26 August 2021
Messy play is exactly what the name suggests - playing with messy materials and having fun! Some examples of these messy materials are gloop, slime and finger paint.
This type of play provides children (and adults) with the opportunity to explore a range of textures and explore their senses (Ministry of Education, 2020). Although no one likes to clean up the mess, messy play provides many benefits for children’s learning and development. So, rather than avoiding any kind of messy play, it’s important to think about ways to minimise the mess, but not the learning or the fun!
Messy play is relaxing and can spark children’s curiosity and provoke a sense of wonder and excitement in children. Messy play encourages children to explore the properties of the substance they are playing with, feeling and seeing how it responds to their interactions. Depending on the additional resources available during messy play, such as spoons, scoops, brushes, and scrapers, children can develop their “hand-eye coordination and practise pouring, measuring, mixing, scooping and beating skills” (Ministry of Education, 2020).
Gloop is a particular favourite of many children in our Tui (toddlers) and Kea (Preschool) rooms at Treetops. When the children see gloop or hear that it’s being made they rush to join in the fun! Gloop is super easy to make, and you only need two ingredients (see recipe below). Gloop is a non-Newtonian fluid, which simply means it acts like both a liquid and a solid substance. If you slowly run your fingers through the gloop, it feels runny like a liquid, but if you hit it or mould it with your fingers, it feels hard like a solid. Because of this, gloop is a fantastic substance for messy play, as children can explore both the liquid and solid properties of the gloop. A wonderful addition to a gloop recipe is some food colouring to explore colours, patterns and mixing, or some flavour essence to add smell to the sensory experience.
To help avoid a bigger mess to tidy up, here are some tips for messy play:
Ensure there is plenty of space or take the messy play outside.
Use aprons or wear old clothes.
Use low tables or troughs for messy play, or put a sheet of plastic on the ground.
Give each child their own individual container to use.
Make sure there is somewhere for children to wash their hands when they finish.
Easy Gloop recipe:
2 cups Cornflour
1 cup cold water
Food colouring (optional)
Flavour essence (optional)
In a bowl, add cold water to the cornflour.
Stir until all of the water has been absorbed.
Add a few drops of food colouring and/or flavour essence (optional), and stir.
Have fun and get messy!
Ministry of Education. (2020). Play idea: messy play - korihori pōrehe. https://www.education.govt.nz/early-childhood/teaching-and-learning/learning-ideas/messy-play/