10-12months,  Taby Play,  Toddler

Sensory Play: How to deal with the Mess!

5 tips to help make the clean-up easier.

I genuinely believe that young explorers need to go through the messy stage of experimentation before being capable of playing in a ‘tidy’ manner. Here’s a few pointers to get you started if your little one is brand new to sensory play…

1. When exploring a new material, try to do it distraction free.

The more stuff you add to a bin, the more confusing it gets. If your child has never played with sensory rice before, for example, just let them play with the rice itself. You can add scoops, spoons, bowls or anything else over time. When you try to do it all at once, you’re likely to end up with a load of resources on the floor that you then need to tidy up.

2. Figure out WHY they are making the mess.

It’s highly unlikely that your toddler is making a mess to annoy you. Are they experimenting with sounds or movement? If this rice is being thrown, they are likely exploring the trajectory schema. If they are dropping it on various surfaces, they might be curious about gravity or the sounds made.

3. Redirect where possible

Sensory play ALWAYS needs supervision, and a particularly hawk-eye supervision in the early days. If you catch your little one aiming to throw, why not try redirecting that throw into an additional pan or bowl? I often put extra pans out on the floor when E is in the mood for dropping the material he is exploring.

4. Prepare properly

Perhaps this should be point number one? Think about LOCATION of the play. The answer is not the fancy plush new carpet of your lounge room floor! Our sensory table is under the window in the kitchen where I have access to the sink, dustpan and brush and crucially, am able to close the door! The bathroom or outside make great choices in the early days too.I also put a messy mat underneath the table so that I can easily pour any spills back into the tubs.

5. Let them help with clean-up time

Okay, so letting a 15 month old help clean might seem like a monumental waste of time, but it isn’t – or at least, it won’t be in the future. All of mine have ‘helped’ clean up after play with a dustpan and brush or cloth and it always pays off in the end. Over time, it will just become part of the process – my Miss 3 automatically cleans up her paint brush and palette after a painting session. If it’s just the normal done thing, then it won’t seem like a chore.

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British primary school teacher and mum of 2.

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