The Journal of Occupational Therapy, Schools and Early Intervention published a small study of eight participants with sensory sensitivities according to the Sensory Profile. The participants engaged in messy play either with a pretend theme or without. When pretend play was incorporated with the messy play, the participants showed improvements in the initiation of pretend play.
In the testing conditions the researchers provided meaning to the sensory materials - ie glue the sticky cotton balls onto the bunny picture, make a shaving cream mustache on the smiley face, etc.
Here are 5 other suggestions to provide meaning to messy play though pretend play:
1. Use baking materials such a cupcake pans to pretend to bake cupcakes with your sensory materials
2. Make pretend cupcakes using cupcake lines, play dough, cotton for icing and beads for sprinkles
3. Use the hands to put shaving cream on a doll and shave it off with a pretend shaver or popsicle stick.
4. Use sand to make a small playscape for Lego figures
5. Wash up dolls or plastic animals with sudsy soap and wash clothes.
What are your favorite pretend sensory play ideas?
Reference: Kristin R. S. Miller OTDOTR/L & Alexia E. Metz PhDOTR/L Pretending Enhances Engagement in Messy Play for Children with Sensory Sensitivity. Journal of Occupational Therapy, Schools, & Early Intervention. Volume 5, Issue 3-4, 2012