Blog Post

Messy Trays & Sensory Boxes – Why We Love Them & Lots of Ideas

Here at Messy Me, we know how important it is to let little ones get messy from time to time.   It has been shown to have far reaching benefits when it comes to their development and education…and they usually have so much fun at the same time, which as mums we love to see.

What we love about messy trays and sensory boxes is that you can contain the mess a little.  Your little one can have so much fun and get all the benefits of messy play but it’s easier to keep the mess in one place and under control.   Here are some of our favourite ideas for messy trays and sensory boxes to help inspire you when you decide to take a deep breath and let your little one have fun getting messy.

As always, please supervise your children at all times whilst doing these activities to avoid them eating things they shouldn’t.

Shaving foam and hair gel – very messy but lots of fun, just check it doesn’t end up in your little ones mouth!

This one’s really easy and super effective too!  Simply grab some cheap shaving foam and a tub of cheap hair gel and squirt or scoop them into your messy tray.  The shaving foam will feel warm, soft and light as a feather, whereas the gel will feel firmer, colder and heavier.  You could put the gel in the fridge to make it even cooler and add in some plastic animals or other small toys for your little one to discover.




Jelly and ice cubes – lot of sensory fun, without being TOO messy.

Put a mix of jelly and ice cubes into your messy tray for fun and messy playtime.   The jelly could be a mix of uncooked cubes and jelly cubes set in ice cube moulds and the ice cubes could be coloured water so they look more like jelly.  All the shapes will look similar but feel very different – warm and wobbly or hard and cold?  Mix up this playtime by setting small plastic toys inside the jelly or ice for added fun or have some bigger pieces of jelly so little ones can try squishing the ice cubes into the jelly



Coloured spaghetti fun – I love this one.  My little ones all loved playing with spaghetti.

Boil up a few inexpensive packets of spaghetti or mix of pasta shapes for a world of messy fun.  Boil the pasta up with some food colouring to add some brightness to your activity, then serve it all up on a messy tray, along with some kitchen utensils and bowls for serving.  If you’re feeling very brave, you could give them uncoloured spaghetti and give them some paints so they can colour the spaghetti themselves (not for the faint hearted!)

Flour letter discovery 

Tip a bag of flour into a sensory box and hide a bunch of magnetic letters or other small items in the flour.  Children will love digging out the treasures and for older children, it could be a good way to talk about letters in the alphabet and get them to copy letter shapes into the flour.  Other ingredients could be added to the flour to add texture and interest such as rice, cereal,  dried lentils or pulses, small pieces of pasta.  Just please watch out for choking hazards.



Dirt in a Box – my son would have loved this when he was little, but I would definitely save this for warmer weather when it can be done outside!

Grab a trowel and dig up some dirt from your garden.  Mix in some twigs, pebbles, leaves, moss, feathers and pieces of grass to add interest.  Throw in a few cars or construction vehicles to create a mini building site for your budding little engineer.


There are so many variations to be explored with messy trays and sensory boxes. Your little one will not only have lots of fun but also you can use the activity to explore different topics depending on the contents of your box or tray.

Whilst the trays and boxes will help contain the mess, you do need to expect some mess with activities like this.  However hard you try, your little one will manage to make some mess out of the box!  As always our oilcloth by the metre and splash mats  and help you manage the mess and keep your kitchen looking lovely at the same time!


Have fun!




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