We love messy and sensory play in our house, and I get a lot of inspiration from Pinterest, but I find that a lot of the amazing-looking ideas can be very expensive to set up. Therefore, whilst I do buy the occasional special item, I mostly try to stick to activities that I can do with stuff lying around the house!
One idea that I had seen set up at A’s pre-school (another brilliant source of inspiration at the moment) was a farmyard scene using hay, straw, sawdust, and toy animals. I loved this idea but, as we own neither a farm nor indeed any form of pet, a small amount of hay/straw/sawdust is not something that we have easy access to. D lets me get away with quite a lot “in the name of messy play”, but I imagine that purchasing a bag of hay/straw/sawdust from the shop and bringing it into our tiny house may be taking it one step too far. So I was so happy when I walked into pre-school on another occasion and saw the same farmyard set up using shredded wheat instead. Now shredded wheat is something that we do have in the house and, as neither the children nor the husband are particularly interested in actually eating it, I decided that it could be played with instead!
E and I set the scene up while A was at pre-school. We added some blue material to be water and green material to be a field, as well as some other items that we found in the bin (why not?!). I also took inspiration from the wonderful Cat from Squidge and Boo and decided to add some building blocks (to act as fences), and other items from the cupboard (I found a few puy lentils, as well as some dried pasta and barley).
I then asked E to put the animals where he wanted them to live. He put the ducks in the water, the rabbits and cats on the grass, the pigs in the puy lentil pig sty, and then the horses, cows and sheep in the shredded wheat “hay”.
We talked about the noises that each animal makes, and what each animal might like to eat. He then pretended to feed the horses both out of his hand and from the ground. After this he played freely for a while. Firstly, he added a farmer and a truck (tractor) to the scene and opened the farm gates to let the tractor in and out of the fields.
He then played with the animals and the farmer, repeating the animal noises and making the farmer talk to the animals. He really stuck to the shredded wheat field though!
Eventually he noticed the feel of the puy lentils and started running his hands through the pile, and slowly sprinkling them over his fingers.
It took him a surprisingly long time to realise that most of the things in the tray were actually edible and, once he realised, I struggled to keep everything out of his mouth. He particularly liked the dry, very shredded, shredded wheat (maybe this is where I have been going wrong with breakfast? Next time I will just crumble a bit into a bowl and feed it to him dry…)! Once he had had enough of play he just decided to get into the tray and slide through it! Admittedly, that is when the whole thing became quite messy!
When A came home from pre-school she immediately wanted to play and, as always, went straight to her play kitchen to get some spoons and pans. She mixed a bit of everything together and served it as lunch. Duck with a side of green vegetables and pasta anyone?!
I loved this farmyard play and it has so much potential. I really want to try it again with a different range of sensory materials. I think Rice Krispies would make a good alternative to sawdust!