I want to see the “after” photos of those perfect “messy play” posts on social media. Perfectly colour matched blobs of paint or slime poised under a grinning gummy baby smile, invite us to venture into the world of messy play at home. So many parents I speak to laugh about the 4 minutes of peace they got before the hour of mess they had to clean up.
Messy play without a purpose is just plain messy!
The first secret to successful messy play is to know developmentally how your baby is likely to play, and why. For example, 1-year-olds don’t have the hand control to play with play dough rollers and cutters but love poking objects into play dough.
Your 2-year-old will begin to squeeze and make shapes. They can make basic “animals” by adding paddle pop sticks or eyes. The second secret of messy play is to join them in the play. When we stay nearby and add play ideas when attention fades, they will stay at the activity longer. When presented with a similar activity next time they will try out all your ideas and play alone longer. For example, if you let them see you hide interesting objects inside the play dough, or poke objects in a line, your 1-year-old will search for the object or add to your “fence.” If you roll out the play dough flat with their hands on the roller, then model making prints or cutting shapes, roll snakes for them, your 2-year-old will attempt this on their own and be able to do this independently at 3.
You provide the purpose. The purpose of play is to learn new skills.
If left alone, without your guidance, they will simply break up and drop the play dough on the floor. And come back to you, while you clean up the mess. Because messy play without a purpose is just a mess.
The third secret to successful messy play is the right equipment. Water play in an oven tray on the floor only works in Instagram photos. We all know the first thing bub does is lean on the edge and flip it all over the kitchen floor. And how many of us have sticky taped zip lock lunch bags to the floor full of baby oil and food colouring only to have a hole in it in minutes? Because messy play without suitable equipment is just a mess.We discovered reusable silicone zip lock bags and purpose made sensory tables. We love to include ideas you can manage at home as well as those you would probably never attempt without a professional cleaner on the payroll.
Before you make the mess at home, you can see the purpose with us. We carefully think through how each age group will interact. In fact, we change certain elements of set up for each class.
Come Bee Messy with us.