Parents! I am writing this article mainly to persuade you to embrace the mess. Our modern lives can be chaotic: full-time work, chores, play dates, extra curricular activities. We humans are time poor: all of this can mean that additional, purposeful mess can be extremely unappealing!
BUT, I implore you to give in to your inner child and celebrate creative mess making with your kiddos. In our household, at least twice a week, we give in to the gloriousness of creative play. We use paint, flour, rice, grains, sand and water (although not all at once!) to explore the senses through play*.
Sensory play is beneficial for your child’s development. Here are a few reasons why:
- It helps to boost brain development via the nerve connections.
- It boosts language skills, cognitive function, problem solving skills and social interaction.
- It helps children to explore the world around them.
- It stimulates the core senses.
- It helps with development of both fine and gross motor skills.
- It can help to calm anxious children.
- It enhances memory function.
But if the mess makes you stress, here’s some advice:
- Start off small. Don’t attempt a grand ambitious project if this is your first time with messy play. For example, try finger/ hand painting in the confines of the highchair.
- Go outdoors if the weather allows.
- ️ Choose the kitchen or bathroom for activities so you are close to the sink!
- ️Always keep baby wipes on hand for the initial clean up – they are magic!
- ️Invest in a giant paint tray/ tuff spot tray or use plastic sheeting to catch any spills
- ️Close any doors to avoid an escapee (I speak from experience here! )
- ️Choose old clothes or just a nappy if the weather is warm – the nappy is for the toddler, obviously not yourself!
- ️If in doubt, use washable non-toxic paint and ‘taste-safe’ items
Some ideas to try:
Whipped cream and food dye…
Tip: put the mixture into muffin tins so that its more contained. This is a great one for younger ones to try!
Shaving foam and food dye…
Tip: the less food dye you use, the easier it comes off the skin!
Liquid watercolours and pipettes…
Tip: Use only a tiny amount of watercolours to water if you’re worried about the clean up!
Items from the kitchen…
Tip: Use unwanted items rather than making a special trip to the supermarket. Click here for more food-based play ideas.
Printing with food…
Tip: use up old fruit or vegetables by turning them into a stamper. This print was created using orange halves.
Tip: use older craft materials (such as the shredded tinsel shown here) and give them a new lease of life!
Paint with leaves…
Tip: both leaves and feathers make for great painting tools!
Tip: whilst this is the easiest to try, stick to outdoors or even the bath/ sink to minimise mess!
*Note: It goes without saying, but please make sure your child is developmentally ready before trying these ideas! Don’t use small objects if they have a tendency to put everything in their mouths and never ever leave your child unsupervised whilst they play!