Now, as a nursery practitioner, in a baby room, I’m VERY used to mess of every kind… But I’ve recently been asked to provide tips on how to stay calm and enjoy activities without stressing about the mess and clean-up. Here are my top tips…
1. Find an appropriate space – My first thought is about the environment. Think about the activity and where you could set it up. Is it something that needs lots of space like these gross motor painting activities? Can it be played in the bathroom for easy clean-up like shaving foam bath paints? If the weather allows, the garden is a perfect place for many sensory/messy activities, such as water play with balls.
2. Plan ahead – Planning ahead is a must. When you have a quiet moment (I know sometimes that sounds laughable) like at nap-time or after bed-time, is there anything you can do ahead of time? Make play dough, gather resources, set out the area or even the whole activity? Being prepared for mess is essential – make sure you have all the clean-up props you need e.g. towels, wipes etc. Remember that old adage ‘prevention is better than cure’?
3. Appropriate supervision – If you’re just starting to explore sensory play with your little one or you are a bit nervous about the children getting messy, make sure there is appropriate supervision. It will make you feel better, by seeing what they are up to and it will also make sure that the little explorers stay safe. You can be there to make sure not ‘too much’ of the activity gets tasted or eaten and by being by your child’s side you can role model, play and have fun too.
4. Modify the activity – For those of you who have a mess-phobia or it is not practical to get messy (if you are in someone else’s house for example) you can always modify activities. These sensory bags were adapted from a sensory exploring tray I had seen. They allow the children to explore the materials without getting messy, and it’s safer for young babies as there’s no ‘tasting’ involved. You could also modify an activity by taking it outside. These mess-free activities are great for sensory development.
5. Have fun and relax! When you are having fun with your child and sharing those special moments, worrying about the mess seems to disappear. Okay, you’re still not going to want rainbow rice trodden all around the house or paints all up the walls, but relaxing will allow your child to relax too and the activity will probably become more productive anyway.
Why not try these 26 (almost) Mess-Free Sensory Activities!!