Messy play has big benefits for our little one’s cognitive and physical development. While your child is having the freedom to imagine, explore and create, they are also building gross and fine motor skills to help with early writing skills and build strength!
While every parent wants to encourage their child to get messy, they MIGHT not be so excited about what comes with it…a MESS! Here are some tips for our parents to help encourage a big mess with maximum cleanliness!
- Get out the plastic and newspaper! Lay down some paper or plastic covers to rescue your floors. You might even want to bring out a cover for your child too (and maybe even yourself!) to really keep everything clean.
- Take it outside (and near a hose)! Get that chalk out! Then hose everyone down and wash it away.
- Use the bathtub — the mess is contained and you can wash away any mess. You can also turn bath time into messy play time! Just make sure to use washable materials…
- Really don’t want to have any mess at all? Use sensory bags!
- Use reverse psychology and turn clean up time into messy play time! You know what’s a BIG hit for the little ones? Cleaning your car! They think they’re making a mess with all the soap and water but they are also cleaning your car!
- Choose your materials wisely. You can have messy play with only a few materials. Example, they don’t need tubs and tubs of play doh. Just give them the amount they need. Same goes with paint!
- The most important tip of all — try to relax if things get a bit too messy! 
 “10 Tips to Keep Messy Play Clean,” Hands On As We Grow, https://handsonaswegrow.com/10-tips-to-keep-messy-play-clean/
We’re celebrating all things messy this May! Messy play (and sensory play) has a major role in early cognitive development, as well as building language and early writing skills. This kind of play is all about exploring, creating and experimenting, where there’s no agenda and just the freedom to discover!
Little Blue Truck, By Alice Schertle
“Little Blue Truck loves his friends on the farm, and he’s such a good helper when a friend gets stuck! This rhyming text with a fun use of onomatopoeias makes for an excellent read aloud! Extend your story time with some DIY “clean” mud to explore; how did the truck get so stuck?!”
DIY “Clean Mud”
- Coca Powder (for color)
- Small Toy Trucks
- Small Animals
- Tray or bowl for exploring “mud”
That’s Not My Bunny…, By Fiona Watt
“Touch, feel, pet, tickle! Babies and older children alike love a story that lets them TOUCH the story and get involved! Extend your story time by planting carrots in a spring sensory bin!”
Planting Sensory Bin
For babies: use shredded paper in tub (to avoid choking hazard), small pouring cups to explore filling and dumping, and real carrots!
For toddlers: Use uncooked rice or beans as base and big real carrots to practice planting then pulling out of the ground! Use shovels, cups and rakes for planting!
Splatter, By Diane Alber
“A fun adventure into the world of color mixing, friendship, and working together! Splatter helps up see what can happen when we work as a team. Add more fun by mixing the colors yourself with some messy finger-painting time!”
DIY Non-Toxic Finger Paint
- 6Tbs sugar
- 1tsp salt
- 1cup cornstarch
- 2cups water plus another cup for thinning if needed
- Food coloring
- 8-108 oz. mason jars or baby food jars
- Add all of the ingredients in a warm pan and stir until it is the desired consistency. If it’s thicker than you would like, add more water until it’s the consistency you would like.
- Cool to room temperature. When cooled, add to jars and mix in food coloring
Dragons Love Tacos, By Adam Rubin
“Talking about food is a great way for toddlers to be interested in exploring new things to eat! Especially if we are going to feed it to dragons! This story takes us step by step on how to throw a party for our dragon friends! Continue the play with making your own tacos OR using fresh fruits and vegetables and paint to make some artwork!”
DIY Vegetable Stamps
- Romaine lettuce
- Non-Toxic Paint
Use the vegetables as a way to explore a different way to paint! You can stamp, slide, and squish the veggies providing a great day of messy play!
Edward Gets Messy, By Rita Meade
“Do we always have to stay clean? This book explores how fun it can be to get messy! After all, you can always clean up after! Have your own messy fun just like Edward with some Rainbow Spaghetti!”
DIY Rainbow Spaghetti
- Cook the spaghetti as you regularly would.
- Drain as usual. Rinse with cool water while still in colander to keep it from sticking together.
- Once drained and cooled, add a small (very small) amount of oil and toss.
- Add a few drops of food coloring and mix well
- Lay spaghetti out on parchment paper to dry for about 1 hour
By Lauren OBrien
As a parent of a little one, we know you’ve done your research on the importance of building early literacy at a young age.
You’ve built literacy into your daily routine — maybe over breakfast, during bath time, and that nightly story before bed. But, do you know the importance of exposing your child to storytime outside of the home? Specifically, storytimes where your child is part of a group and there is someone else reading?
When you take your child to a group storytime, they are actually building DIFFERENT early literacy skills than the ones you work on at home!
- Listening to another adult narrate a story. Everyone reads differently — different tones, different character voices, etc. By watching and listening to another person read, you child is learning social queues and body language expression.
- Allowing others to pick the story. Not only does this mean YOU could get to hear a new story (aren’t you tired of reading Cinderella for the 100th time?), but your child gets to hear new authors and genres that maybe they wouldn’t otherwise have been exposed to otherwise.
- Building social skills. Reading in a group exposes your little one to the experience of participating and sharing their ideas. It gives them an opportunity to practice their listening skills, use learned vocabulary/language skills and build confidence.
- Learning new things…for you! That’s right! During story time, you might learn new rhymes, songs, reading games that you can do at home.
April’s theme is LITERACY. We’ve put together some easy tips for your family to implement in to your daily routine to help build those early literacy skills and develop young readers!
- Start ’em young…really young! Studies show that early literacy skills begin immediately! It helps with brain development and lays the foundation for language and writing skills.
