Summer has arrived and with it comes the heat, as well as the struggle to keep children engaged. Although pools and splash pads across the Valley definitely help, sometimes being outside in the sun is not safe and indoor play is the answer.
Remember taking out the Play-Doh Barber Shop to make the guy’s hair grow? Well, sensory play has come a long way and there are options for all ages, from your littlest infants to your elementary-age darlings.
Some children (and parents) just don’t like the mess that comes with hands-on, sticky, gooey, icy, wet play. But there are many wonderful ideas that will keep children engaged and require little to no clean-up.
What? You heard correctly. There won’t be walls to wash, glue to scrape off or shaving cream to wipe down — mess-free play at its finest is here for you. Here are several different places to find ideas for how to engage your children in fun learning opportunities that are low-cost with little to no mess.
Babycentre.co.uk offers countless blog posts on ways that infants and toddlers can be involved in mess-free play.
For example, A Spider’s Web Sensory Basket, from thetraindriverswife.com, is just the thing. Take a laundry basket — perfect for right after you start that load of laundry — then fill the bottom with soft balls, soft blocks, little people, teething rings, rattles and other items that are not choking hazards.
Take a small ball of yarn and weave it through the holes in the basket, looping over the edges, and tie it when you have an interesting enough web. Voila! Your infants and toddlers will have so much fun!
For your toddlers, keep the basket upright so they can move around easily. For your infants, turn it on its side if necessary, to encourage reaching and getting baby ready for crawling.
Another idea from the blog is Textured Sensory Frames. Take an old frame and wrap the insert with a variety of materials to keep baby interested. Some ideas include felt, sandpaper, towels and corduroy. Check out the remnant bins at your favorite fabric store or look around the house for interesting textures to use.
Once your children reach ages 3 to 4, you can use pompoms, pasta, rice, beans, sequins, etc. You just don’t want to use these materials for younger ones, as they are all choking hazards.
Babble.com brings us some great ideas for mess-free sensory play for your preschool-aged children.
Think zip-top bags and water bottles. Hair gel, baby oil or a cornstarch mixture are all perfect mediums to start with. Just add any fun items to the bags, including sequins, beads, foil shapes, foam shapes and glitter.
What is the best thing about this age? They can help you make these! Be sure to hot glue the zipper on the bag or the cap on the water bottle to really keep this mess-free.
Be creative in your play — get your children involved when they can be — and have a fun, cool, mess-free summer.
For more summer activity ideas, check out the East Valley JCC Pinterest page at Pinterest.com/eastvalleyjcc. JN
Pam Morris, MSEd, is the early childhood education director at the East Valley JCC in Chandler and is a mom of three. To learn more about the East Valley JCC, a NAEYC-accredited preschool, visit evjcc.org.