Parents are their child’s first and most important teachers, and wonderful learning can take place as you play together. You don’t need expensive toys to engage with your child. All you need are some household items, and a little imagination.
Some of the best play comes in the form of “messy” play. Messy play involves playing with items that allow your child to get creative, including finger painting, playing with soft dough, sifting through sensory bins, etc.
When your child squishes, splashes, sprays, drops and smears, their brain is sorting out a vast amount of complex information. Children need to get messy—it’s an essential component of any quality learning experience.
Learning by touch is one of the ways young children learn about the world. When you expose your child to different textures, you’re expanding their understanding of the world and feeding their curiosity.
Below are some fun messy play ideas with an autumn theme!
Pumpkin Pie Soft Dough
- 1 cup flour
- 1/2 cup salt
- 1 cup water
- 2 tbsp. oil
- 2 tbsp. cream of tartar
- 2 tbsp. pumpkin pie spice
- 1 tsp. vanilla extract
- Red & yellow food coloring
Mix together the flour, salt, cream of tartar, and pumpkin pie spice in a saucepan. Slowly stir in the oil, water, and vanilla extract. Add a few drops of food coloring to make the mixture orange. Heat on the stovetop over medium heat, stirring constantly, until dough becomes a stiff soft dough consistency. Allow 15-20 minutes to cool before playing as the dough will be very hot.
Have fun making shapes out of the soft dough, rolling it between your fingers, and smelling its pumpkin pie scent.
Slimy Sensory Play
- A package of spaghetti
- Food coloring in fall colors, such as red, orange, and yellow.
- 1 tsp. vegetable oil
First, cook the spaghetti noodles, then drain them. Add cold water so they cool down more quickly. Then, divide up the spaghetti in the number of different food color options. If you have three options, then divide the spaghetti into thirds. Add a teaspoon of vegetable oil and coat the spaghetti. Then a few drops of food coloring to the spaghetti and mix it together. The colors will be more vibrant the more food coloring you add. Then, let your toddler play with the slimy colorful spaghetti!
You could make a sensory bin with the noodles, and include other fun fall items in it including mini pumpkins. Use tongs to pick up the toys, or use child safe scissors to cut apart the noodles. Or just have fun picking up the noodles with your hands!
Kalina Glover-Moresi is a Parenting Educator, and Children’s Program Coordinator at Parenting Now.