Sensory play has to be one of the most frequently blogged about exploratory learning activities for children. My kids don’t have a designated sensory bin, but they have plenty of everyday opportunities to learn about textures through messy sensory play.
Last month, for example, they asked if they could see an expired container of baby formula. I figured it might as well be used as a learning experience before heading to the trash bin, so I handed it to them, along with a large metal bowl. Baby formula is a similar texture to flour, but (in my opinion) it cleans up better because it clumps together a little more (so spreads less in the first place), and it’s designed to dissolve in water. Take the activity outside and you can simply hose off your patio or lawn at the end – the formula will not hurt the grass. Flour clumps together and acts like glue when mixed with flour.
Emma was all about measuring. Johnny was all about texture, and seeing what he could do with the dry formula.
They played and played, until Johnny’s experiments got a little too intense:
At which point we switched the activity over to some parent-directed cleaning. Which Johnny actually quite enjoyed, since he doesn’t get to play with the dustpan very often.
Some formulas will be stickier than others; if you get stuck with a sticky one mix some vinegar and dish soap with water (not a lot – maybe 1/4 cup of vinegar and 2-3 tablespoons of dish soap for a bucket of water) and it will clean up without too much trouble. Better yet, take the play out to your back yard and simply hose the formula into your grass when the kids are done playing!
MaryAnne lives is a craft loving educator, musician, photographer, and writer who lives in Silicon Valley with her husband Mike and their four children.
23 thoughts on “Messy Sensory Play – the Alternative to Flour”
Oh my, what a brave mama you are. Love the action shot and the sense of freedom and joy within it.
.-= Christie – Childhood 101´s last blog ..Letting Go =-.
What great fun. I can just imagine the joy of exploring the formula and then tidying up after :)
Thanks so much for joining in with the Play Academy – hope you’ll stop by next Friday too :)
@Colleen – Thanks for visiting my blog! Your continent boxes look really neat!
Looks like they enjoyed themselves doing their sensory activity.
My sons loved sensory bins when they were younger and still like to do them occasionally now, even though they are now 4 and 7.
Thanks for sharing.
Popped by from the We Play links. Hope that you will stop by to say hello on my blog.
Have a nice one,
.-= Colleen – Sunrise Learning Lab´s last blog ..Continents Boxes Blog Hop – Day 5 – Australia =-.
Oh! The cleaning up! We have a tub of coloured rice with trinkets in it to play with at the moment and some days I have to clean it up 4-5 times. I love that it is a popular item of play, but I am just so over the mess!
You’re such a great mom. I have a thing about powdery textures. Just looking at your photos makes my teeth hurt!
.-= Sadia´s last blog ..Relationships =-.
It’s always interesting to see two children come to sensory play with really different ideas about how they should play. I’ve linked up a recent post where my daughter ‘invented’ some sand art play. I’d love you to come and link up with our Play Academy on Fridays – it’s be great to swap ideas with you. Cathy
Oh I just love the shot of your little boy getting ‘messy’, looks like something my girls would do too! :-D What a great sensory play experience.
.-= Caz´s last blog ..Phonebook Flower Press =-.
What a great idea to use the formula you would have thrown out! And hooray for tile floors. :)
.-= Elisa | blissfulE´s last blog ..33 seconds =-.
@Elisa – Tile floors are awesome! Although, I always worry about kids falling on them…
HA! LOVE LOVE the action shot. Just gorgeous!
.-= Kelly B´s last blog ..A Fairy’s Home or a Pirate’s Trap- Mobile Craft =-.
@Kelly B – Thanks =)
sensory play is equal to water play here, my kids love it
.-= kelli´s last blog ..Our season table of spring or mantle =-.
@kelli – water is wonderful sensory play!
@Ticia – I haven’t had any luck with sensory bins, either – so we just do it this way =)
@lynn – I know I’ve seen things on your blog – I’ll have to go through to find some posts! Really, I’m looking for anything where a child has significant input =)
@Our Nifty Notebook – Formula is surprisingly sticky! This swept up much better than I thought it would, probably because there wasn’t any water in sight. And then I did mop the floor…
@Natalie – Mike has relaxed more and more with each child, but even I was surprised at how mellow he was about this. We usually save the messiest activities for while he is gone =)
@Mike and Susana – that photo is my favorite too!
@Quadmama – Johnny would definitely get along with your daughters!
@Elise – I LOVED cleaning the bathroom – until I was old enough to do it properly! Somehow that took all the fun out of it…
Thought about that way we do some amount of sensory play. I just don’t make those sensory bins. Every time I’ve tried it just becomes a big mess.
.-= Ticia´s last blog ..Science Sunday- Fireflies =-.
Mike is a “relaxed father”. My husband would have been horrified :) Our sensory play is usually taken outside and mostly involves digging in dirt.
.-= Natalie´s last blog ..History is Written by the Victors =-.
Love the Johnny photo!! I have a little shoe box sized clear bin full of rice, and he does enjoy when I take it out, but we’ve only done it a handful of times. I’m not a big sensory bin person. I mean, in theory I am, but in practice, it’s just another thing I need to sit next to him and do – quiz him, tell stories, make up games, hide things. He still doesn’t like to just sit and scoop and pour and explore on his own. I do love the idea of having a huge old plastic swimming pool on a porch filled with rice, though. That seems fun. I can see that when I have two kids (or three!), sensory bins could be really appealing because they’re so fun for multiple ages. I still want to link up to this, but I never feel like the activities that we blog about are self guided enough. Let me know if you ever see anything suitable on my blog? In the meantime, it’s on my list. :)
.-= lynn´s last blog ..The Greedy Triangle- Review and Companion Activity with Free Printable =-.
LOL, that’s quite a mess he was making! I always hated when I spilled powdered formula, it’s so sticky!
.-= Our Nifty Notebook´s last blog ..Life As We Know It- Movie Review =-.
I love the action shot of Johnny.
As much as it drives me nuts sometimes, my daughters seem to love exploring textures during meal time. This results in messy hands, but it’s usually pretty funny.
.-= Quadmama´s last blog ..What Happened to September =-.
Don’t you just hope that the enthusiasm for using the dustpan lasts? My children are fascinated with our washing machine and are always “helping” me with loads of laundry. Household chores that I find monotonous, they seem to take pleasure in doing – I really need to take a leaf out of their book.
Baby formula is a neat idea for a sensory experience. It is interesting how your children focused on exploring and enjoying it in different ways.
.-= Elise´s last blog ..Teeny Tiny Tea Cups And Some Puppy Dogs =-.
Oh, you are so much more fun and patient than I am Mary Anne! What a great idea. And, that action shot of Johnny is awesome–I love it!
.-= Susana´s last blog ..Homeschool Week 16 =-.
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