Play Activities

Mayhem and Messy Play #17: Messy Play with Rocks

Thankfully, most messy play with rocks happens outside so we don’t worry; Mother Nature takes care of the mess as she invites kids to play and learn.sensory messy rock play

There are two activities that kids love to do over and over with rocks. One of them is to throw rocks, especially in water, be it a puddle, a lake, a river, or an ocean. This is highly sensory: the weight of the rock in the hand, the breeze on the skin when throwing, watching the rock as it arcs toward the water, and, at last, the sound of the kerplunk or splash. The messy part happens as kids gradually move closer to the water and then end up in it, or, just get covered with dirt as they dig up rocks to throw.rock play

Speaking of digging, that’s the second activity that never seems to lose its appeal. Kids will spend hours digging up rocks and dumping them. They may use their hands, shovels, or wheeled toys.

As we watch them, we wonder why this engages them so intently, but there’s just as much action happening we can’t see. Kids are exploring cause and effect. While this is no mystery to us, it’s still pretty exciting to kids. Just imagine, each time they tip the shovel or the dump truck, the rocks slide off.messy rock play

Rocks are fun just to dig up, carry around, and pile up somewhere else. Kids are making an impact on their environment, actively creating instead of passively experiencing. They can feel, see, and hear the evidence of their own power.nature play with rocks

Collecting rocks is a way to organize messy play with rocks. For young children, putting one or more rocks in each space of an egg carton can be enough. Filling an empty water bottle is another way to gather and keep rocks.moon rocks bottle activity

Before rocks come in the house, kids can wash them in warm soapy water and let them dry in the sun. When rocks are wet it’s so much easier to see all the lines, shapes, and different colors. Once rocks are dry, kids may enjoy painting on rocks for another kind of messy rock play.painted rock play activity Might any of these ideas appeal to your child for a play-of-the-day that rocks?  Check out how grownups play with rocks:

rock play for adults

P.S. Come back to the blog tomorrow for more messy play ideas!


Mayhem and Messy Play #15: Play Dough Messy Play

Play dough messy play can be more or less messy depending on your recipe and any extra stuff. Whatever it is, the play includes fun and dough messy sensory play

Play dough has unlimited possibilities. Kids of all ages enjoy playing with it. The activity engages the senses and, at the same time, stimulates the imagination. Highly coordinated actions are not required, like putting small Lego pieces together, but manipulating play dough can develop fine motor coordination and strengthen the muscles in the hands and wrists. It can be used alone or with friends, can go inside or outside.

playdough messy sensory play

While there was some interaction, the kids were primarily doing their own thing. For their birthdays, they had been given some play dough toys for molding, squishing, and cutting along with several colors. Big Sister mostly wore the goggles so she could be a scientist and create magic inventions. Little Sister finds the goggles get in her way. She was happy squishing, pinching, tearing, smooshing, and squeezing. Her goal was not to make something but to interact with the playdough.

Although play dough is enough by itself, toys and small items can add variety to the play. Sometimes, we’ve used buttons, bottle caps, dinosaurs, and anything pink. Some other possibilities are toothpicks, beads, pasta, shells, feathers, straws, marbles, sequins, small cars and trucks, fabric, and glitter. The glitter made the play dough sparkle, but we found the glitter was attracted more to hands than the play dough so as the kids played with it, the glitter came out on them. That was quite messy. play dough cutters

Besides food coloring, play dough can be mixed with paint for a rainbow of colors. Experiment with cocoa powder, kool-aid, or jello powder to make bright colors and interesting smells. Essential oils like peppermint and lavender smell inviting. Experiment with some cinnamon, turmeric, cloves, ginger, and other spices. Those are messes to smell as well as see. The website Imagination Tree had more ideas in the article, “The Benefits of Playing with  Playdough.”

colorful play doughPlay dough messy play has fun and learning for hands and minds. Could it be your child’s play-of-the-day?

P.S. Come back to the blog tomorrow for more messy play.

Mayhem and Messy Play #14: Blowing Bubbles Messy Play Activities

No, blowing bubbles messy play activities is not a contradiction; kids can make a mess and get dirty doing anything including play with soap and water.chasing bubble nature time

Besides the soap and water, there are a few more items in these messy play activities. Bubble solutions are available at dollar and toy stores, but you can also make your own. Similarly, you can also buy bubble wands or let kids try other items.bubble messy play activities

One of the best hacks that has been shared in several parenting and play blogs is to tape the bottle of bubble solution to something upright. This might be the legs of a table in the backyard or a fence post or a bar on the swing set. This keeps kids from spilling the bottle as soon as their hands and arms get slippery from the bubble liquid, which is almost immediately. If you can’t find the tape, use string. A shallow container will also work so several kids can dip and play.bubbles help kids make friends

