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Ways to Make Messy Play More Fun

25 June 2023

There’s lots of potential for fun when you do messy play - squishing food, splattering paint, squelching mud, sloshing water. However, while some little ones take to it like a duckling to water, others might need more encouragement or changes made to activities, or might simply get bored quickly. Here are some suggestions of how to make it more fun:

Bear in mind sensory tolerance

All children are different, and your child may already be showing a preference for some activities and sensations over others. Some little ones don’t like being wet, or touching sticky things. Try a range of textures and temperatures - they may prefer warm water to cold. If they don’t like wet things, start with dry ones. Introduce different textures gradually and don’t worry if they never take to certain sensations, just focus on having fun with what they do like. 

Incorporate their interests

If your child has a particular interest in something, try to integrate that into the activity, and include their favourite toys (if they’re waterproof and washable). For example, you could bury plastic dinosaurs in the sandpit for them to dig up - a great opportunity to explain palaeontology! If they like shiny things, try using edible glitter and sparkly materials like kitchen foil. 

Try a new location

If you have always done messy play at home, why not try going to a park, the beach, or a messy play class? Being outdoors, there are more opportunities for sensory experiences and also learning about nature. At the beach, there’s endless sand and water, plus driftwood, shells and seaweed to explore. If you go to a class, you can try activities you might not have the materials or space for at home, plus there’s other children to play with and both you and your child can make new friends. 

Make it social

Make it a social event! Invite friends or family with young children and play together. You can also get older brothers or sisters involved, as they are important role models for their younger siblings. The kids will be able to practise their social skills - communication and sharing. You could set up several activities at once if you have space, and let the little ones move between them. 

Use food

You may have been admonished, “Don’t play with your food” as a child, but when it comes to messy play, it should be encouraged. So many food items which have interesting textures for your child to play with. Cooked spaghetti is great fun and trying to pick it up helps develop their fine motor skills. You can also add food colouring or cocoa powder to make it more visually exciting. Try foods like jelly and custard for sweet, squishy fun. Look for recipes to make your own playdough or slime from regular kitchen ingredients like flour, cornflour, oil and water. You can also get your child involved with baking, for example kneading dough and using biscuit cutters - then you can both enjoy the results!

Photo by Christine Tutunjian on Unsplash

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