Holidays are the perfect time to break out the messy play ideas for the children! Sensory messy play, along with art and crafts messy play, is so engaging and fun!

Let’s talk about sensory play, primarily the sense of touch through tactile sensory play. Our favourite sensory play ideas include water beads, rainbow spaghetti, fun with straws, mud play, painting and all other messy play experiences. Kids sensory play ideas don’t have to be difficult to set up and often these “recipes” use common kitchen pantry ingredients.

1.Water beads

Empty the tiny dehydrated water beads into a dish, then add lots of water. The little beads are made from a water-absorbing polymer and as the beads absorb water, they will grow, and grow and grow.

If they absorb all the water in your dish, add more water.

It can take up to 8 hours or so to grow to full size.

Just watching the water beads grow and observing the changes along the way is fun on its own. Sensory play is what water beads are best at. Children love the feel and look of them. They are so enticing! Colorful, smooth, squishy, cool… Really, there’s not much more you need to do with water beads than have a bowl full of them to plunge your hands into and hold and squish them.


2.Rainbow spaghetti


Rainbow spaghetti is really easy to make and it is a HUGE hit, toddlers love putting it all over their hands, feet, heads and, of course, in their mouths. It is an absolutely fantastic mess, to say the least.

In addition to just “getting messy,” older toddlers can also search for small objects that have been hidden inside the spaghetti. Make it really challenging by having them close their eyes and only use their sense of touch as they search with their hands for things such as small rubber toys, bouncy balls, puzzle pieces, letter magnets, or other fun objects.


3.Fun with straws

Make sure your child understands the difference between “suck” and “blow” before starting this activity. In a shallow bowl, mix water with a couple of drops of food colouring. Stick the srtaws into the mixture and blow bubbles! The exercise of blowing the bubble encourages children to practice deep breathing which has a calming effect on the body.

4.Mud play

So what can you do to provide opportunities for children to play in the mud? Why not wash dirty muddy farm animals with a toothbrush and rinse them in clean water.

This is a great activity for fine and gross motor development as well as eye-hand coordination.


When kids begin to explore their talents and specialties, one of the areas some may excel in is painting.

Painting can help your children communicate their emotions or feelings. Through the use of different colours, they can express themselves without the use of words. Painting allows children an educational opportunity that is also fun and exciting.

Painting promotes hand-eye coordination. This is developed while they learn to paint the parts that they see, making sure their hand movement is at par with their vision.

6.Play and squishy slush

Great fun and it is sensory!

We used the Acorn kids super slush for this activity. This is great for turning water into coloured slush and is a fantastic texture for the children to play with. The slush can also be used at bath time to make it fun and interesting. It is great as it is safe for little ones who may get a little in their mouths.

7.Sensory bin

Sensory bins need not be fancy to capture children’s imaginations. I don’t know what it is, but kids will run their fingers through sensory bins for hours. Pour the chicken feed into a deep bin and let the children play with the farm animals and tractors. They’ll figure out what to do!

Contributed by Desere De Beer of Clamber Club Toddlers Northcliff
Cell: 082 450 2233