5 Messy play ideas and why we should embrace it
Felicity from The Baby Vine shares some messy play ideas and the benefits of messy play for kids.
Getting into messy play as a mum was difficult for me. Let’s face it, kids are messy enough without actually encouraging it! But as I had more messy play ideas and introduced more activities I learnt something very important: mess can be cleaned. Plus, the looks of pure delight on my daughter’s face were enough to tell me to keep doing it.
Play is so important!
Benefits of Messy Play
So what exactly are the benefits of messy play?
1. Sensory Experience
First and foremost, it is a great sensory experience for young kids. Every mealtime can be considered messy play. Let them touch their food, squish it between their fingers, squash it under their hands and rub it into their mouths. This is all a learning experience for them. They are discovering what different textures feel like, and all about the world around them.
It’s important to remember that they haven’t experienced all the sights, sounds, textures and smells around them like we have. Everything is new to them as they explore this unfamiliar world. By playing with them in a safe and secure setting, you are introducing them to the world around in the best way possible.
2. Teaching Experience
It’s true that every messy play activity can be built on and adapted to your child no matter what their age. Now that I have Cassie who is almost 4 and Vivi who is almost 2, we do a lot of activities together, and I simply extend on the play for Cassie.
“What does the playdough feel like?”
“Is that hard or soft?”
“What does it smell like? Do you like that smell?”
3. Social Skills
Messy play is a great activity to broaden your child’s social skills. Invite mothers’ group over for a play – it makes it even more worthwhile if you have friends to share it with. Kids can then explore together, passing objects between them, talking about what they are doing and engaging in the activity together with their peers, heightening the learning for all of them.
4. It’s Fun!
Last but not least, let’s not forget the fact that messy play is just straight out fun! Kids were born to be messy, so we should encourage it and let them be – the bath will be ready to clean them up afterwards. Who knows, you might even have a little fun squishing that slime between your fingers…
Messy Play Ideas
Looking to get started? Here are some of my favourite messy play activities.
1. Cloud Dough
1 cup conditioner
1 cup cornflour
One drop food colouring of your choice
These are all ingredients you are likely to have in your cupboard, which makes this one even better. If you have older kids, get them to help you with the making process. Choose a big bowl and dip those hands in. Mix the ingredients together and lay it out on a table (or the ground) for your little one to play with.
Have fun with it! You can get out any playdough cutters you have, or simply find things around the house to play with. Stick pegs, forks, leaves and anything else you can think of into it, or challenge yourself and see if you can build a snowman!
2 x cups cornflour
1 x cup water
2 x drops food colouring of your choice.
I’m going to be honest with you – I am not a slime person and we have never attempted it in our home, but I do LOVE gloop. It has a thicker consistency than slime, and it stays in its container, so the mess doesn’t spread or stick to anything.
We love to throw some of our plastic toys into the gloop (these are easy to wash afterwards), so simply pop your hands in and have a good feel around.
3. Yoghurt Paint
This is one of my all-time favourites. It is literally an art activity you can eat! When it comes to little kids, all they want to do is shove their fingers in their mouths – with this activity, you can let them.
A good tip is to pop your kids in the bath for this one! This way they can paint the bath, some paper, or anything you like and you can simply wash them off afterwards. Simple!
4. Jelly Fun
This is an activity you have to think about ahead of time, but it is worth the (very minimal) effort. Strip your kids right down for this one and let them dig away! Hide their toys inside the jelly and let them feel around for it. Once again, this is a good activity for the bath or set out a big splash mat as it does get rather messy.
Some little kids may be quite unsure about this to start with, so show them how much fun it is and get in there with them. It’s the best way to learn.
5. Shaving Cream Play
Another quick and easy activity that your kids will adore. The best part is, you can choose to make it mess-free as well. Simply squirt some shaving cream into a ziplock bag and give it to your toddler to enjoy. They can squish it about in their hands, pop it on their head and have some fun with it, while all the cream stays inside.
Of course, you can also grab a bowl and let them get their hands dirty!
Remember, messy play is fun! Embrace the mess, get down with our kids and help them explore the world – you won’t regret it.
Felicity is mum to her two daughters, Cassandra (3.5) and Vivienne (21 months) and her son Elliot (2 months). Her passion is the parenting industry and creating a community where everyone feels welcome no matter how they choose to parent. It is this passion that led to the creation of The Baby Vine.
Need some more messy play inspiration?
Check out our ideas for play when it is raining outside.