Sensory Play Essentials for Parents Who Hate Mess

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Have you ever tried to remove dried slime from your child’s hair? It’s worse than gum! Or how about scrub dried play dough out of the grout on your floor? Does mud on your carpets or paint on your child’s clothes make you twitch? If so, don’t feel ashamed. I am right there with you.

I am a mom who hates messy play. A mom who twitches at the sight of paint off the paper or play dough off the tray. A mom who doubts words like washable and curses words like glitter. I am also a mom of four sensory seekers. A houseful of little hands that seek out messes daily.

This list of Sensory Play Essentials for Parents Who HATE Messes is my sanity. My secret tools for making it through my day excited to play with my kids. Instead of stressing over the mess and letting my anxiety ruin their memories, I let these tools do their job and enjoy watching my kids grow, learn, and laugh.

Tackle Messy Play like a Rock Star with these Sensory Play Essentials!

Now, before we get into what I use to make messy play stress free I want to address a question I always get asked-

Why don’t you just avoid Messy Play?

And the short answer is – I can’t. I have tried. And then I tried again. And again. And despite my efforts, my kids need it.

Avoiding messy play with my kids was just causing more stress in our home because my kids are sensory seekers. This means that no matter how I feel about the subject, they need those messy sensory experiences to fuel their brains and help them regulate their emotions. By creating controlled environments for my children to explore messy play I am preventing them from seeking it out on their own…like the time they flooded the bathroom to make bubbles…or played connect the dots (freckles) with permanent markers…

Sanity. That’s what this is all about.

Must Have Sensory Activity Items for Parents Who Hate Mess:

 InterDesign Mildew-Free PEVA 3 Gauge Shower Liner, 72 x 72, Clear

Plastic Heavy Weight Shower Curtains

There are a ton of really cute mess mats out lately and using a heavy duty shower curtain is the same concept, only bigger. Throw this down under the area that your kids are going to play and once done playing simply roll it up and take it outside or to the shower to hose it down. You can even wash this in the washing machine.

 Coast AthleticTM Deluxe Foam Pool Noodles – 4 PACK

Pool Noodles

If you are playing with a material that can scatter (think beans, rice, pasta) then this easy hack is a quick way to contain the mess. For this, you will tape the pool noodles around your mess mat. This way anything that your child may will spill will stay within the safe to be messy boundary.

 3M Utility Duct Tape 2929 Silver, 1.88 in x 50 yd 5.8 mils (Pack of 1)

Duck Tape

Which leads to the next item in my toolkit, Duck Tape. No…it’s not for securing your kids down. On top of using this to tape down your shower curtain or pool noodles, you can also use duck tape to pick up obnoxiously small items, like glitter. Simply wrap it around your hand, tape side out, and pat up the infected area. Once the majority of the small items are sticking to your duck tape throw it away and finish cleaning the area by wiping it down.

 Glad Press’n Seal Wrap, Three 100 Square Foot Rolls

Press-n-Seal Wrap

This is one of my all time favorite hacks for when my kids are doing messy crafts at the table like fingerpainting. Cover the area that your child will be creating on with a cling wrap before they sit down to play…while you are at it, just wrap the entire room…ok maybe not, but this does work great for small specific areas. Once done simply peel it up and throw it away.

 Rubbermaid 3Q2900CLMCB Storage Tote with Blueberry Frost Latch, 41 Quart, Clear

Under the Bed Storage Bin

An under the bed storage bin is a very cheap solution to a sensory bin. While I do love our sand and water table, it is not something that I will bring inside because it isn’t something that I can monitor 24-7 with my kids. A large storage bin such as this is easy to reach into because it has lower sides, is long enough to allow multiple kids to play at once, and is lightweight enough to move around. Plus, if your kids are not done with the bin, but you have to leave the activity for whatever reason you can just throw a lid on it to put it away until you can revisit it.

 Four Monks Aroma Controlled Cleaning Vinegar, 24 fl oz

Aroma Controlled Vinegar

Earlier this year Four Monks sent me a package of cleaning vinegar to try out and I fell in LOVE. I cannot stand the smell of vinegar, so it is something I have always avoided. Their Citrus Mint and Aroma Controlled Cleaning Vinegars though were not a harsh smell at all. I actually enjoyed the scent. This product makes my toolkit though because it dissolves slime. Seriously, it works like magic! I have been able to remove messy play stains from my kids clothes, the carpet, and upholstery without it being ruined. It even removed hardened slime from the walls with ease and without removing the paint.

 Lemon Essential Oil

Lemon Essential Oils

This is one of my favorite hacks for removing crayons/markers/”washable” paints from the wall. It is so ridiculously easy. You can see it in action in this post where we show before, in step, and after photos of how to remove crayon markings from your walls.

 Shark Bagless Navigator Freestyle Cordless Stick Vacuum (SV1106)

Bagless Light Weight Vaccum

The Shark Bagless Navigator Freestyle Cordless Stick Vacuum is specifically the one that I am in love with. It is light weight enough that my almost four-year-old can use this and there are no cords for it to get all tangled in. This is a fantastic tool for quick clean up and encouraging independence in pick up time.

 Honey-Can-Do CRT-01683 12 Drawer Chrome Studio Organizer Cart

Rolling Cart with Drawers

This could almost be an entire post on its own. Our cart has 12 drawers which hold all of our messy play materials. In a top drawer, I keep our quick clean-up supplies such as vinegar, lemon essential oil, and wash cloths. During play, this cart can easily come out to where we are and it has everything that we need. About the only thing that I cannot fit on this cart are the pool noodles, even the Rubbermaid can sit on top (although it does stick out funky). After we play, it gets rolled back into its locked closet. This way my kids cannot get into the materials without me being aware that they are out, and it reduces the instances where I have to walk out of the room, leaving them unsupervised, to get things we may need. This cart is capable of holding all of our Sensory Play Recipe Materials and Sensory Bin Fillers.

Sensory Play Resources

Now that you know how to tackle messy play without the anxiety, it’s time to find some inspiration! Below you will find the archives to some of our favorite activities!

| Fine Motor | Gross Motor | Sensory Play Recipes | Sensory Bins |

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Tackle Messy Play like a Rock Star with these Sensory Play Essentials!

If you have a favorite item or hack that we missed let us know in the comments for other readers to find!

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