Category: Messy Play

Messy Mondays: Kinetic Sand

Our first day back at work after the Christmas break was one of our favourite Messy play Mondays!

Well, actually, not so messy, as this time we were exploring Kinetic Sand.

Made with natural sand, Kinetic Sand is easy to shape and mould. The creative possibilities are endless! It flows through fingers just like real sand. It never dries out so you can play again and again and best of all it’s easy to clean up! The children as young as 18 months have really been enjoying it and seem to be mesmerised by it in a way they aren’t with playdough and clay.

It’s a fantastic sensory play material, the colours are really vivid and it makes for a lovely soothing and relaxing activity.

Elmer’s Slime Starter Pack: A review

My son, like any other 5 year old, loves slime! He has been on at me to make slime with him for a while now. It wasn’t the inevitable sticky mess that was putting me off but rather the lack of knowledge of the best slime recipe. I have read about all sorts of concoctions that supposedly make the best slime but I wasn’t 100% convinced by any of them. So, when we spotted this Elmer’s Slime starter pack I knew it was for me!

The pack contains 2 clear glues, 4 glitter pens and 2 bottles of the all important magical liquid.

Using a bowl he tipped the mixtures in to the bowl and stirred well with a spoon.

You then have to knead the slime until it forms a stuff mixture.

I have to say it made fantastic slime. It washes off hands really easily which is good.

I did try to keep the slime by storing it in an airtight container but when we returned to it a few days later it hadn’t kept well at all so I would say that this makes it quite expensive for a one off activity. However, as a fun birthday present or stocking filler or Christmas present I would highly recommend this.

Available to purchase from Hobbycraft:

Messy play

Here at Aston Childcare we love a bit of messy play! Of course every day we have sand and water and playdough out but as well as these we enjoy all kinds of other messy, sensory experiences such as –

  • gloop
  • Coloured spaghetti
  • Rainbow rice
  • Cloud dough
  • Shaving foam
  • Sand mousse
  • Making mud pies

I’m always on the lookout for new ideas that I think they might enjoy.

Some children can be reluctant to put their hands in our latest concoction at first whilst others get stuck straight in!

Messy play is recognised as an important part of early education and has many benefits for the children and so it’s important that as childminders we embrace the mess!!

These are just some of the ways in which messy play helps children –

Physical Development  The children get to develop and practice their fine motor skills and eye hand coordination.

Personal, Social and Emotional Development – There is no “right” way for children to do messy play which builds self-confidence and self-esteem. Children can develop concentration, problem-solving and planning skills. Working with others fosters self-respect and respect for others and presents opportunities for making relationships. Messy play can offer an outlet for feelings, experiences and thoughts.

Communication and language – During messy play, children have  many opportunities to speak and listen. They use words and gestures to share resources, explain actions, negotiate plans and take turns. By asking open ended questions we can help encourage their thinking skills.





Halloween happenings

I currently only look after children aged 2 ½ and under so Halloween doesn’t yet mean anything to them but we have been putting a little Halloween twist on some of our recent activities nevertheless. From messy play the youngest can be involved in, to stories we can all enjoy together, to puzzles for the older ones – we’ve all been involved.

  • Messy play: Messy spaghetti and playdough in blood red and black, the colour of darkness and green monster slime (gloop)
  • Books: Halloween sliding windows book, great for developing fine motor skills, learning new words and numbers and Tickle Monster by Edouard Manceau
  • Puzzles: Scary spider puzzle – Puzzles are huge here! We have far too many but love them all!

Areas of Learning covered: Physical Development, Mathematics, Literacy, Expressive Arts and Design, Personal, Social and Emotional Development, Communication & Language, Understanding the World.

Happy Halloween everyone!  Mwahahaha!

Messy Play: Potato printing

This afternoon the children enjoyed one of those classic childhood activities – potato printing. It’s fun, creative, not to mention messy!

I had some potatoes that were past their best in my cupboard and was keen to put them to good use! Unfortunately my carving skills weren’t up to much but they did the job!

