Your baby explores the world with their hands. Tactile play gives babies the chance to build sensory associations and strengthen cognitive skills. The hands are connected to many areas of the developing brain; this is sometimes referred to as the "hand-brain connection."
It’s hard not to cringe when we see food all over our kid’s face, hands, even in their hair, but tactile play has many important benefits. Breathe deeply, embrace the mess, and remind yourself that this is healthy for your baby.
If your baby doesn’t want to get messy at first, don’t give up: using an implement (instead of their finger)—a popsicle stick, toy car, or wooden animal—can help them get comfortable. Eventually they will get used to feeling new textures with their hands.
Here are some ideas for messy sensory play:
- Finger paint is great for babies at this age. If you are in the mood, you can make your own. See below for a recipe for safe and edible (but not necessarily tasty) homemade finger paint. You can also buy natural finger paint here
- Let your baby play in mud or sand
- Help your baby experience the feeling of rocks, pebbles, and dried leaves (with close supervision to prevent them mouthing and choking on small items)
- Let them squish a banana and explore food with their hands
- Cut an avocado in half and let your baby squish and touch the avocado halves—you can leave the pit in or remove it
Remember that being messy is part of the fun and freedom of sensory play. If they see you constantly cleaning up, they may think being messy is not okay.
RECIPE: HOMEMADE EDIBLE FINGER PAINT
- 1/2 cup flour
- 1 cup water
- 1/4 tsp salt
- food coloring or water colors
- cold water for thinning
- Combine flour, salt, and 1 cup water in sauce pan.
- Heat flour/water while whisking. The mixture will be clumpy, then smooth, then thicken into a paste.
- Once it has become thick and pasty, remove from heat.
- Whisk in cold water a few tablespoons at a time until desired consistency is reached.
- Color with food coloring or water colors.
- Allow to cool completely, then paint!