Summer sensory and messy play list

Summer is (hopefully!) nearly here – the perfect time of year to get outdoors with your toddler for some messy and sensory play!

Sensory and messy play list for the summer

As I mentioned in my post, Great garden fun for toddler s this summer, I am planning lots of time in the backgarden this summer so that my hugely pregnant self doesn’t have to do too much walking (running) around out and about with ToddlerGirl. She absolutely adores messy, sensory activities so I’ve made a huge list of ideas to keep us going, which I thought I’d share on the blog :) They are all either very easy or fairly easy to set up as I’m all about keeping it simple at the moment, and they should keep a mess-loving toddler happy for a good while… Doing these type of activities outside also makes the clean up that much quicker afterwards.

Water play ideas for toddlers…

Water play for toddlers this summer

Painting with water
Grab an assortment of brushes and other painting tools, fill a few bowls with water and let your toddler loose! This watery activity kept ToddlerGirl more than happy last summer.

Playing with coloured ice cubes
Add food colouring to water in ice cube trays before freezing. Turn the ice cubes out into a large bowl and let your toddler investigate. Learn Play Imagine puts them in the paddling pool.

Make magic potions
Collect some grass, dandelions, daisies, fallen leaves etc from the garden and set out in containers. Add a mixing bowl/bucket, plus access to water. Show your toddler how to mix up magic potions, fairy soup or whatever you want to call it :)

Set up a coloured water station
Genius idea from Happy Hooligans: set out lots of different containers with different coloured water, some empty containers, various tools for transferring the water (such as droppers, bottles, jugs, syringes) and add one curious toddler!

Messy art activities for outdoors…

Outdoor art activities for summer

Painting with flowers and sticks
We painted with sticks last year, which went down really well. Use flowers as paintbrushes also to vary the effects. Nuturestore uses a variety of flowers and leaves to create beautiful prints.

Painting with spaghetti
Set up a tub of cooked spaghetti for some easy sensory play. After your toddler has had fun exploring this, add some paint… Drop strands of the paint-coated spaghetti onto sheets of paper to make interesting spaghetti prints, like the these from The Imagination Tree.

Outdoor paint printing station
I love this idea from No Time For Flashcards. Squirt some blobs of paint into a large tub, let your toddler mix this around as much as they like and then place sheets of paper on the top to make prints.

Create with papier mache
I’ve been meaning to try out papier mache with ToddlerGirl since Easter. Make some glue with flour and water, provide strips of newspaper (or let your toddler help you to tear them up!) and use a balloon as a base. Once dry, you can also paint the sculpture.

Painting with ice cubes
I can see this simple idea from Nursery Activity Ideas going down well with ToddlerGirl: fill ice cube trays with different paint colours and freeze. Lay the frozen paint cubes out with some paper and let your little one make patterns and pictures as the frozen paint melts. Stick something like cut up straws or lolly sticks into the ice cube trays before they freeze to provide ‘paint brush handles’.

‘Real world’ messy play…

Outdoor pretend play

Cornflour paint and colours – ‘cooking’ activity
Love this idea from Mummy Musings and Mayhem: mix up some cornflour paint in different colours, add some (old!) kitchen utensils and leave your toddler to create…

Wash the dishes
Provide a tub of soapy bubbles alongside a stack of plastic dishes and utensils for your toddler to wash. Mess For Less set up a similar activity using dolls, or you could also create a car wash with toy cars.

Do some cooking
Set out bowls with various dried food items, such as pasta, lentils, rice and flour, a few jugs/bottles of water, and lots of utensils and containers for your toddler to use to mix, pour and serve up all sorts of delicacies. I like the way Play Create Explore lays out a selection of ‘ingredients’ in a muffin tray.

Shaving foam sensory play…

Shaving foam sensory play

Shaving foam with colouring
Another great idea from Happy Hooligans: squirt shaving foam into a tub, let your toddler add drops of food colouring and mix this all around to create a wonderful, swirly sensory art project. You can place sheets of paper on the top to lift prints also.

Shaving foam with cotton wool
This idea from The Imagination Tree sounds like a lot of fun: shaving foam mixed with cotton wool to create a whole new sensory mixture for your toddler to explore.

Shaving foam ice cream parlour
Great for pretend play as well as the sensory element, this idea from Connecting Family and Seoul uses shaving foam with some colouring in it to make ‘ice cream’. Add some bowls, ice cream scoops and sprinkles (suggestions include coloured rice and coffee granules) and your toddler can create their own ice cream sundaes!

Messy/sensory play recipes…

Sensory play recipes for outdoors

Growing a Jeweled Rose has a huge number of play recipes, great for both indoors and outdoors. These sound particularly messy and inviting :)

Quick and easy sensory small world tubs…

Easy sensory tubs for outdoors

Construction themed sensory tub
We had a lot of fun with this one last summer. It is very easy to set up: dried pasta and/or rice, construction vehicles and any other scoops/spades/containers that you like.

Under water themed sensory tub
A tub of water, optional blue food colouring, shells and stones, plus an assortment of under sea creatures to play with. I think ToddlerGirl would love this sensory tub from Mum Central!

Dinosaur themed sensory tub
ToddlerGirl has been really fascinated by dinosaurs this year so I like the idea of setting up a small world sensory tub on the theme. This one from Happy Hooligans incorporates water, rocks and stones, some leaves – and, of course, dinosaurs.

That’s my master sensory and messy play list for the summer – now all I need is some sunshine! What would you add to the list? Share more ideas for easy, messy outdoor play here or over on my Facebook page :)

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