*NEW* 🎃Candy Corn Halloween sensory box available now in spookily limited quantities! *NEW* Candy Corn Halloween sensory box available now in spookily limited quantities!

Inspiration for your messy play setup at home this month

Messy This Month

Bubble Paint Hydrangeas

Oral motor skills are strengthened in this full sensory experience that sees children blow bubbles, make prints, then cut and stick their creations together into a collage that captures the color and texture of real hydrangeas.

Taste-Safe Rainbow Sidewalk Paint

Infants and toddlers immerse themselves in some outdoor mark-making using a rainbow of colours with this taste-safe chalklike paint. Mixing, painting and then enjoying the visual of the bright colors before washing it all away invites meaning-making in their environment while practicing gross and fine motor movements.

Taste-Safe Sensory Bead Bug Bin

Bubble tea beads make the perfect baby-friendly sensory bin base! These green tea beads grow while you cook them and, while they only last a day or two, invite lots of exploring of textures while helping babies practice grasping and utilizing their developing pincer grips. Adding some realistic bug figures and some fake grass evolves the setup into a small-world scene that encourages imaginative play for older children.

Footprint Butterflies and Flowers

Even the youngest babies can enjoy mark-making using their feet, activating lots of sensory pathways while maintaining close contact with their caregiver and I always try to incorporate one printing craft like this because they're so fun and rewarding. This month's colours and images celebrate spring and craft heartwarming keepsake pieces for parents and families!

Our Story

As a Year One and Two teacher and later as a tutor of children aged 5 though 12 years old, getting messy and hands-on with learning has always been a passion of mine!  While many administrations are taking steps to make classroom learning more authentic and age appropriate, school continues to become increasingly academic and children are being pushed harder than ever to demonstrate their ability to perform ever-more-complex tasks using pencil, paper and seatwork.  My young students and their parents were craving movement, sensory input and fun!  When I left the classroom to open my tutoring practice, I found that these needs only increased with my students’ age; the gaps in their understanding resulting from rushing through content learning were often mediated by slowing things down and offering time to practice physical and conceptual skills in fresh, enjoyable, low-pressure contexts.

When I hit pause on my tutoring practice to focus on my two young boys, I found myself in search of enriching and enjoyable learning experiences for very young children along with the materials necessary to support them. Sourcing and preparing materials was time consuming, expensive, messy and often felt like a lot of “work” for a just a few minutes of payoff with only my own child so I started getting together with friends with young kids and we began doing simple crafts that brought us together as we connected with our kids.  The group grew and I started integrating theme-based sensory invitations into our craft sessions and MessyMamas was born!  

When Covid hit and my second son was born, we couldn’t meet in person so I put together little kits for them to take home and these were a hit! It felt good to have something in common and something to do: an achievable, concrete and enriching activity to enjoy with our kids during those long days of lockdown.  I realized that providing parents who are stretched for time and energy with resources to bring them and their children together through shared low-stress, play-based experiences was something I could offer. I know that these short, focused moments connecting together yield real payoffs by the time our children begin primary school, whether we look at our children’s physical, social, emotional, or academic development.  In the meantime, our children are having fun, taking risks and experiencing their world.

I am so excited to share my monthly sensory boxes with you: curated collections of carefully selected, high-quality and open-ended toys and sensory media that support and extend sensory play and art for children aged 6 months through 7 years of age.  You’ll also find additional tools, crafts and, later, small-world and larger physical resources to help you find exactly what you need for any sensory activity you and your child can dream up, without having to drive around the island collecting supplies.  Get messy and have fun!


The Benefits of Messy Play

Sensory input and integration

Teachers all over the western world are reporting higher than ever numbers of children in kindergarten and first grade who are retaining primitive reflexes, lack core strength and have underdeveloped visuo-motor and proprioceptive systems (Hanscom, 2016). Much of this can be attributed to the decline in physical movement, increased consumption of technology from increasingly young ages, and a lack of time spent playing freely. Our children are always busy but usually in an adult-led or sedentary activity.

Messy and sensory play complements outdoor time in providing challenges to children's growing neurological systems and physical bodies with new stimuli, requiring their eyes, ears, noses, touch receptors and muscles to react, process and integrate what they see, hear, smell and feel. Primitive reflexes are extinguished because new action/reaction arcs and neural networks are created. Putting the time in now means that children are more likely to arrive in "big school" ready to learn because they will be more physically and neurologically ready to function in that environment. When we set kids up for success, they are happier and feel more successful and enjoy the learning experience!

