From:  Julie Hassell

Tip: Looking Beyond the Mess of ‘Messy Play’

The thought of messy or ‘sensory’ play sends many parents into meltdown – all that glitter, slime, shaving foam, beans or mud being smeared all over the walls and trodden into carpets is often too off-putting to even be considered.  Yet, there are lots of proven benefits of this type of activity. And more importantly – children love it!

With our wipe clean surfaces and heavy-duty flooring, nurseries are obviously more geared up for messy play than your home will be, but here we’ll try to help you look beyond the chaos to uncover the joys of sensory play at home.

What are the benefits?

From developing motor skills to increasing independence, there are so many positives to messy play. We’ve listed just a few below.

Physical Development

Allow your child to squeeze and squish their way to stronger muscles, coordination and control.  Messy play is great for physical development as it’s such a fun way to exercise lots of different muscle groups.  It also builds a strong foundation for learning to write. Shoveling, pouring and drawing in the sand uses larger muscles in the arms, which in turn prepares children for more precise movements like holding a pen or using a knife and fork.

Exploration and Imagination

Children are always being told or shown how to do things, yet here is an opportunity for them to work it out for themselves. Allowing your child to just get stuck in and take the lead in messy play activities can work wonders for their confidence and give them the skill of playing independently.

Social Understanding, Speech and Language

Depending on which messy activity you choose, it can be used as a way to develop their understanding of language and vocab. Try narrating your child’s actions or asking open ended questions such as “I wonder what happens when we do this?”.  You can also use it as an opportunity to learn to take turns.

Tips to Minimise the Mess

As with most things in life, keeping messy play contained is all in the prep. And the first step is finding the perfect place to play. Ideally, choose a space in your home with hard flooring that can be wiped clean afterwards.  If that’s not an option, then simply cover the area with plastic sheeting or an old shower curtain to protect your carpets.

Plastic trays to contain the mess can be purchased for under £15, or some parents even set up a messy play area in the bathtub, where all the surrounding spaces can easily be wiped down. Another option is to take the activity outside if the weather permits.

When it comes to keeping little ones clean, always dress them in old clothes or a wipe clean apron.  And if it really is too much to open your home to mess, then try making some sensory bags instead – all the squishy, squashy fun of messy play but sealed tight within an ordinary sandwich bag, with the added bonus that you won’t need to clean up afterwards.

If you need any extra help or guidance on any subject, or you have an idea that may make a future ‘tip of the month’, please don’t hesitate to get in touch by speaking to any member of staff or contacting Ian on