Love it or hate it, messy play is a fantastic way for babies and children to learn, explore and express themselves. I have always loved messy play and from Ellie being very young have had various forms of messy play going on.
I think our messy play journey started when Ellie started weaning, we did baby led weaning so there was always a mess when it came to food!
I believe messy play has endless amounts of benefits for babies and young children. They start to develop gross motor skills and lead onto fine motor skills as they start to pick things up and use their hands to explore. Ellie’s language is amazing and I believe that doing messy play from such a young age has played a big part in her speech development; talking about the feel, smell and taste of the food stuffs, exploring with her feet, using utensils to help manipulate the messy play and describe the sounds it makes.
I do think you either enjoy messy play or you don’t! I have hundreds of photo’s of Ellie covered in mud, rice, pasta, shaving foam, paint, angel delight…you name it, we’ve played with it!
When Ellie was younger we played mostly with food, she would put it in her mouth so was much safer and we had laminate wood flooring so was really easy to clean up when we had finished. Watching her feel the consistency through squeezing her hands together, trailing her fingers through it and stamping her feet in it was lovely. It sounds strange, but watching her explore and discover was amazing to watch, you could see the look of concentration on her face each time she was presented with something new (she probably wondered what on earth I was giving her this time!). When she was a bit older we started to bring out the paint and shaving foam which is always lots of fun!
If you want to try messy play but aren’t too keen on the mess in your own home, Children’s centres have some brilliant sessions. Before Ellie could walk we attended the local Sure Start centre messy play on a Friday morning, there was always plenty to do and the only cleaning up I had to do was that of my own child…perfect! We played with what seemed like a forest full of shredded paper, paint, play dough, shaving foam, food and lots more.
Our cleanest messy play dates was always with water. It is the simplest thing to do and Ellie would play with a bowl of water for just as long as she would a pan full of spaghetti. I would put different materials or utensils in for her to play with, sometimes I would colour the water or put bubbles in but plain water was always a hit.
As you can see we are a messy family and love to get our hands dirty! As Ellie gets older messy play gets more interesting; we have a mud kitchen outside in the back garden which is perfect for her age, we have play dough in the play kitchen, we do lots of baking and generally experiment with whatever we can find! My Pinterest is full of hints, tips and ideas for messy play.
We even played with Ellie’s first birthday cake!