti, moonsand, jelly, chocolate cake, edible paint, custard, juicing fruit, bubbles and balloons.
I am used to creating big batches of these activities for large classes and parties, but here are some edible sensory play tips if you would like to try any of these activities with your little ones in your nursery, childcare setting or home.
Edible Sensory Play Activities
Before you get started – make sure that you have decided where your children are going to be playing. If it is going to be on the floor, put down a splash mat, old shower curtain or blanket. If you are a childminder or parent, you could also play in the bath to avoid lots of mess (handy for a rinse over afterwards!). Make sure that you keep wipes and towels close by for a quick clean-up. If your children can’t yet sit up by themselves, they don’t have to miss out on the fun – pop some cushions behind them and make sure that you’re close by in case they topple, or sit them in their highchair and put the messy play activity on their highchair table.
Start by cooking your spaghetti as normal. Drain it, blitz it with cold water, add 1tbsp of vegetable oil and mix that in. This helps the spaghetti stay non-sticky and allows the food colouring to stick to it better. When it’s cool, add your choice of food colouring and mix in well until all of the spaghetti is covered.
This can be played with straight away or you can cover it with cling film and keep in the fridge until you would like your children to play with it. Add bowls, spoons and any plastic animals to create even more interest and longevity to playtime. Depending on what has been added to the spaghetti, you could cover it up and use it again within a couple of days for more fun!
To create your own batch of moonsand, mix 8 cups of flour to 1 cup of oil. If you would like to make your moonsand edible, use vegetable oil, but if your children are past the stage of putting everything in their mouth, try using baby oil instead. You can also add food colouring to brighten it up (food colouring gels work well with this).
When the moonsand is at the right consistency it will be similar to breadcrumbs and you can shape it. Add in sand toys and moulds to enhance their creative play. If it is sealed in an airtight container, the moonsand will last up to 1 week.
Wibbly wobbly jelly – a favourite for babies! The amount of jelly you make up is up to you, but I would recommend using 2 packets of Hartleys jelly cubes to see if they like it first. Make up 2 different flavours so that they are experiencing different smells and flavours.
You can set the jelly with small toys inside for your children to get out or dip their toes in! Once played with, the leftover jelly will need to be thrown away.
Cake smash! If any of the children have allergies, you can make your own homemade dairy, gluten or egg free chocolate cake. A whole chocolate cake might not necessarily be something that you would like your kids to play with, but you can tweak this to a low sugar option or a smaller cake – or an alternative could be ‘chocolate mud’, which is cocoa powder, flour and water mixed together to make a wonderful gloopy, gooey ‘mud’.
Add in farm animals for some muddy fun at the farm! Chocolate ‘mud’ is incredibly messy and if it is left afterwards, it can be tricky to get out of clothing – so either just have your children in their nappies, make sure they are wearing old clothes, play with it in the bath or wash their clothes straight afterwards. Once played with, the leftover chocolate cake or ‘mud’ will need to be thrown away.
There are lots of different ways to make edible paint that is safe for babies and younger toddlers. Plain yoghurt and food colouring, plain yoghurt and mashed up blueberries/strawberries or sugar, water and food colouring… but, I have always used my recipe of flour, water and food colouring. The texture it provides is gloopy, almost slimey, and is great for painting hands and feet with!
To make it yourself, use 2 cups of flour to 1 cup of water and whisk. It is important to whisk it, as it gives it a much smoother consistency which works better for painting. If you find it’s too dry, slowly add more water. If it’s too gooey, add more flour and keep experimenting until you’re happy with the texture. This recipe will make one batch of paint so create more batches for different colours. Add 1/2 tsp of food colouring to each batch and stir well until all the colour is mixed in.
This type of edible paint only lasts 1-2 days, so be prepared to either use it straight away after making it or keep it in the fridge in an airtight container and use it the next day. Once played with, any leftover edible paint will need to be thrown in the bin.
This is such a wonderfully sticky and gloopy texture, which is great for babies to explore. You can get dairy free custard and low sugar options if you prefer. For the Sensory Sensations ‘Edible Experience’ package, I added in coloured balls to the tray to show the birthday child’s age, but you can add in anything you wish. I have mostly found that babies just want to sit in it and put it on their legs and hair!
This is a lovely way to explore all of the different senses! For an ‘Edible Experience’ party, I provide a handful of each fruit, some ‘juicers’, spoons, bowls etc. and let the children create their own juices. Babies and toddlers enjoy this at different levels, which is perfect if you have mixed ages at a party.
To try this in your setting, you can just get one of each fruit (orange, lime, lemon and grapefruit), cut them up and let the children explore their smell, taste and texture. Will they scoop the insides out? Lick them? Squeeze them? Using fruit for playtime is important as it not only promote healthy eating, but it also allows the children to explore different tastes. You never know, you might be surprised with what they enjoy!
Sensory Play Tips:
When trying these ideas in your early years setting or home, it is important that you interact and play with your baby whilst they are exploring. For example, talking about the colours and textures, laughing together, trying new things and both dipping your toes in the paint… If they see you having fun and trying new things, then they are likely to as well, and if you regularly try sensory and messy play activities with them in your setting, they will begin to associate this type of play with a special time and will look forward to it.
There are many other edible sensory and messy play ideas that you could try yourself, for example Oobleck (cornflour and water), tapioca pearls (as an alternative to waterbeads), any water play (add sponges, cut up fruit or make it into ice), cereal for scooping and pouring… the list is endless! So it is important to see what your child enjoys first. Some children hate anything gloopy and gooey, much preferring dry ‘non-messy’ sensory play, which is absolutely fine. Your children shouldn’t be rushed into doing anything they don’t like, you can always introduce messier sensory play when they are a bit older. They need to feel like they can explore freely and openly with messy and sensory play.
Time for some messy fun!
Sensory Sensations has been providing sensory and messy play classes, parties and events since 2014. Mum of two and former primary teacher, Katie, manages Sensory Sensations and is extremely passionate about sensory and messy play. Katie believes that children who are regularly given opportunities to experience this type of play grow up with a better understanding of the world, an improved vocabulary and are much happier sharing and communicating with their peers.
For more sensory and messy play ideas and information about the party packages, visit sensory sensations Facebook page.