Builds background knowledge

Background knowledge is "the glue that makes learning stick" (Lent, 2012). It is essential to comprehension, to makingconnections, and to understanding the big ideas in reading and socialsituations alike and success in any field, no matter your age, depends on it.We begin building background knowledge as soon as we are born and stockpile itbased on our early experiences. Cognitive psychology suggests that earlyexposure to ideas, characters, words, songs, colors, numbers, holidays, toysand more begins to help shape the way we understand our world and creates afoundation upon which we integrate or reject new ideas into our growing mentalschema of "how the world works". The cognitive pyschologist JeanPiaget elaborated on the way that children construct a series of schemata,based on the interactions they experience, to help them understand the world(Piaget, 1923; Georgeon, Ritter, 2011).

Messy play provides a fantastic vehicle through which toeasily expose children to new ideas or expand upon their existingunderstandings in fun, natural ways. Teachers know that, when we can presentinformation to children via multiple sensory pathways (sight, touch, scent andmovement), learning is faster, more meaningful and robust. Sensory play andcrafts naturally lend themselves to inspiration from books, celebrations,cultures, animals, feelings and more, gifting your child with multi-sensoryexperiences of more abstract concepts (like "dinosaur","happy" and "Summer") that create diverse, long-lasting andmeaningful building blocks for comprehension that they will build up for yearsto come. They'll use these schema to become more capable readers, more criticalthinkers and more tolerant citizens as they grow older.

Fine motor practice

Sitting in a chair or on the carpet, writing, coloring, the ability to process visual stimuli from an interactive whiteboard or classroom displays, and manipulating educational tools and materials are all key tasks asked of children in early learning environments. Success in this realm requires solid functionality of muscles in the trunk, neck, arms, hands, AND fingers; it also depends on smooth integration of these muscles with input the brain receives from the eyes and ears as the teacher or classmates speak and present information.

Regular messy and sensory play opportunities provide ample chance to activate and practice the use of key muscle groups as children manipulate small objects and experience multiple textures through a variety of motor sequences: playdoh, tweezers, tongs, rice, water, etc.
Neuropsychologists know that "Neurons that fire together, wire together" (Hebb, 1949) and synapses are created most efficiently through play (Brown, 2009): repeated experiences that fire the same neuro-muscular chains, especially through play, hardwire children's brains in durable and positive ways for childhood enjoyment and future success.

Time spent together, connecting.

We. Are. Busy. Mamas. With work, play, schedules,school, chores, and other family roles all competing for our attention, it's really hard to find or make the time to allow our children to just"be" in a low-pressure environment without worrying that we're missing an opportunity to enrich their lives, learn a skill or develop their imaginations...and not stress about the state of the house and how much time we'll be spending setting up and cleaning it all up! We also know that children should be spending the majority of their time in free play situations.

Our kids love spending time with us and studies are repeatedly finding that it's the quality of time we spend with our children, not the quantity, that really matters.
Sensory play and art are the missing piece and I can help you make that happen with a minimum of time spent preparing so you can focus on time spent together.

Social and Language development

Switch out the phrase "adult supervision required" with "adult interaction required" and you've turned a fun experience for your kid into a social learning one.

Messy play, especially when inspired by a theme, concept or book, provides a perfect opportunity to introduce new vocabulary or practice more flexibly words your child may already know about size, shape, texture, and object. With a shared topic to discuss and when you follow their lead in play, we give children the chance to practice higher-level vocabulary through turn taking, listening and interpreting social cues.

Educators know that children who arrive at school with more general knowledge and vocabulary start out as better readers and continue to acquire more and more knowledge as they continue reading. Speaking and listening skills lay the foundation for reading and writing success. It's a cycle that we can get a jump start on without imposing any pre-reading or pre-writing pressure on our children at all, just by intentionally playing with our kids and talking about their play with them.

Early maths and literacy practice

So much of our children's academic learning is based on exposure to concepts, especially in maths and literacy. Beyond background knowledge, physical development and vocabulary, competency in today's fast-paced academic classrooms depends on hands-on, concrete experiences that children do not always have chance to amass before they arrive in Kindergarten and TIME to practice, practice, practice. Modern curricula and busy classrooms, especially post-Covid, often leave teachers with less time and space to provide interactions with these basic, early experiences like pouring water, filling up 3-dimensional objects with dry media, comparing the weights of objects, and describing what children see, hear and touch.

The more time we can give our kids to have these kinds of concrete experiences, the better able they will be to use and apply more abstract strategies like diagrams or concepts such as volume like they see in their workbooks. Imaginative play is also sparked by small world setups and incorporating animals or characters into sensory play, providing children with numerous opportunities for storytelling in a variety of settings, setting the stage for solid sequencing, character and narrative development that will support their writing, later on.

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