A super fun and not too messy bubble activity is a bubble sock snake. This is shared from an earlier post:

To make a bubble sock snake, first cut the bottom end off a plastic water bottle. Big hands need to do that part. Stretch a sock over the end, pushing the bottle all the way into the toe. It will look like a drum.bubble sock snake

Squirt some soap onto a shallow dish and add a little water. It’s perfectly fine to use fingers to mix these, but Little Sister didn’t want to get hers all yucky. This was news because she has no difficulty putting her hand into paint and making hand prints of every color. She wanted a spoon instead.bubble sock snake

Once done, kids dip the bubble sock into the soapy water. This is why a low dish is better than a tall, thin one, so kids don’t immerse the whole bubble sock. It’s easier to hold onto a dry sock than a dripping wet one.bubble-sock-snake-3

Now for the fun. Lightly blow into the bottle and watch a soap snake appear. There was a wind here in the afternoon so Little Sister’s snake bent. Big Sister could hardly wait to try and her’s got so long it did go down. The wind took off a chunk at the end and it floated away like a miniature white cloud. While we can’t see the wind, we could easily see which way it was blowing from the way the bubbles moved.bubble sock snake

Not all blowing bubbles messy play activities happen outside. For a bubble activity that can be done inside, pour some soap and water into a bowl or cup. Kids blow into the solution with a straw and see if they can make the soap bubbles pile up higher and higher until they spill all over. To keep the messy contained, you can put the bowl or cup in the sink and let the blow but it’s not as exciting as watching the bubbles build higher and higher so they go all over the table or floor.bubble messy play activitie

No matter which of these blowing bubbles messy play activities you do, as kids chase bubbles over a yard or park, dirt will appear and stick on to them. Especially if you have added any corn syrup to make a stiffer bubble solution. But what could be easier to clean up than soap? Isn’t that already a step ahead?


Mayhem and Messy Play #11: Dress-up Messy Play

Dress-up messy play is usually considered imaginative or pretend play, but it can make quite a mess with dress-up props strewn about and made-up faces. Labels do no matter. Whatever it is, the play is coming from within, as kids explore and create. Kids will dress-up in practically anything, not just old clothes. A tickle … Continue reading Mayhem and Messy Play #11: Dress-up Messy Play

Mayhem and Messy Play #9: Let Kids Have a Kitchen Drawer

The kitchen floor doesn’t need to be covered with toys, instead it can be covered with containers, pans, and tools when we let kids have a kitchen drawer. At least, when it comes from the drawer it’s easier to scoop up and drop back in when it’s time to tidy up. A low kitchen drawer … Continue reading Mayhem and Messy Play #9: Let Kids Have a Kitchen Drawer

Mayhem and Messy Play #9: Blanket Fort Messy Play

Although a blanket and a few cushions aren’t typical materials for messy play, this blanket fort messy play certainly made a lot of disorder at our house. While doing some vacuuming to clean up one mess, we had to move some of the chairs in the kitchen. I don’t know how that inspired the idea … Continue reading Mayhem and Messy Play #9: Blanket Fort Messy Play

Mayhem and Messy Play #7: Soapy Water Messy Play Fun

Soapy water messy play isn’t a contradiction. Instead, think of it as a magic formula for fun that goes like this: Soapy Water + Dirty Toys = Clean Mess. We managed to have a sunny afternoon and toys, just like the rest of the house, needed some spring cleaning. I partly filled some bins with … Continue reading Mayhem and Messy Play #7: Soapy Water Messy Play Fun

More Messy Play Fun & Parent Advice: De-Stress and Embrace the Mess

Guest blogger Amy K. Williams shares these ideas for more messy play fun. I can hardly wait to try them, especially the rainbow powder activity. Enjoy! Or, in her words, “De-stress and embrace the mess.” Three Kid-Friendly Crafts that Celebrate the Craziness of Chaos Parents spend a good part of each day cleaning up after … Continue reading More Messy Play Fun & Parent Advice: De-Stress and Embrace the Mess

May the 4th Be With You – Play is the Force of Childhood

May the 4th be with you. This is such a fun play on words, and play is the force of childhood. Play is more than a force, it’s a right of childhood. That’s another play on words too. Play is so important that the United Nations has incorporated it in The Convention on the Rights … Continue reading May the 4th Be With You – Play is the Force of Childhood

Mayhem and Messy Play #2:  Soap Foam Rainbow Messy Play

If you need an activity to ease into some sensory and messy play, this soap foam rainbow messy play is both messy and clean. After all, isn’t soap clean? Even if soap is clean, you may want to spread some newspaper wherever your child will be playing. We set this up on the floor, but … Continue reading Mayhem and Messy Play #2:  Soap Foam Rainbow Messy Play