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What should my Children Wear During Messy Play?

25 June 2023

What your children should wear for messy play depends on the activity and the location. Babies from 6 months can enjoy messy play in just a nappy or vest. Obviously, if they are in the bath splashing, pouring and experimenting with water children don’t need to wear anything. Likewise in a paddling pool. It’s a sensory activity so the more their skin can feel the materials they are handling the better. The sensation of sand or grass under their feet or the temperature of water is beneficial and wonderful.

Old Clothes

Old clothes are the obvious choice for painting or food play. Kids can’t get fully into a messy activity if they are having to worry about an outfit. You could even put them in a swimsuit. Be sure you don’t mind your own clothes getting mucky either. The more involved you are, the more fun you will have and the more your child will learn. You can show them that it’s ok to touch different materials and how to have fun smearing, pouring or splashing. 

Aprons and Smocks

Aprons and smocks are available in toddler sizes. They might have pockets where they can keep a paintbrush, crayons or other materials. There are fun designs and sophisticated fabrics on the market including silicon or lightweight materials but an old adult shirt works well as a coverall. Fabrics you are able to wipe clean do make life easy. If it’s going to encourage you to organise messy play for your child then it’s worth the investment.

A long-sleeved bib is ideal when you are letting your baby handle food. A lot of it is going to end up down their front. A plastic mat on the floor makes it so much easier to clean up. You could use an old shower curtain or newspaper. Kids love dropping things on the floor over and over. They are learning cause and effect and practising motor skills.


Waterproof suits and wellies keep kids dry when out splashing in puddles. They can enjoy the mud without getting stains. In the winter, play will be cut short if they get wet and cold. You want them to be able to get in amongst it and enjoy the elements. 

Some kids don’t like getting marks or dirt on their clothes so explain to them that this is a special outfit for the activity.

Once playtime is over you will want to strip off your kids and bundle their clothes into a washing basket. A hose is ideal for rinsing off sand when your child has been in the sandpit. A basin of water where they can dip hands and feet works too.

Remember that messy play is when children learn the properties of materials and develop skills. It’s so fun for them! It also encourages their creativity and keeps them busy! If you find it daunting, try to do just a little bit once a week to begin with and build from there. If you really don’t want it happening in your house, take them to a sensory play class.

Photo by Mike Fox on Unsplash

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