Mind the Mess


I was recently chatting to some parents in one of my mini classes and we all agreed that children seem to fall into two distinct categories when it comes to getting messy: Those who love it and dive straight in, happily spreading paint all over their hands (and arms) and taking great delight in it; and those who become tense at the very thought of putting their fingers in paint and endlessly worry about the smallest paint blob on a finger.  Often it is assumed that mess-averse children have mess-averse parents but in my experience this is rarely the case.  It seems that some children naturally enjoy this kind of play and others are much more cautious.

As I am sure I have previously mentioned, messy play is important to the development of young children.  It has so many benefits.  It can help with language skills, mathematical development, motor skills development to name but a few.  Don’t worry if you have a little one who isn’t keen on mess but it is worth persisting and encouraging them to get involved.  Here are a few ideas that may help:

  • Try to tap into what your child really enjoys.  For example, if they love cars but are wary of paint, why not let them drive their cars through some paint and make tyre tracks on paper?
  • Make sure that you continue to offer messy options even if they don’t seem keen.  Just popping a squirt of shaving foam on a tray may be enough to trigger their curiosity.
  • Let them see you getting messy.  Modelling is so important with little ones and they need reassurance that it is o.k (and even fun) to get messy.
  • Avoid negative language when doing messy activities such as ‘dirty’.   This can be off-putting and create negative associations.
  • Let them see other children getting messy and enjoying it.  In our classes this has really helped some children come around to the joy of mess!
  • Keep wipes at hand so that they can see nearly all mess is easily remedied.  Don’t over-use though as this can compound the problem.
  • Offer lots of different activities so that they can find one they enjoy.  Some children don’t like glue but are happy with paint.  It is worth experimenting.
  • Play-dough is great way in to messy play as it is feels odd but doesn’t leave any mess behind.
  • Don’t force it.  Gentle encouragement will help them find their own way.

Happy creating! x


2 Comments on “Mind the Mess”

  1. Do you think messy play can be encouraged in school-aged children? Or have we lost the opportunity gap?!


  2. Yes, definitely. Any child can be encouraged to find messy play fun if it taps into their interests. I think that teachers are often a bit mess-averse too though so it’s probably up to you to offer messy activities at home!


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