Why Mess Is Best!

Making a Mess is What We Like Best!

Hey there! I’m Sian from Teach Investigate Play. You may or may not follow me on social media, but if you do, then you’ll know that I have a high tolerance level of arty mess made by toddlers. I’m rather blasé about hands and feet that are covered in paint which is not, I confess, something that everyone can handle.

I am writing this article mainly to persuade you to embrace the mess. Perhaps you’re terrified about mess on the floor or all over clothes. Maybe you just don’t have the time to deal with the clean-up.  Our modern lives can be chaotic: full-time work, chores, play dates, extra-curricular activities all mean that messy play or messy art can be extremely unappealing!

BUT, I implore you to give in to your inner child and celebrate creative mess making with your kiddos. In our household, at least twice a week, we give in to the gloriousness of creative play. We use paint, flour, rice, grains, sand and water (although not all at once!) to explore the senses through play*.

Sensory play is beneficial for your child’s development. Here are a few reasons why:

  • It helps to boost brain development via the nerve connections.
  • It boosts language skills, cognitive function, problem solving skills and social interaction.
  • It helps children to explore the world around them.
  • It stimulates the core senses.
  • It helps with development of both fine and gross motor skills.
  • It can help to calm anxious children.
  • It enhances memory function.

But if the mess makes you stress, here’s some advice:

  • Start off small. Don’t attempt a grand ambitious project if this is your first time with messy play. For example, try finger/ hand painting in the confines of the highchair.
  • Go outdoors if the weather allows.
  • Choose the kitchen or bathroom for activities so you are close to the sink!
  • Always keep baby wipes on hand for the initial clean up – they are magic!
  • Invest in a giant paint tray/ tuff spot tray or use plastic sheeting to catch any spills
  • Close any doors to avoid an escapee (I speak from experience here! )
  • Choose old clothes or just a nappy if the weather is warm – the nappy is for the toddler, obviously not yourself!
  • If in doubt, use washable non-toxic paint and ‘taste-safe’ items



Some Ideas to try:


Natural Yoghurt and food dye

This is good option for the very young as a first foray into messy art activities. You can also try whipped cream or a mixture of cornflour and water along with the food dye. The dairy options wont leave you with a lasting piece of artwork, but they are super fun!

 Tip: put the mixture into muffin tins so that its more contained. This is a great one for younger ones to try as it is technically edible.



Shaving foam

We love using shaving foam for messy play activities! You can opt to use it by itself or with a smidge of food colouring. Here we had a birthday party for a kangaroo!

 Tip: the less food dye you use, the easier it comes off the skin!


Wet Chalk and pipettes

This is a great option for hot days when you want to get outside. Simply wet a wooden or concrete surface and draw over with chalk. With the addition of pipettes (available from most craft stores) you’ve also provided a great fine motor workout too!


 Tip: The more water you use, the more ‘paint like’ the chalk will become!


Playing with Food

The kitchen provides endless resources for messy play. We often use rice or lentils as a base for our small worlds.

Tip: Use unwanted items rather than making a special trip to the supermarket.


Printing with food:

Printing with food is a suprisingly theraputic experience! All you need is some fruit vegetables that a past their best and some non-toxic paints.

Tip: use up old fruit or vegetables by turning them into a stamper. This print was created using orange halves. 


Paint with Nature:

Leaves, flowers or feathers make excellent paintbrushes and are much, much cheaper than the real deal!


Tip: Go outside to get the full nature experience!


Get wet:

I’ve saved the easiest option for last! We tend to fill clear tubs from Ikea with water and a few sea creatures for a mini ocean world.


Tip: whilst this is the easiest to try, stick to outdoors or even the bath/ sink to minimise mess!


Happy playing!

Sian x

*Note: It goes without saying, but please make sure your child is developmentally ready before trying these ideas! Don’t use small objects if they have a tendency to put everything in their mouths and never ever leave your child unsupervised whilst they play!

A version of this blog post first appeared on www.teachinvestigateplay.com





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