We’re working our way through the alphabet, and my kids love to add some sensory play to their learning. This time I waited until my Six was home from first grade, because I knew she’d want to join her little brothers in this activity: N is for Noodles!
Have you seen all the hundreds of ideas for messy play floating around Pinterest? If you’re like me, you may have thought, “Those moms are crazy. Don’t they have more to do than get stains out of clothes?”
First of all, we wore old clothes.
Second, I don’t do this sort of thing very often — because it’s hard for me to get my nerve up to let my kids get good and messy. But when I neglect messy sensory play, my kids are missing out.
Sensory play, messy or not, has countless benefits for young children. It’s not about making a mess. It’s about learning through play.
1. Kids are designed to explore the world through their senses. Setting up a multi-sensory way to play gives our kids rich opportunities to learn.
2. Sensory play promotes language development. Kids find new ways to talk about their world.
3. Engaging in sensory play with peers or siblings builds social skills. At our house that may sound like, “He’s in the spaghetti and I want to scoop it out!” That’s when we get to talk about what to do when someone we’re playing with isn’t doing what we’d like. My toddler, who doesn’t say much on his own yet, observed how his older siblings handled the materials and tried out their ideas.
4. Sensory play is great for building motor skills. Scooping, cutting, and pouring the noodles = fine motor. Running around and throwing it in the air = large motor.
5. Exploring sensory materials helps kids’ emotional development. It can be very calming for kids – relieving energy or stress – and bring a great amount of joy as they explore materials in an exciting way.
6. Since how kids use sensory materials is much more important than what they make with it, sensory play promotes creativity. By solving problems or engaging in make-believe, their creativity is enhanced.
(Still not convinced? You’ll want to check out this post from Not Just Cute: Sensory Fun: Why Sensory Play is Important for Preschoolers and Twodaloo’s Sensory Play: Is This Really Necessary?)
Here were my supplies for our noodle sensory play:
- utensils of all kinds, including pizza cutters
- food coloring
- scoops and funnels
- a large plastic bin
- spaghetti noodles
Since all four of my kids would be playing in the noodles, I prepared four boxes of spaghetti. (Normally I would not use whole wheat spaghetti for sensory play, but I got it for an amazing deal!) After I had cooked and cooled it, my Six helped me color the noodles.
We squirted a very generous amount of food coloring into each bowl and stirred. And stirred. And stirred! Then we added some oil to keep the noodles nice and slippery. Another way to do this is to mix in the food coloring with your hands. Or you can put the noodles into gallon-size plastic bags, pour in the food coloring and seal. Then moosh and squish the bags.
The kids helped me carry all the bowls outside, and they took turns dumping the colored noodles into a big plastic container. They couldn’t wait to get started!
Before the kids dove in with their spoons, I asked if they wanted a chance to walk in the noodles. Well, of course.
We didn’t encourage my One to take a turn because I didn’t want him to slip. It took some balance to stay upright!
Then the kids got to work with their scoops and spoons.
They each took a portion of noodles — and squished, squeezed, and stirred. (I’m thinking this activity would also work great for letter S!)
My One loved flinging the noodles in the air – thankfully, we were able to distract him with a plastic spoon.
When we pull out something like this, I try to give the kids a lot of freedom. They wore old clothes and were allowed to do whatever they wanted as long as they didn’t make each other unhappy.
My Five and Six took me at my word — after making it rain noodles, they began rubbing the pasta on their stomachs. Shortly after this picture they were headed straight for the bath!
Do you let your kids get good and messy?
Alphabet Curriculum for Preschool
Our curriculum includes lessons for teaching both upper and lowercase letter names and sounds. You’ll get three lessons per letter, built-in review, simple handwriting practice, rhyming, syllable counting, phonemic awareness, and a whole lot more!