- Make it a daily routine. Making reading part of your daily routine (ex. read two books at bedtime) not only establishes it as the “norm” but also creates an activity that both of you look forward to. They also find comfort in having routines.
- Try different textured and colored books for babies. Cloth or board books and brightly colored or high-contrast illustrations are great for babies as they begin to interact with the book that you are reading.
- Talk to your baby as much as possible! When you talk, you are helping your baby learn different words. So, tell them all about everything! What you’re cooking, what you’re seeing while driving, what the weather is…it all helps!
- And, for toddlers, have conversations with them! Having a conversation with your toddler and encouraging them to participate in the conversation, helps develop their communication skills. Example: Ask them how they are feeling or what they want for dinner (and why!).
- Ask questions while you read. Make your daily reading an interactive and fun experience by asking questions while you read the story. You can even pause before a character’s name and let them complete the sentence!
- Read the same book 100 times. By about age 3, toddlers will be able to complete sentences in stories they know. Reading those favorite books over and over helps them learn through repetition and familiarity.
- Point out familiar words and sounds. Children begin to recognize letters by age 4. Point out words that begin with the same letter of their first name. This will help them associate certain words with that letter.
- Be a Role Model. If your child sees you reading books it will help them develop their own love of reading.
This April we are highlighting early literacy! The journey of learning to read and write starts long before your little one is actually ready to do either. In fact, early literacy begins in their first three years! Your child’s interaction with books and reading will provide the foundation to develop critical early literacy skills.
Literacy begins with a love of books so let’s whip out those books and teach our children the joy of reading! We’ve picked books for ALL AGES!
The Pout-Pout Fish, By Deborah Diesen
Repetitive language in story books builds oral language skills. Pout-Pout Fish’s sing-songy text repeats over and over making for a fun educational read aloud that your toddler or preschooler will repeat again and again!
Jungly Tails, By Jollybaby
A full sensory experience! Introduce your babies to books as early as possible. This soft squishy sturdy book can be enjoyed in tummy time or simply allow baby to explore with their hands and even their mouth! That’s how they learn!
Wake Up, Magic Duck!, By Moira Butterfield
Storytime doesn’t have to stop during bath time! Magic Bath Books bring literacy and learning into the tub! Magic Duck has a special surprise when she gets wet…she changes colors! Enjoy the fun that comes with books that are interactive and inspire babies and toddler to love reading!
Polar Bear, Polar Bear, What Do you Hear?, By Bill Martin Jr/ Eric Carle
Children love repetition and this book is full of memory building writing. Your child will be able to repeat the story back to you! Build early literacy by choosing high quality texts like this one!
Baby’s First Cloth Book: Zoo, By Nosy Crow
Charming cloth books with high contrast images are perfect for baby’s first reads. This book can also go with you when you’re on the go. Its convenient Velcro strap lets those tiny hands keep “reading” wherever you are!
By Lauren O’Brien
Earlier this month it was the King of Rhyming’s birthday – Dr. Seuss! Both kids and adults alike love the rhyming fun of Dr. Seuss, but there was a method to his rhythmic madness!
The Benefits of Dr. Seuss and Rhyming:
- For Newborns: Dr. Seuss’s prose is literally like music to your baby’s ears.
- For Toddlers:
- Improved memory and cognitive development – the short rhythmic passages are easy for children to digest and understand, committing Dr. Seuss’ educational message to memory!
- Increased vocabulary — Dr. Seuss’ use of made up words actually mirrors the way kids speak! And, even though “barbaloots” isn’t a real word, those pretend words help your little one explore language and learn new words.
- An early love of books and storytelling — Dr. Seuss’ wacky words and ideas delights young readers with their ridiculousness. Did you say GREEN EGGS?! Little ones love the extreme silliness of his stories.
- Better listening skills — Dr. Seuss is anything but boring! His crazy stories keep the little one’s attention, anxiously waiting for the next silly word to come out of your mouth!
So grab a book, find a nook and take a look at your favorite Dr. Seuss stories! Because it’s aways a good time to rhyme!
By Lauren O’Brien
There’s nothing like blowing bubbles — it doesn’t matter how old you are. But, bubbles provide more than just a fun time! They are the PERFECT playtime activity, and we are big into bubble play here at Gymboree Play & Music, because bubbles help children of all ages with key development skills! Check out all the benefits of bubbles!
Bring your little one to your local Gymboree Play & Music and enjoy endless bubbles, while helping your child build crucial early childhood development skills!
This month we’re paying homage to the greatest rhymer of them all – Dr. Seuss!
Not only does rhyming and wordplay help with early literacy development, it’s a lot of fun! Remember that regular reading is important for your little one so let’s get to rhyming!
One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish
By Dr. Seuss
Nonsense rhymes with silly words create for an entertaining read-aloud with this classic Dr. Seuss favorite!
Chicka, Chicka Boom Boom
By Bil Martin Jr and John Archambault
This classic alphabet rhyming book creates a fun read-aloud that children will want to hear again and again! The rhymes are quick and fun and easy for little ones to remember!
Is Your Mamma a Llama?
By Deborah Guarino
A wonderful rhyming story where children can finish the rhymes! Beautiful illustrations and the rhyming text supports teaching children how to make predictions.
Brown Bear, Brown Bear What Do You See?
By Bill Martin Jr
Simply a classic! A “singsongy” text will capture children of all ages, while bright simple pictures will delight babies, toddlers, and preschoolers alike!
By Nina Laden
Cut out images add to the anticipation of who is peeking through! An interactive rhyming book that supports making predictions and teaches children how language works!