My name is Katie, I’m 32 with two young daughters and since 2015 I have managed Sensory Sensations which provides sensory and messy play classes, parties and events. I am passionate about sensory and messy play and I believe children who are regularly given opportunities to experience this type of play grow up with a better understanding of the world, an improved vocabulary and are much happier sharing and communicating with their peers.
We offer many different party options, among these is our very popular ‘Get Messy’ package which is perfect for first birthdays.
Sometimes it’s tricky to know what to do for your little one’s first birthday party. They aren’t old enough yet to have established many friends for themselves. You need something they can access if they’re not yet walking confidently and you need something that will keep them engaged and it has to be a lot of fun for them and their friends! First birthdays are a big milestone and even though your little one wont remember it, you and your family will, so keeping it special is important. That’s why we like providing something a little bit different.
For our ‘Get Messy’ sensory and messy play package I took inspiration from the most popular activities I have provided for babies and younger toddlers from my classes. I am of course aware that children up to 18 months can still be putting things in their mouths, so it was important for me that out ‘Get Messy’ package includes coloured spaghetti, moonsand, jelly, chocolate cake, edible paint, custard, gloop, bubbles and balloons. It can be tailored to suit all allergies and intolerances.
Sensory and messy play is so important for babies and younger children. Not only is it lots of fun, but there is a lot of learning going on when they are playing that you might not realise. They are improving their communication skills, enhancing their memory, learning cause and effect, learning and developing new tastes, textures and smells, exploring shapes and colours, growing independence through play, developing fine motor skills to use for grasping and writing when older, learning new vocabulary and improving their social skills with other children.
I’m am used to creating big batches of these activities for parties, but here are some tips if you’d like to try any of these activities at home for your little one. Before you get started make sure you have decided where your little one is going to be playing. If on the floor try putting down an old shower curtain or blanket. You could also play in the bath to avoid lots of mess (and handy for a rinse over afterwards!). Make sure wipes, towels etc are close by for a quick cleanup. If your child can’t yet sit up by themselves they don’t have to miss out on the fun, either pop some cushions behind them and make sure you’re close if they topple, or sit them in their highchair and put the messy play activity on their highchair table.
I usually make a batch of three for a party or class, but for home one batch of spaghetti will be enough for your little one. Start by cooking your spaghetti as normal, drain it, blitz it with cold water, add 1tbsp of vegetable oil and mix that in. This helps the spaghetti stay non-sticky and allows the food colouring to stick to it better. When cool, add your choice of food colouring and mix in well until all spaghetti is covered. This can be played with straight away or cover it with cling film and keep in the fridge until you’d like your little one to play with it. Add bowls, spoons and any plastic animals to create even more interest and longevity to playtime. Depending on what has been added to the spaghetti you could cover it up and use it again within a couple of days for more fun!
Mix 8 cups of flour to 1 cup of oil to create a batch of moonsand at home. If you’d like it edible use vegetable oil, if your little one is past the stage of putting everything in their mouth, try baby oil. You can also add food colouring (the food colouring gels work well with this). When moonsand is at the right consistency, it is like breadcrumbs and you can shape it. Add sand toys and moulds if you have any. If sealed in an airtight container moonsand will last up to 1 week.
This is a favourite for babies! Wibbly wobbly jelly! The amount of jelly you make up is up to you, I recommend Hartleys jelly cubes and use six packets of these to create a batch for the ‘Get Messy’ party. If your little one hasn’t played or eaten jelly before, perhaps make up two packets to see if they like it. Make up two different flavours so they are experiencing different smells and flavours. You can set the jelly with small toys inside for your little one to get out or let them dip their toes in! Once played with leftover jelly will need to be thrown away.
If any children have allergies at a party I make my own homemade chocolate cake that I can make dairy, gluten or egg free. If you search on Google you’ll find lots of wonderful cake recipes that take allergies into consideration. I’ve added chocolate cake to our ‘Get Messy’ as a nod to the birthday boy/girl and an opportunity for a ‘cake smash’ type activity with their friends. A whole chocolate cake might not necessary be something you’d like your little one to play with at home, but you can tweak this to a low sugar option, a smaller cake or an alternative could be ‘chocolate mud’ which is cocoa powder, flour and water mixed together to make a wonderful gloopy, gooey ‘mud’. Add in farm animals for some muddy fun at the farm! Chocolate ‘mud’ is incredibly messy and if left afterwards, can be tricky to get out of clothing so either just have your little one in their nappy, play with it in the bath or wash their clothes straight afterwards. Once played with leftover chocolate cake or ‘mud’ will need to be thrown away.
There are lots of different ways to make edible paint that is taste safe for babies and younger toddlers. Plain yoghurt and food colouring, plain yoghurt and mashed up blueberries/strawberries etc or sugar, water and food colouring.. but I have always used my recipe of flour, water and food colouring. I love the texture it provides, gloopy, almost slimey and great for painting hands and feet with! To make it at home use 2 cups of flour to 1 cup of water and whisk. It’s important to whisk it if possible as it gives a much smoother consistency which works better for painting. If you find it’s too dry, slowly add more water. If too gooey add more flour and keep experimenting until you’re happy with the texture. This recipe will make one batch of paint so create more batches for different colours. Add 1/2 tsp of food colouring (I have found that Wilton food colouring works great with this) to each batch and stir well until all the colour is mixed in. This type of edible paint only lasts 1-2 days so be prepared to either use it straight away after making it or keep it in the fridge in an airtight container and use it the next day. Once played with any leftover edible paint will need to be thrown in the bin.
This is such a sticky, gloopy texture and wonderful for babies to explore. You can get dairy free custard and low sugar options are available. For my ‘Get Messy’ package I add coloured balls to this tray to show the birthday child’s age but you can add anything. Mostly I’ve found babies just want to sit in it and put it on their legs and hair (!)
This is an amazing sensory experience and a wonderful way to explore both solids and liquids with the same ingredients. Mix cornstarch with water and add food colouring to create a mixture which you can shape in your hands if moulded quickly, but when you let it rest it can flow through your fingers. I’ve found this is very popular with younger little ones and it isn’t too messy to clear up as it goes hard so you’re able to scrape most of it off the tray easily.
It is important when trying these ideas at home that you interact and play with your baby as they are exploring. For example, talking about the colours and textures, laughing together, trying new things, dipping both your toes in paint… if they see you having fun and trying new things they are likely to as well and if you regularly try sensory and messy play activities at home they will begin to associate this type of play with a special time for you and them and when older they’ll look forward to it.
There are many, many other edible sensory and messy play ideas you could try at home, for example edible slime, tapioca pearls (as an alternative to waterbeads), any water play (add sponges, cut up fruit or make into ice), cereal for scooping and pouring... the list is endless! It is important to see what your little one enjoys first. Some children hate anything gloopy and gooey, much preferring dry ‘non messy’ sensory play which is absolutely fine. Your little one shouldn’t be rushed into doing anything they don’t like, you can always introduce more messier sensory play when they’re abit older. They need to feel like they can explore freely and openly.
I hope you have a lot of fun trying these ideas out! Be sure to check out our website and Facebook page for more ideas and information on our other party packages.
Sensory Sensations – Making Messy Memories