Welcome to the Messy Play page for those who are mobile on the floor

This page is suitable for what we call our Bustling Butterflies who will probably use their wheelchair outside or for longer distances but are mobile on the floor inside. They may be walking with a stick or walking frame for some of the time. For example those with Spastic Diplegic Cerebral Palsy.

This page provides ideas and information on how to set up messy play for your Bustling Butterfly.

We have chosen to include messy play as it is a lot of fun but is also great for your child’s development! 

Messy play activities for kids at home are a great way to develop fine motor skills
  • Feeling different textures is good for stimulating brain development as well as helping the child get used to different sensations. 

  • The part of the brain which feels what is happening in the fingers and what happens in the mouth are close to each other in the brain, so if a child gets used to a texture with their hands it is going to make it easier to tolerate this in their mouth. Therefore, messy play can be used to try to help any child who doesn’t like to eat different textures. 

  • Messy play also allows for hand strengthening, fine motor development and hand/eye coordination work.

  • Many children with different abilities have trouble with different textures. Either feeling too much – (hypersensitivity) which can lead to tactile defensiveness, or not feeling enough – (hyposensitivity) leading to sensory seeking behaviours which can include inappropriate or unhelpful behaviours.

  • Messy play is a controlled way to encourage tactile sensitive children to get used to different sensations. This can allow them to tolerate more of their everyday textures. 

  • You will know your child best, so if your child is less good with different textures it is likely that dry messy play is easier to tolerate than wet messy play.  

  • If your child seeks tactile sensory input, try to mix sensations to give them a large sensory input – for example adding rice to yogurt or putting marbles in their playdough. 

  • Messy play is a brilliant opportunity for imaginative or pretend play. Making food out of playdough for a dolls tea party, going shopping for items hidden in the messy substance or giving baby a bath in some coloured yogurt can entertain your child for hours. 

  • 2 handed play is always nice – as is crossing the middle of the body with your child’s hands so try and incorporate these if possible. 

  • The most straight forward thing to do is just to help your child put their hands in the substance and help them feel around.

  • Prepare your child for messy play. If they have tight hands then a finger, hand and wrist stretch before the activity may help them feel the messy play more effectively. You could also wake up their hands by massaging or squeezing their finger tips, hands and lower arms so that they get the most out of the activity. 

  • If your child can hold objects, or with some hand over hand help, use kitchen utensils to play with the substance – using a wooden spoon to stir, a ladle or spoons to scoop some into a different container or a potato masher to squish the substance.  

  • You can also put different objects into the substance – things they need to find or things to play with e.g. cars or plastic animals/ dinosaurs/ figurines. This will also help them with fine motor and visual perception skills. Try dropping some items inside the substance and see if they can find them – start with bigger objects so they hardly have to touch the messy play mixture and then get smaller and smaller so they have to get their hands in it and manipulate the substance to find the object.

How to dye sensory materials for messy play

This link gives a wide variety of ‘how’to dye’ ideas including oats, chickpeas, epsom salts, barley, dried beans, dried hay, corn kernals, dried pasta, rice noodles, cloud dough, puffed wheat cereal, wet spaghetti, rice, salt, shredded coconut, sand, shredded paper, water beads, baking soda, egg shells.   


40 awesome messy play activities!

Here are 40 recipes for making all kinds of messy play – from slime, dough and oobleck to shaving cream, edible recipes and ones you want to keep for outside.   

Try making the messy play with your child as this will introduce much of its own sensory inputs and fine motor skills. 


This list below starts with dry messy play and gradually becomes more wet and more messy. If your child is not keen on different textures, start high up the list and slowly make your way down the list as they get happier with each one. 

  1. Dried pasta. If they still don’t want to touch this, use buckets and spades or kitchen implements to scoop between different pots.  

  2. Dried rice or lentils  

  3. Little lego 

  4. Dried cereal such as Cherrios, Rice Crispies or they could even break up Weetabix and get them to make it into powder. 

  5. Dried sand 

  6. Dried flour/ sugar or salt or a bowl of breadcrumbs – all for slightly different textures. Brown sugar stacks well and makes great sandcastles. 

  7. Cotton balls 

  8. Slightly cooked pasta

  9. Slightly wet sand

  10. Playdough, salt dough (salt, flour, water and oil), cloud dough (flour and oil), oobleck (corn-starch and oil). See this video for ideas of how to play with your child to make the most of salt dough.

11. Edible paint – (flour, salt, water and food colouring) 

12. Cooked pasta – as above. Could use glitter or mix with other textures like sand to make the texture different. 

13. Introduce wet messy play by putting shaving foam or water in a water tight zip bag for your child to manipulate. You could add some other toys into the bag which they need to identify or move around the bag to help get them used to the sensations. 

14. Whipped cream for young children who may eat it.

15. Shaving foam.  Spray against a window or mirror. Slap your hand against the tray to make mini mountains. Make a track for cars to drive around or draw shapes and pictures with their fingers. You could set this up on the wall next to the bath to make it easier to clean.

16. Yogurt and even yogurt with pieces in it. Die the yogurt and then it can be used as paint. 

17. Baked beans – use the beans to draw pictures. Use a spoon to pick them up if getting hands in it is too hard. 

18. Bubbles – make bubble mixture from non-toxic soap and water or washing up liquid and water. Using bubbles to help eye hand coordination if great fun for your child as well as being beneficial (see hand/eye coordination page). Cut the bottom off a water bottle and put a sock on the bottom. Dip the sock in bubble mixture for children to blow millions of bubbles.

19. Add objects such as sand or wet Rice Crispies into your wet messy play for children who struggle with lumpy soft food. 

20. Playing with ice can be an extreme sensory experience. Put some ice cubes in a bowl and, on a hot day, watch them melt in the sun. You can add die to the water before freezing them to make it more interesting.

21. Use food colouring in water and freeze to make ice pens!

22. Use frozen veg in a sensory bin

23. Use ice cream for extra delicious messy play

More fun resources for Bustling Butterflies

Here are a selection of suitable Our Home videos

Salt Dough

Salt dough is a great way to develop fine and gross motor skills whilst also having fun!

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