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Getting to grips with messy play

Don’t stress the mess 

Do you ever find yourself jumping in the middle to prevent playtime from getting messy? Stopping your children in what they’re doing so that you don’t have to a) change them b) wash them c) clean up a major mess d) all of the above? Recently we were at the park and Rafferty was throwing mulch onto one of the slides to watch how it fell back down. It wasn’t bothering anyone, no one was trying to come down the slide, yet it made a bit of a mess. I found myself jumping in to say ‘no.’ Another time we were painting at home and he went to paint the palms of his hand before I quickly stopped him. I soon realized that I was interrupting his natural curiosity in how things moved and felt to the touch. I started to really regret doing so. 

I started to wonder what would happen if I took a step back more often and allowed Rafferty to take the reigns. So, I did. I had to bite my tongue a few times, but it was more than worth it. And we both had fun with messy play. 

Let’s play

I learned that Rafferty wasn’t going to go mad and throw paint all across the room. Instead, he wanted to make marks on the paper in new ways. He giggled as the paint touched his hands and started to use his fingers to make flowers and circles on the paper; he was understanding shapes and objects. He pulled faces of shock and surprise as he squashed and squelched shaving foam onto a card and poured bubbly water between cups and sieves. He started to understand the difference between wet and dry, and sticky and soft. It was fun to let go and watch him experience new things with awe and delight. I discovered that there’s no right or wrong way to enjoy messy play. It’s unstructured and open-ended. They can’t make a mistake, and this builds their confidence at experimenting with new things.

Finger painting

As moms, we can put pressure on ourselves to have everything pristine and perfect. For the house to (at times) look spotless and for our children to go out in clothes that aren’t covered in paint, mud or sand. But it’s not the end of the world if they are. Sensory play allows children to unlock their imaginations and express themselves through new textures, smells and touches. There might be a few more tops added to the washing pile, but there will also be a few more adventures along the way. 

It’s time to get messy. Here’s a colorful one to start with:

Get started with messy play

1.     Fill an empty water table or sensory bin with sensitive shaving foam (more gentler on the skin). I didn’t have either of these so I used an old cardboard box. 

2.     Add food coloring to each section of foam – the brighter the better.

3.     Give your little ones paintbrushes, spoons, and whisks, and allow them to start exploring.

4.     It’s great to watch them swirl the colors together to see what new colors emerge.

Tip: If your child has sensitive skin, substitute the shaving cream for the normal bubble bath you use. Add ¼ cup of water and whisk to form bubbly peaks. 

Go on, give messy play a try and let us know the fun you get up to by hashtagging #sarasotamomsblog. The messier the better!

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