Toddler

If mess makes you stress…

10 TIPS for messy play activities

I get it….really I do get it. More so than ever now that i’m living in a rental apartment but the fact still remains, the benefits of messy play far outweigh the inconvenience of tidying it all up. Read on to find out how we tackle it and why I think you should try it…

Let’s start with the benefits of sensory play:

  • Boosts brain development via the nerve connections.
  • It boosts language skills, cognitive function, problem solving skills and social interaction.
  • Helps children to explore the world around them.
  • Stimulates the core senses.
  • Develops both fine and gross motor skills.
  • It can help to calm anxious children.
  • Enhances memory function.

Consider how messy play evolves…

Children need to go through the messy exploratory phase to get to the other side. Here is a breakdown of how we have introduced art sessions to cater for the different stages – these are all photographs of Miss Z who is currently 3.5 years old. Please note that I am not at all saying that every child will go through these stages at the same time, this is just me showing you how the art sessions I have done with Z have evolved over time.

9 months old – Squish bag painting

Mess-free, providing you use a strong sandwich bag but it still allows little ones to get a feel for the paints. Whilst Z was 9 months here, you could use it with much younger babies as part of tummy time.

11 months old – yogurt painting

Edible paints are advisable for babies and toddlers who still put everything in their mouths. They can explore without you getting anxious!

18 months old – experimenting with non-toxic paints

Once out of the mouthing phase, start to introduce non-toxic (preferably washable) paints.

2 years – exploring envelopment schema

For a long time, Z wanted to completely cover herself in paint. Sessions would start with using a paintbrush (or other tool) then develop into full body coverage. Hence why she is just in a nappy!

3 years – Intentional Painting

Somewhere between ages two and three, Z got less messy and more intentional. It happened slowly and gradually. By three, she was choosing paint colours and tools herself.

3.5 years – Independence & Understanding

With access to art materials, Z can now choose exactly what she wants AND clean up after she has finished. Note she is not wearing a smock because she very rarely makes a mess.

Here’s how we tackle it…

Just pin this image for future reference!

Whilst it might seem painful at first…

Always, ALWAYS get them to help with the clean up. In the beginning, this might just simply be giving them a damp cloth to wipe the floor or table with, but eventually they will be able to clean up paint palettes and brushes. Not only is this super helpful, but a fun sensory experience too.

I firmly believe in this step. I taught far too many year 6 children who did not have the faintest clue that they needed to clean up after painting. We learn by doing.

To conclude:

You have to go through this phase…

To get to this phase…

Want more?

Check out the following links:

Mouse Paint

Painting with Little Ones

Yogurt Paint for Babies

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British primary school teacher and mum of 2.

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