Summer Tactile Play: It's time to get messy

by FS&TS

By Katrina Salo-Bartz, MA, OTR/L 

Making tactile recipes is a great way to work on a variety of important skills like using two hands together, scanning the environment, problem solving, strength, pretend play, etc. Exposing your child to a variety of textures and allowing them to play with their hands, arms, legs and feet can be a stepping-stone to helping them learn to tolerate being barefoot and different textures of clothing. Allow your children to get messy and have fun; this may be easiest to do in the kitchen or an area of you home that you don’t have carpet. If you have a big mess when you are done, it’s a wonderful opportunity to have your children help you clean up too! They can do the dishes (plastic ones), sweep the floor and wipe the table; it’s great practice and heavy work!  Below are a few of my favorite recipes to get you started. Remember, have fun, be creative and get MESSY!! 

Ice Cream Doh

  •  ¾ cup of cornstarch
  • 6 tbsp. of conditioner

It looks and feels a little crumbly initially, keep mixing and experiment with more cornstarch and/or conditioner until it forms into a ball. If it’s too crumbly, add conditioner, if it’s too sticky add cornstarch. Remember it doesn’t have to be perfect, just fun!

Magic Mixture

  • 1 cup of cornstarch
  • ½ cup of water
  • Food coloring

Dump a cup of cornstarch onto a cookie sheet. You can spray the cornstarch with water from a squirt bottle if you want to work on fine motor strength, or you can pour the water on top.  The mixture should be firm in the pan, but when you hold it “melt” out of your hand.  You can let it dry and re-use it later by just adding more water. For some pretend play, add in some animals or cars and get playing!


  • 2 cups of warm water
  • 1 tbsp. of Borax (can find in laundry isle)
  • 1 cup of glue
  • Food coloring
  • 2 medium sized bowls

In each bowl add 1 cup of warm water. To one of the bowls add the 1 tbsp. of Borax and stir until mostly dissolved. In the other bowl, add the 1 cup of glue and food coloring, stir. Once you have stirred the glue and dissolved the Borax, mix these two together. This is where the fun begins! Use your hands and squish the glue in the water until it forms a ball. Pull this out of the excess water and put it on your table. Have fun mixing and squishing this goop! If it gets on clothes or carpet, just a little vinegar and it will come right out.