10 tips for messy play

We love messy play but, you know, it’s messy, so here are some of my tips for making messes (and cleaning them).

  1. Take it outside if you can. We have a pretty big garden with a far bit of shade so we often play with paints and chalks outside.
  2. Wear old clothes. And not just the toddler. I’m not a whizz with laundry or stain removal so I keep a stock of older clothes for us to wear when we’re getting messy.
  3. Have a clean-up station. When we play outside with paint I usually have a bowl of water and cloths or the paddling pool ready to clean up in. Indoors, we carry on our play in the bath.
  4. Make cleanup part of the activity. Toddlers love to help – get them taking part in the cleaning of equipment.
  5. Use an old shower curtain. When we are using fingerpaints in the high chair or playing on the floor like in the photo above I have an old shower curtain on the floor. I can roll it up,  tossing any dirty cloths inside it, and put it straight in the washing machine.
  6. Don’t fixate on the “right” way to do things. Let your toddler explore the materials and play in their own way. It’s okay to demo something but don’t be surprised if they do something completely different.
  7. Don’t put out all the options at once. You can extend play by adding new materials. For example, when we played with cloud dough, I didn’t get out the muffin pan straight away but waited until she’d explored with the spoons and cups first.
  8. Any activity you choose may only last 5 minutes. Don’t be disappointed or disheartened. Clean up and try it again another day. Maybe your toddler was too young this time or just not in the mood for it. They also have pretty short attention spans!
  9. Whatever activity you do, supervise your little one very closely. They love to put things in their mouths. If you have a taster you’ll want to pick edible, non-toxic materials for now. One of the earliest art activities I did with Emily was using yogurt coloured with food colouring (you could make veggie dyes too).
  10. Oh and finally, don’t forget to have fun!

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