Stimulating Messy Play Ideas Your Toddler Will Love

Messy play is a fundamental aspect of a child's overall development and sparks a massive sense of curiosity, imagination and exploration.

Messy play allows kids to be kids in an unrestricted setting and allows them to learn - after all, children learn primarily through play.

So if you're looking for some fun ways to stimulate the senses, here are some simple and easy messy play ideas which can help encourage speech and language development, enhance motor skills, promote cognitive growth and support problem solving:

This article is part of our #FamilyFun30 Challenge, where every day we set a simple, accessible and fun task to enjoy with your family. Check out the full list of challenges here and get involved!


Perfect for toddlers and young children, playing with gloop is the ultimate sensory experience, and it's as cheap as chips to whip up. To make gloop, you will need two cups of cornflour and one cup of water and mix until you get a slimy, gooey texture that you know the kids will love. For added effect, you could add a drop of washable paint or even food colouring.

Water Beads

Water beads (sometimes known as aqua beads) are tiny little hard beads made from a water-absorbing polymer and grow bigger and bigger the longer they are left in water. Just observing them grow is a fun experience in on its own. When fully absorbed they are squishy swashy kaleidoscopic sensory balls perfect for messy play, colour recognition and fine motor skill development. 

Stimulating Messy Play Ideas Your Toddler Will Love
You will be surprised what the clever little creatures come up with. 

Mud Kitchen Madness

If you're a dab hand with a drill, upcycle some wooden crates to craft up an outdoor kitchen or better yet, if you know someone disregarding an old play kitchen, whip it up. Let the little ones cook up a storm whatever the weather by giving them food scraps and veg peelings alongside the usual mud, muck, grass or gravel found out the back garden. You will be surprised what the clever little creatures come up with. 

Homemade Kinetic Sand

Sand is an excellent sensory substance thanks to its grainy texture, but mouldable sand is way better. Sand can help assist fine motor skills with all the scooping, splatting and squishing all while building up the tiny muscles needed in the hands for learning life skills such as handwriting. You will need five cups of flour, one cup of cocoa powder and one cup of coconut oil. Add the two powders together before slowly adding the oil until you get the right kinetic sand consistency. 

Homemade playdough

Playdough is always a winner when it comes to messy play, especially for toddlers, as it provides hours of imaginative play for years on. Not only does it spark creativity, but it also enhances fine motor skills, all while providing a soothing sensory experience for children of all ages.

You will need one cup of plain flour,  1/3 cup of salt, 1/2 cup water and two tablespoons of vegetable oil. Mix the flour and salt, add the oil before slowly combining with the water. Knead until the mixture is smooth and has a dough-like consistency. 

If you try out any of these messy play ideas, don't forget to tag us in your creations on Instagram! Find us @familyfriendlyhq.

Kellie Kearney

Kellie Kearney is a Dublin mammy of five kids aged newborn right up to nine. She loves coffee, cloth nappies, travel and sharing her every day true to life family moments on Instagram.

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