Preschool Adventures in Messy Play
Messy play is awesome. It’s fun, it’s easy to make child led and it benefits children in so many ways. Concerns regarding clean clothes, mess, germs and children catching ‘colds’ should be left at the door. But just in case you need them here are some responses to those concerns.
Children get dirty
Yep. Being engaged and learning through messy play means dirty clothes. But - both clothes and children can be washed. Remind parents to pack a supply of spare clothes, and to dress their child in clothes that they don’t mind getting ‘messy’.
Children will catch germs/colds
It happens - children can get sick. But they can get sick at home as well as at preschool. If children are suitably dressed, properly dried off and wash their hands afterwards - it’s a myth that messy play will be the cause of colds or flu.
Messy Play makes Mess
Sure does. And kids love mess! But early childhood educators use many common sense ways to limit mess. You can also learn to embrace messy play and get the children to “own it” like Denita Dinger at Play Counts. Most children will happily help with the clean up - to them it’s all part of the play!
But why Messy Play? What are the Benefits?
Messy play is sensory. It’s physical play, it’s exploring and it’s imagining. Children can practice fine motor skills and hand-eye coordination. They can pre-write and draw, fill and pour, feel different textures, mix and create...they can talk, and they will giggle. Language opportunities abound during messy play.
Across the curriculum, messy play gives children the chance to explore, be independent and take risks. Messy play is a great time for early childhood educators to observe interactions between children, their peers and their environment. Some children may not like the sensations of particular play - there’s an observation in itself...
What are some ideas for Messy Play?
We thought you’d never ask! For these suggestions, we went straight to the experts. Early childhood educators have tested these recipes when creating messy play experiences for preschoolers. They generally use everyday household items or nature to provide the ingredients. So mix them up - and have some fun!!!
Dirt and water - simple. Make an outdoor space with containers and tools for mixing...many early education services have “mud kitchens” specially designed for messy play. What’s for lunch?
Leaves, water, dirt, flowers, small stones - mix with sticks and imagination
Sand Play Dough
- 1 ½ cups of sand
- 1 ½ cups cornflour
- ½ cup of boiling water
Mix together and knead
Fizzy Cloud Dough
- 1 cup flour
- 1 cup baking soda
- ¼ cup vegetable oil
Combine the first three ingredients (you can mix color into the oil). Use droppers to drop vinegar onto the dough. Play with dough and watch it fizz.
Edible Finger paint
- 2 cups cornflour
- 1 cup cold water
- 4 ½ cups boiling water
Mix together cornflour and cold water, slowly add boiling water and stir. Add food coloring
* Not recommended for eating - but can be put in mouth without harmful side effects.
More Tried and Tested Educator Concoctions
Lux (soap) flakes in warm water (let sit for a couple of hours)- beat with an egg beater (add paint)
Cornflour and dishwashing liquid
Shaving foam and cornflour
Shaving foam and sand
Paper pulp (use paper from shredder, add water in a bucket the day before)
An extension of paper pulp is paper mache - add glue, sculpt & dry
Cornflour and conditioner
Flour and water paste
Flick painting or soaked cotton wool ball throwing
Dishwashing liquid (or bubble bath) water and a beater (electric or hand)
Shredded paper with hidden items
Sensory Bags - Use Ziplock bags for infants - filled with shaving foam, paint, play dough, baby oil and food coloring (make sure the bags are securely sealed).
See Mama OT for 40 Fun Sensory Bags
We want to see your messy play set ups. Share a picture of your messy play concoctions on our Educa Facebook page - you could post a before and after shot!
Looking for more messy play resources?
New Shoots Educational Resources - Recipes for Messy Play Book
See 5 tips to help parents embrace messy play at preschool from Let the Children Play for more ideas and resources.
Happy Art - The Many Benefits of Messy Play Poster