I am a massive fan of messy play. My daughter loves to make a mess; you can tell she's had a good day at nursery by the number of plastic bags of dirty clothes in her bag at the end of the day! 

Messy play is good for children. While we parents sit and squirm at the mess on the floor, on the walls, in the hair, our children are learning about the world. They're experiencing different textures and properties, developing hand/eye co-ordination and fine motor skills, and generally having fun.

You might balk at the idea of actively encouraging your child to make a mess, but seeing the enjoyment they get from messy play definitely makes it worth it.

Here are some simple, cheap ideas for messy play:

1. Cooked Spaghetti. 

Coked spaghetti is brilliant fun as it is. Add in some food colouring (just stir it in once it's cooked and drained) and maybe some flavouring, and you've got endless entertainment! We did this at the weekend, and I learned the hard way that it's also a good idea to put a mat on the floor! I'd left the spahgetti to drain in a colander, and when I tipped it out onto the table it was in a big lump, which my daughter really enjoyed separating. As you can see from the photo though, most of it ended up on the floor!

2. Cloud Dough

Mix flour with oil (edible oil, if your child is at that stage where everything goes into the mouth!) and some food colouring, and you've got a fantastic dough that will even last a few days in a sealed container. It crumbles a little like sand, but can be squished together into larger lumps and is great for rubbing one's hands in!

3. Bubble Dough

Cornflour, plus washing up liquid, liquid soap, old shampoo or that shower gel your gran gave you for Christmas last year. Winning combination - it's great to play with and mould into shapes, the soap gives it colour and a lovely smell as well. A fabulous way to play!

4. Gloop

Every child loves gloop, and it's the easiest thing in the world. Mix some cornflour with some water and food colouring, and you've got gloop - looks like a liquid, but when you try to stir it/pick it up, it's a solid. My daughter is completely confounded by this stuff every time we play with it.

5. Rice

Yup, just rice. You can either leave it au naturel as it is, or you can colour it using food colour and vinegar (1 cup rice, 1 tbsp vinegar, as much food colour as you want, mix it together in a food bag they lay on greaseproof paper to dry). Great in an activity table or to pour between pots at the table. My daughter loves the noise it makes when poured onto the laminate flooring, and also the noise when Mummy vacuums it all up afterwards! And if you're a bit squeamish about the mess involved in messy play, you can put some in an empty drink bottle and use it as a shaker instead. 


You don't need to be Mary Poppins or Mum of the Year to do messy play with your kids; you just need to be able to suspend your need to clean for an hour or so... and sometimes it's worth having a bath ready and waiting.

You may also want to learn from my mistake, and get yourself down to the local supermarket for some plastic tablecloths from the party section - spread one on the floor before you begin, and then just wrap up the mess and chuck it all in the bin afterwards. 


Do you have any other messy play ideas? Please do leave a comment and share with the rest of us!


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