Messy play: ideas to shake up playtime and help your child’s development

With the warmer weather on its way, now is a great time to get stuck into some messy play in the garden. It’s great fun to do and helps your child’s development in so many different ways at the same time.

Mud garden soil

For starters, it’s fantastic for creative and sensory development, as you can encourage your child to discover and understand different shapes, textures and colours. It also helps with hand-eye coordination and fine motor skills as your child gets the chance to explore and mould all the different materials.

For older children, messy play can help them express themselves and emotions they might be feeling. It’s also a great way to help language development at all ages - as you explore these sensations with your child, you can talk about them and help build your child’s vocabulary and understanding of the world around them.

Here are our favourites…just make sure your child is wearing old clothes you don’t care too much about!

Sand foam

Pour sand into a tub, squirt in a generous amount of washing up liquid and mix in water a bit at a time. Keep adding water until you get a frothy foam, a bit like a mousse (get your child to help mix it, they’ll love being a part of it). Add some power paint or glitter and get stuck in.

Mud kitchen

Collect some old pots, pans, tupperware, plastic plates and beakers. Get a big tub of mud and add water. Younger children will love exploring the textures of the mud, pouring it from container to container and smearing it around. Older children can let their imagination run wild as they cook up a feast for you.

Potato painting

Get some potatoes and cut them in half. Draw a simple design on the cut side – hearts, stars, triangles and circles work well. (Quick cheat: if you don’t think your drawing skills are up to scratch, you can always use a star-shaped cookie cutter instead and press it into the potato). Using a knife cut away the potato around the drawing so you have a raised stamp. Put some colourful paint in a tray, get some paper and you’re ready to create some masterpieces.

Salt dough sculpting

Mix half a cup of salt with a cup of flour. Add water slowly until you have a dough consistency. Add food colouring and glitter and get sculpting. This is a great way to make handprints, footprints, fingerprints for those memory boxes. If you have some cookie cutters you can make some pretend biscuits – or use a skewer to make a small hole in your shapes and you can string them into your very own jewellery. Bake in the oven at 180 degrees until they are dry and hard (cooking time will depend on how big your creations are).

Cornflour slime

Pour cornflour into a bowl and add glitter (optional). Add about double the amount of water. If you want to colour your slime, add food colouring to the water before you add it to the cornflour. You can make the mixture as liquid as you like, but the unique part about cornflour slime is that if you get the balance of water right acts as both a liquid and a solid. Try rolling it into a ball and throwing it at a table, running it through your fingers or punching it with a fist. It doesn’t quite behave as you expect – and makes for some fascinating exploratory play.

Find out more about art therapy and how it can help your child.

Lizz Summers

Voice & Presentation Skills Coach