Messy play

23. Messy Play

Messy play may sound like a terrible idea when you’re already battling the regular mess that comes with toddlers. But done the right way, it doesn’t have to mean too much damage, and you’ll really reap the rewards.

There’s a great deal of overlap between messy play and sensory play, number 53 in The 100. But we believe that there is a important difference.

Messy play allows children to play without limits, to splash and throw, to act without worrying about the clear-up afterwards. Sensory play, on the other hand, can be more contained. The materials might be similar, but the focus is on exploring unusual textures and sensations.

Messy play can take many forms, and is often spontaneous. Look out for it and try to resist the urge to step in, to minimise the mess, to stay in control. Scraping away at the flower beds might become a full-blown archaeological dig; watering the plants descends into a water fight, or aiming the hose at the house to put out a fire…

New activities are more interesting. Doing something for the first time, something that is exciting, is both memorable and instructive. That’s why at nursery they do all kinds of things you wouldn’t dream of trying at home, like blowing paint through straws or filling a builder’s tray with slime.

What do you have right now in your home that could be used for messy play? You don’t need much space or even a garden. Sit the children in an empty bath, give them each a can of shaving foam and retreat to a safe distance. Brilliant fun and the perfect antidote to a rainy day stuck indoors.

You’ll find they’re delighted by the sensations and the freedom to get messy without reproach.

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