We are all about the messy sensory play activities at the moment, especially now that I am on holidays and have plenty of time to prepare everything and more importantly, clean up the messy aftermath! Last week I had a crazy idea to turn a vase into shaving cream Christmas tree and it was ridiculously fun – for the kids and me! Then this week I managed to turn one of our latest favourite sensory activities – jelly – into a Christmas tree too, because you know, Christmas.
To say Paige and Samuel loved this is an understatement! They spent about half an hour after dinner squishing, squeezing and scooping the jelly. Paige made it rain jelly, and Samuel taste-tested it until his little heart was content!
This did take a little bit of prep work to set up, but keep reading to see the ‘quick and easy’ option if you want the same amount of fun, just without the prep.
I only used two packets of jelly for this activity – one lime and one strawberry, but when it came time to make it I realised that was nowhere near enough! So I used powdered gelatin that I found in the back of the cupboard to make up the rest of the liquid. I just followed the instructions to make an extra two litres of liquid to each packet of jelly. The colour was still vibrant enough that I didn’t add any extra colour to the mixture, but you can always add a few drops of food colouring if you need. Just make sure you don’t add too much – I made that mistake a couple of months back and ended up with two children stained green. Oops!
I made up the lime jelly first and poured it into one of our clear oven dishes. If you’re a bit worried about using glass with your little one, then a plastic container will do fine too, but I knew I would be closely supervising Paige and Samuel so I was happy to use glass.
Once the jelly was set, I cut a Christmas tree out of paper and carefully laid it on top of the jelly. I used a sharp knife to cut around the tree then carefully spooned out the excess jelly. I made up the strawberry jelly mixture then put it in the freezer to quickly cool down before I poured it in. Apparently I was a bit too eager, because it was still a tad warm and the edges of the green jelly started to melt. But regardless, I was still pretty pleased with the end result!
And now for the quick way to do it… Remember the excess green jelly I scooped out? Well don’t throw it away! I also poured the extra red mixture into another container to set in the fridge. So when I needed to quickly set something up for Paige while Samuel napped (maybe to give me some quiet time so I could write this post.. #reallife), I scooped all the extra jelly into the glass dish, threw in a few pom poms and added some mini pots and spoons. Paige spent about twenty minutes stirring and mixing, making jam, pancakes, cakes and soup while I spent those twenty uninterrupted minutes working on the laptop. #bliss.
And now for the mess.
Obviously there’s going to be mess. Especially when you’re working with a 16 month old who likes to throw. But that’s half the fun! Just don’t let it put you off and make sure you have a clean-up plan! I could trust Paige not to throw jelly everywhere when she played with it herself, which meant I was more than happy to do it inside. I set her up in the kitchen – our kitchen has lino flooring so no chance of staining any carpet! – but I did still put a couple of rugs down in case any did find its way on to the floor (and as soon as she finished, I chucked them into the wash). I also had her steps set up in the kitchen so she had access to the sink to wash her hands when she was finished and didn’t need to wander around the house dripping jelly everywhere.
It was a different story when Samuel was involved though! The last time we did jelly sensory play we did it in the laundry and I was still finding jelly about three weeks later – there was no way I was making that mistake again! So we headed outside. And luckily we did, because jelly went everywhere! Once they were finished I rinsed their hands under the hose to get rid of the excess jelly then we headed straight inside for a bath. Nick finished bathing them while I cleaned up outside by hosing the table down, then gave everything else a quick wash inside to get rid of the stickiness. Easy!
If you want more great tips of managing mess, head over to the Playful Little Learner’s latest podcast where Amy shares her ideas on her mess managing strategies. And with four kids of her own, she certainly knows a thing or two!!
And don’t forget to head over to our Instagram for more Christmas activities!