My name is Katie and I run ‘Sensory Sensations’, a sensory and messy play business based in Kent which offers classes, parties and events. I’m a former primary school teacher (having recently left after 9 years of teaching to ‘do mess’ full time) and I have two young daughters (Daisy, aged 4, Indie aged 2). I’ve been running ‘Sensory Sensations’ for 2.5 years and have loved every messy minute!
Now I’m going to start this post by saying that I’m not trying to be ‘gender stereotypical’ here at all, of course girls enjoy playing with everything on this list too and boys can play with bright pink glittery slime if they want to as well. I realise there’s sometimes a bit of controversy about pigeon-holing boys and girls and assuming they can only wear or play with certain things – blue and pink, superhero and princesses etc, but this list is just a bit of fun and it’s something I’ve compiled based on what I’ve observed at my classes and what’s been requested for boys for messy play parties!
Here I’m talking about REALLY exploring paint. Have a huge sheet of paper, plates full of paint and different brushes/rollers/scrapers and let their imagination run free! This is great as there’s no ‘correct’ way of painting and it’s more about the process than the outcome. Use different body parts too! If this fills you with dread, try doing it in the garden – how about using an easel and squirty guns filled with paint or maybe painting in the bath? (Make your own bath paints, using flour, water and food colouring) have some warm soap water and towels ready, I can guarantee happy smiles!
2. Shaving foam
Is it the creamy, silky texture or the wonderful smell? A favourite with parents at my classes as it’s very easy to clean up! Just make sure your little one isn’t putting everything into their mouths still (if they are, try squirty cream instead!)
3. Water play
Whether it be coloured water in different containers to make ‘potions’, a bubbly bath for cars and diggers or water balloons, I find water is always popular with boys especially and so easy to set up!
4. Frozen dinosaur eggs
A very popular tray with older boys. Make up some frozen dinosaur eggs (put little dinosaurs into balloons, fill with water and freeze) and add some rubber mallets (you can usually get these at the pound shop), spray bottles with warm water and cups of salt. The ‘competitive’ element of trying to get the dinosaurs out is a real winner and I’ve seen some boys take a whole session trying to bash the dinosaurs out with real concentration! Here they’re learning about cause/effect and which is the most effective method, adding some basic scientific enquiry into their play.
Now this could be for any ‘themed’ tray… farmyard, diggers, trains.. anything! But setting a tray up with different types of cereal works really well. For example, setting up a farm themed tray with cornflakes for the chickens, bran flakes for the pigs, shredded wheat for the hay bales etc makes for wonderfully different textures, smells and of course… tastes!
6. Mushy peas
This one is a bit of a stomach-churner I’ll admit, but absolutely great for messy play! Gloopy, smelly, sticky and great for hands (or feet!) Add a few tins of mushy peas to a tray with scoops, tongs and different bowls and get stuck in! Just don’t add the leftovers to your fish and chip dinner!
There’s just something about waterbeads that boys love! Whether it’s scooping them into bowls, bouncing them around the room or mashing them between their fingers (or toes) waterbeads are versatile and can be played with in all sorts of ways and can be dried out and used again! Try adding them to different materials (i.e. shaving foam) or freezing them for an extra sensory experience.
8. Messy crafts
Typically boys have a shorter attention span than girls, so fiddly crafts are sometimes not their favourite thing to sit down and do, however, some crafts can be good as they can be finished quite quickly or can be completed later. Sticking, cutting, hand/footprints, threading, there’s some great examples on Pinterest if you’re stuck for ideas!
9. Chocolate Gloop
This can be used for diggers, planting flowers in a ‘garden’, creating a dinosaur swamp or just to spread around with their hands (and then lick!). Chocolate gloop has always been a popular activity and you don’t have to worry about your child eating any as it’s completely edible! Flour, cocoa powder and water is all you need, get the right consistency you want or for an added sensory experience swap the flour with cornflour so they can explore solid and liquid together. Mind boggling!
10. Theme It
Finally, what I’ve learnt is that if you theme a messy activity around your child’s favourite thing they will engage in it fully! Paw Patrol, dinosaurs, Thomas the Tank, cars, diggers, Peppa Pig… anything! Use whatever you have in your cupboards, add a few of their favourite toys and see what happens.
I hope you’ve enjoyed my list, if you have a little boy who loves mess, try some of these ideas!
“The most memorable days end in the dirtiest clothes”
All photos are of children who have attended my classes or parties and full parental consent has been given to use these images.