The children loved picking up the potatoes and squishing them into the paint and then stamping them down on to the card.

I recently did some training on ‘Characteristics of Effective Learning:  Creating and Thinking Critically’ which reminded me that the focus on the pieces of work my mindees provide shouldn’t be on them looking perfect for parents because it can interrupt a child’s thought process. With this in mind, I sat back and let them do their own thing avoiding the need to step in to help them create the “perfect print”.

Once they had covered their pieces of card there were chants of “more, more!” which I took to mean that they were actively involved and enjoying what they were doing (Characteristics of Effective Learning)

My son soon decided to stick his whole hand in the paint and do hand print painting instead(!) which we had done a couple of weeks previously.

Areas of learning covered: Communication & Language, Physical Development, Expressive Arts and Design, Personal, Social and Emotional Development, Literacy and Maths.

Characteristics of Effective Learning: Active Learning: Being involved and concentrating, Enjoying achieving what they set out to do

Sensory play

Baby sensory classes are big business. As a home based childcarer I aim to provide lots of different things to stimulate all 5 of babies and toddlers senses (hearing, sight, touch, smell and taste) outside of expensive classes.

Babies love to put things in their mouths and I don’t discourage this as this is how they learn. All my toys are regularly inspected for cleanliness and safety.

I am to provide resources that offer a range of different textures, types, colours and shapes which will provide a lot of sensory stimulation for all the children.

These are just some of the sensory activities and resources I provide here at Aston Childcare (the safety and ages of each child is always considered before using any of the items listed) –

  • Playdough – adding things such as glitter or lavender
  • finger painting
  • Small bean bags
  • Treasure baskets – filled with metal items, wood items, plastic items, ribbons
  • Touch and Feel sensory books
  • Cooking and baking sessions to explore taste and smell.
  • Outside basket – filled with fir cones, interesting leaves, twigs etc
  • Scarves
  • Arts and crafts items such as pom poms and wool.
  • Paper and cardboard sensory bag with different types of card eg shiny, ridged, coloured
  • bubble wrap
  • Bubbles
  • Mirrors
  • Rice
  • Spaghetti
  • sand and water tray
  • Mud play
  • gloop (flour and water)
  • sensitive shaving foam
  • Musical instruments
  • Smooth stones in the garden
  • Shells in a bag
  • Wooden blocks and large wooden dice
  • Sensory play mat
  • Plastic little people or animals



Messy Mondays: Coloured spaghetti

Today we had some sensory fun with some coloured spaghetti. We added some pink and green food colouring to cooked spaghetti and popped it in our messy tray and then my mindee got stuck in feeling the contents of the tray.

“It’s sticky”, “It’s wet” “it’s yummy” and “it’s like wiggly worms” he said.

He loved squeezing it in his hands, wrapping it around his hands and fingers and holding it up high and letting it drop again.

This was a very simple, open-ended, sensory activity which appeals to children because of the bright colours and the satisfying texture.

Mark making with rainbow rice

On Monday we made some fantastic coloured rice. Using Basics white rice, food colouring and vinegar we put the ingredients in to a bag, tied a knot and got massaging the colour into the rice. This was a great sensory activity as we squished & squelched the bags until all of the colour was combined evenly. We discussed which colours to use, the smell of the vinegar and the feel of the rice in the bag.

We then left it on a tray to dry and when ready we came back to make marks in the rice using our fingers and paint brushes. Messy play materials like this rice are wonderful for mark making (quite literally the earliest form of writing, where a child makes marks and symbols) and early writing which was the aim behind this activity. You can use all manner of things to write and make marks with – fingers, lolly pop sticks, cotton bud sticks, chopsticks, paint brushes and the feet of toy dinosaurs. We swirled and zig zagged in the rice and had great fun!

My mindee will not sit and write on a plain piece of paper. It does not interest him yet, so I need to find new ways to make writing fun for him and this is just perfect for igniting his interest unaware that he is in fact learning!

