Let’s Get Messy!

The sun is finally shining and many of us are now encouraging our kids to get out of the house and into the yard. There is more room to run and explore and, let’s be honest, the messes are just plain easier to clean up! Summer is a great time to allow our little ones more creative freedom when it comes to art and sensory projects. Allowing our little ones to get their hands (feet, face, arms…) dirty not only engages their sense of curiosity but also provides parents with a platform to teach language! When we focus our language building tools on activities that are highly engaging (read: FUN), children are more likely to be motivated to learn new information and retain it as they remember the experience and the language that was used.

For toddlers, use messy play as an opportunity to teach new vocabulary, work on expanding their understanding of groups of words (i.e. categories) and as a natural environment through which to focus heavily on a few keywords (REPETITION, REPETITION, REPETITION!). Older kids will benefit from these hands-on activities as well. They can work on their targeted speech sounds, synonyms/antonyms or the ability to answer a variety of different WH questions (who, what when, where, etc), just to name a few. The best thing about these activities is that they are easily tailored to fit the needs of your individual child and keep them learning all summer long!


Gelatin based Sensory Bin– Whip up a massive batch of Jello, add some sturdy toys and scoops and you’ve got yourself some real messy fun! Different types of toys can be added to work on a specific speech sound, a category (i.e. animals, food, etc) or to focus on different descriptive terms (big vs little, fast vs slow).

Frozen Oobleck– Cornstarch based ‘slime’ that hardens when pressure is applied and melts when left alone. Freeze a batch of this in fun shaped molds and let your child explore it while it melts in the heat! Include toys to make a fun ‘winter to summer’ scene, add scoops and kitchen tools to “cook up” something messy.

Muddy Car Derby or Pig Pen- Grab some sturdy toys in the theme of your choice with a large flat container, add some dirt and water and let the kids go to town. There are endless ways to engage kids in mud play, but some fun ideas are: making a tiny garden, pigs in a mud pit, muddy race cars, and making mud pies.

Frozen Paint Cubes- Mix up some washable paint with water, freeze into cubes over-night and the next afternoon you will have the perfect outdoor activity! Large pieces of cardboard are perfect for this project and kids love seeing their art unfold as the paint cubes slowly melt!

*Things to Remember*

-Using short phrases to narrate play for toddlers gives them a model for words they can imitate during play AND helps them form an understanding about what they are doing.

-Repetition of words during new activities helps children to process and remember that word so they are able to add it to their working vocabulary.

-Talk about what your child is interested in, during the activity. Don’t try and structure it too much. Let them be the leaders!



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