mama’s corner: cloud dough and 10 tips for messy play

Yesterday was a sick day. I woke up anticipating the morning ahead, the chores I’d get done, the craft time I’d have. But poor Emily was full of delightful green snot and very very unhappy so she stayed home with mama getting cuddles and lots of play time together. I don’t think that’s too bad a deal for mama.

But we exhausted the crayons and stickers; I drew around her several times on a big sheet of paper (she didn’t want to colour her outline in, she just kept striking different poses on the paper and indicating her desire that I draw around her again); we got out markers; we played with puzzles; read books; we watched Elmo; we made my famous granola (by the way substituting some of the almonds for walnuts works well); and we napped.

After lunch I needed a new plan to amuse the toddler. I remembered a sensory play material I’d read about called “cloud dough”. And it only needed two ingredients that I happened to have on hand: flour & baby oil.


Next time I’ll probably get some cheap flour and baby oil beforehand as I can see us getting through a lot of it.

Cloud dough (via tinkerlab)

1/2 cup baby oil
4 cups of flour

Mix it together! And play.

Sick day play: cloud dough

It kept Emily occupied for a surprising amount of time. I don’t know if it’s because of daycare, or just a new phase, but it seems she can spend a lot longer amusing herself with activities than before. As long as I stay near she’s happy to play independently. The other day she sat in the middle of a park with a sketchbook and crayons while I relaxed in the shade watching her, absorbed in her drawings.

We love messy play but, you know, it’s messy, so here are some of my tips for making messes (and cleaning them).

  1. Take it outside if you can. We have a pretty big garden with a far bit of shade so we often play with paints and chalks outside.
  2. Wear old clothes. And not just the toddler. I’m not a whizz with laundry or stain removal so I keep a stock of older clothes for us to wear when we’re getting messy. Or I strip Emily down to her diaper/nappy.
  3. Have a clean-up station. When we play outside with paint I usually have a bowl of water and cloths or the paddling pool ready to clean up in. Indoors, we carry on our play in the bath.
  4. Make cleanup part of the activity. Toddlers love to help – get them taking part in the cleaning of equipment.
  5. Use an old shower curtain. When we are using fingerpaints in the high chair or playing on the floor like in the photo above I have an old shower curtain on the floor. I can roll it up,  tossing any dirty cloths inside it, and put it straight in the washing machine.
  6. Don’t fixate on the “right” way to do things. Let your toddler explore the materials and play in their own way. It’s okay to demo something but don’t be surprised if they do something completely different.
  7. Don’t put out all the options at once. You can extend play by adding new materials. For example, when we played with the cloud dough, I didn’t get out the muffin pan straight away but waited until she’d explored with the spoons and cups first.
  8. Any activity you choose may only last 5 minutes. Don’t be disappointed or disheartened. Clean up and try it again another day. Maybe your toddler was too young this time or just not in the mood for it. They also have pretty short attention spans!
  9. Whatever activity you do, supervise your little one very closely. They love to put things in their mouths! If you have a taster you’ll want to pick edible, non-toxic materials for now. One of the earliest art activities I did with Emily was using yogurt coloured with food colouring (you could make veggie dyes too).
  10. Oh and finally, don’t forget to have fun!

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