The Benefits of Sensory Play (source: HIGHSCOPE | Extensions, VOLUME 25, NO. 5)

  • We know that young children are oriented toward sensory experiences. From birth, children have learned about the world by touching, tasting, smelling, seeing, and hearing. Sensory play also contributes in crucial ways to brain development. Stimulating the senses sends signals to children’s brains that help to strengthen neural pathways important for all types of learning.
  • As children explore sensory materials, they develop their sense of touch, which lays the foundation for learning other skills, such as identifying objects by touch, and using fine-motor muscles. Children can work with materials that have many sensory attributes — they may be warm or cool, wet or dry, rough or smooth, hard or soft, textured or slimy. Discovering and differentiating these characteristics is a first step in classification, or sorting — an important part of preschoolers’ science learning and discovery.


A lot of learning can occur while children are doing what they do best: playing and exploring! Consider the following benefits of sensory play to children:

Cognitive development. Even before children can speak, they are developing an understanding of things in their environment by actively exploring them with all their senses. As they become more verbal, they are able to describe similarities and differences in what they see, hear, taste, touch, and smell. For example, each time a child explores sand, he is confirming his previous explorations and discoveries that sand is dry, gritty, and so forth, and he will eventually notice other materials that share those same characteristics.

Social skills. Working closely together at the sand and water table gives infants and toddlers opportunities to observe how peers handle materials, try out the ideas of others, share their own ideas and discoveries, and build relationships.

Sense of self. As they directly experience things themselves, children explore and communicate preferences, making sense of the world around them. For instance, they discover that they enjoy the feel of dry sand or that they have an aversion to slimy things. When caregivers acknowledge and accept their preferences, children learn that their feelings and decisions are valid.

Physical skills. Children develop and strengthen new motor skills through shaping, molding, scooping, dumping and splashing— these actions all support the development of small and large muscles. For instance, holding a scoop to fill and dump sensory materials works many muscles used in other parts of the children’s day, as when they hold a cup or spoon at mealtimes.

Emotional development. Sensory experiences can be very calming for many children and can help them work through troubling emotions, such as anxiety or frustration. For example, working with materials that require pressure and manipulation, such as play dough, can help children release physical energy or tension. Likewise, sensory materials lend to children’s expression of positive feelings, such as joy and excitement.

Communication skills. Through their choice of materials and actions during sensory play, children have opportunities to communicate both verbally and nonverbally. While splashing in the water table, a young toddler may display a look of surprise as her hand makes contact with the water or squeal in delight as she is able to make the water splash repeatedly. A caregiver’s responses to the efforts to communicate help children know the message they are trying to convey has been received.





Sensory messy play: Shaving Foam

Yesterday after lunch we played with Shaving Cream which proved a very popular messy play activity. Shaving cream is great for sensory exploration and provides endless opportunities for children to play and discover. We had some great descriptive language – its “rough” and “bumpy” and “it tickles” and sparked lots of imagination with children saying they were “building Mount Everest”.  We added some food colouring and had fun making different shapes.

Sensory play shaving foam sensory play shaving foam sensory play shaving foam


  • Sensory play encourages children to manipulate and mould materials, building up their fine motor skills and coordination. Sensory play uses all 5 senses, but the sense of touch is often the most frequent. Toddlers and children process information through their senses. They learn through exploring these.
  • Sensory play is unstructured, open-ended, not product-oriented; it is the purest sense of exploratory learning
  • Self-esteem: sensory play offers kids the opportunity for self-expression because there is no right answer and children feel safe to change or experiment with what they are doing.
  • Language development- experimenting with language and descriptive words.
  • Develop social skills: practising negotiation skills, turn taking and sharing. Provides opportunities for working out problems and experimenting with solutions.
  • Encourages Imagination and creative play.

Green Gloop!

This morning we turned our hands to making Gloop!  Gloop is an interesting mixture with a unique texture to explore and play with. Playing with Gloop is a fabulous sensory and science activity to learn about the concepts of what a solid and liquid is.