13 Amazing Messy Sensory Play Ideas {for 1-3 year old toddlers}

Messy Sensory Play ideas- you either love them or hate them! I absolutely LOVE THEM! And to celebrate the love, I’m going to share with you some ideas you can do at home.

Get started with sensory play with these easy messy play ideas! Find play activities using ingredients from around the house. You’ll find inspiration for baby sensory play, toddler sensory play, Christmas, sensory bins, baby art play, and toddler art play.

Featuring simple activities for your newborn, babies, and toddlers that are 3 months, 6 months, 9 months, 12 months, 1 year old, and 2 years old. Find recipes for play, how to dye rice for sensory play, sensory play for preschools, edible, shaving cream, and more…

Messy Sensory Play

Tips on setting up Messy Sensory Play Activities

Only pour out as much as you are willing to clean up.

This means you don’t have to make a pull full of colored pasta to have some messy fun. You can actually do a small bowl to reduce the cleanup.

When possible do it outside

It is easy to play with water over the grass so you don’t have to mop.

It is easy to paint outside so you can wash it down with a hose.

Make a safe area when playing inside

If you don’t have access to the outside and you still want to do messy play, opt-in for making a safe area. This could be a large towel or shower curtain to place under the sensory bin and catch all that can fall down.

I always have a giant plastic bin where I place my child inside as my first “catch-it-all-area” I add whatever activity we are working on inside there in its own bin and I add a large towel underneath the giant bin to catch anything that might have fallen out.

So now that you are prepared to make messy activities for sensory play happen, let’s get started with the ideas with the messy play ideas.

Here are some fantastic ideas and activities for Messy Play for sensory play

Top Messy Sensory Play Activities

Water Activities

Pouring, scooping, splashing and bubbles! Water is an exciting sensory material, where children become absorbed with the ripples of the water – try out a variety of water play games!

Make Pretend Snow

Feel the snow crunch between your fingers! Fake Snow is easy to make and so much fun when you want to have some winter-themed play. Messy sensory play when winter is too cold outside.

Make Colored Pasta

Playing with colored pasta is one of my favorite activities. For babies is great because it is edible safe and for toddlers is the perfect opportunity to work on fine motor skills, scissor cutting and even learning colors.

Use this recipe to make rainbow spaghetti!

Play with Colored Rice

Colored rice is a common sensory bin filler. It is so much fun to play around with, it allows it to be poured into cups, and you can hide toys in it, basically, the possibilities are endless. It is preferred to be played on by the toddlers as their babies can 1. Put it in their mouth, and 2. Try to throw it everywhere except where it should go and move on leaving you cleaning everything.

Be Artists Using Edible Paint

This easy recipe is great for little ones who still put everything in their mouth. Put it over a tray, over a paper, and use it as finger paints. You can make soft pastel colors with just a few drops of food coloring or you can make bold colors that pop with just more. Either way, it guarantees a great time!

Play with Sand without going to the beach

There are two ways I have made edible sand, one with blond Oreo cookies in the blender and the other with crackers. My favorite and more realistic sand is with the crackers. You don’t have to worry about little ones that are still mouthing anything and you can have a lot of fun with it.

For the toddlers, I have made kinetic Sand using baby oil and whole wheat flour to make it look like real sand. You can mold it and play with it to make cool sculptures.

Play with Jell-O

Jello is edible and safe and there are so many possibilities for playtime. We have made monster eyes with regular jello and we have made gelatine cubes using unflavored jello. Unflavored jello doesn’t have sugar which allows for a less sticky playtime. For gelatine cubes, you will need to add food coloring as it is also colorless.

Create a Sensory Bin using Dry Cereal

Dry cereal is a great edible safe material to use for sensory play. My favorite was Cheerios as the round rings are easy to grab, nutritious, and fun! I have also used fruity pebbles for the colorful element they offer. When using cereal for play, you can use it for the generic brand to reduce costs.

Create A Sensory Bin Using Cooked Oatmeal

You can also use oatmeal, either dry or cooked to make a fun sensory, and messy activity! We did color oatmeal for an event where we learned about apples and apple pie.

make oobleck for babies sensory play

Play with Ooey-Gooey Oobleck

This is one messy activity! so when possible do it outside. My son didn’t like the feeling of the sticky substance in his hand so he shook his hands…. this made the oobleck go all over the kitchen (when dry it gets really hard) so the second time around, we did it outside and it was way better! Oobleck is the coolest thing because when you hold it tight it is solid, but when you let it go, it is liquid. It is a great first science experiment to do with toddlers!

apple themed toddler activity for sensory play using Obleck Recipe #obleck

Make Moon Sound | Cloud Dough

Cloud dough is homemade kinetic sand. It uses flour and baby oil as a base. It crumbles like sand but it is also moldable like wet sand. It is a lot of fun to play with and the kids love it. I used it as the base for our space theme lesson and added wood rocketships, astronauts, and glow-in-the-dark stars.

Moon sand recipe

Edible Safe Chia Slime

As you can recall now, I love edible safe activities. This is because it doesn’t matter the age of your little one they will be able to enjoy it.

I like Chia slime because is easy to make and the feeling of it is like no other sensory texture I have tried before. The seeds do get stuck on things so it is a bit harder to clean, but nothing than water and a rug can’t fix.

Make textured to Paint

Using paint can add a lot of fun to your day. You can make watercolor paint, edible safe paint, or use regular washable paint. Add some sprinkles or sugar to add some fun for a texture sensory paint activity, or mix colors for a cool science experiment activity.


Messy play is super important in your child’s development. No matter what recipe you choose, sensory messy play is fun!

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