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Summer Fun: Outdoor Messy Play!


Welcome to summer! Read on about how to use simple materials and methods to get your kids to play outdoors.

Benefits of Messy Play:

Messy play is a fantastic activity for children of all ages. It is important for growth and development to help kids learn, explore, and engage with the world in a way no other kind of play can. Messy play allows kids to explore the sensory properties of different activities with open-ended exploration and engage their senses at their own developmental level. This can all be done while also exercising motor, language, and social skills through play with others!

Why Outdoors?

Spring and summer are perfect times to set up messy play activities outside. Added benefits of taking messy play activities outside include fresh air, vitamin D exposure, more movement, and better sleep. In addition, being outside gives the children a bigger area to explore with messy projects, allows room for more kids to participate, and makes clean-up much more manageable!

Suggested Materials:

  • Washable paint
  • Shaving cream
  • Foil
  • Baking soda
  • Vinegar
  • Shower curtain or large tarp
  • Water blasters
  • Chalk
  • Mother nature: Grass, leaves, flowers

Activity Ideas:

  • Shaving Cream Baths: Lay a large tarp out in the grass. Bring out your favorite animals (e.g., mega blocks, animal figurines, paw patrol vehicles). Spread shaving cream all over the toys, then give toys and animals a bath, or vehicles a “car wash,” by rinsing off with a hose, water blaster, or bucket of water.
  • Planting Station and Mud Exploration: Set up buckets of dirt and allow kids to dig in the dirt with their hands or gloves if this is a tricky sensory experience. Use gardening tools to “plant” real or fake flowers and leaves. Added bonus: Water the plants with the hose, and then engage in messy play with MUD!

Photo credit: Busy Toddler

  • Outdoor Art: Washable paints on hanging cardboard or plexiglass provides many opportunities for fun! Added bonuses–painting while laying on the swing, using hands for finger painting, and using mother nature’s outside materials as paintbrushes (leaves, sticks, shovels, etc)!

Photo Credit: Fun-A-Day website

  • Other fun ideas: baking soda and vinegar volcano with food coloring in different cups, sidewalk chalk drawings, bubble wands, and hidden toys in a large bin of jello!

Have fun making outdoor messes and allowing your children to learn all the wonderful tactile properties of nature and toys!

Kristin Ries is an OT at Capernaum