Oh the joy of messy play

Messy play: All good clean fun?

I’m a big fan of baby and toddler groups. My little girl had a full schedule of them up until she started preschool. They were great for her confidence and also helped to get us into a good routine. We did them all: gymnastics, music, swimming, dancing, playgroups…. However, there was one thing I just couldn’t stick with, and I certainly won’t be taking my new baby to.

I’ve never mentioned this before for fear of a backlash, but today I’m coming clean (so to speak).

I just don’t get messy play.

There, I’ve said it. I just don’t get it. I know it’s all about providing sensory experiences for babies and toddlers, letting them run free, having someone else clean up their mess and all that jazz. I know I’m supposed to love it, but honestly? Does it really justify the hype?

I’m sure there’ll be people reading this thinking, ‘Messy play? What’s not to love?’. Well here, I’ll tell you what’s not to love. It’s this:

  1. Messy play groups come with small print, and any baby class that needs its own small print is immediately suspect to me. This small print is usually along the lines of ‘We recommend you bring an extra pair of clothes’.  An extra pair of clothes?? Straight away this should ring alarm bells. Why in the name of all things fingerpaint and shaving foam would I pay a few pounds to take my child to a play session, only to receive a bag of stained, soggy, dirty washing in return? Does this really make sense to anyone?
  2. Messy play often goes against one of the fundamental rules of table etiquette, that being the universally accepted principle that food should not be played with. If you take your 10 month old to messy play to writhe around in a tray full of spaghetti for half an hour, how can you then credibly tell them at meal times that they must not throw their bolognese at your dining room wall? Getting a baby or toddler to eat can be hard enough. Why make it even more difficult for yourself?
  3. Whilst evidence suggests that messy play can be beneficial to a child’s development, I struggle to believe that any studies included the observation of a child fingerpainting their hair and somebody else’s nostrils down at Alfie’s Playbarn. I may be wrong…
  4. Chasing after your toddler with a packet of wipes or a towel, while at the same time trying to delicately remove grains of rice from their ear, is not conducive to forging friendships or acquaintances with other parents. Neither is feeling like an absolute clip because you’ve got a red toddler handprint on your new top. Surely baby and toddler groups should have at least some benefit for the parents too? Nope, not messy play, apparently.
  5. If the previous four points are not enough to convince you, then let me just say this: Nobody ever sat me in a box of cold baked beans for 30 minutes when I was a child, and I’m still doing alright (mostly).

Any thoughts?

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30 thoughts on “Messy play: All good clean fun?”

  1. Oh yes, I’m glad I’m not the only one. I keep thinking I’m depriving my baby but I just can’t face starting messy play at home. I keep thinking I should try water play but she would just get cold. And anything else would just go in her mouth. I figure she can play with water in the bath and swimming pool and that’s enough. She does play with her food so that’s messy experience for her. #twinklytuesday

  2. Ha ha, I love messy play – when it is outdoors or at preschool or my organised activity hour on the farm. Everything has it’s place and it is great for little ones to learn to be creative and develop imagination. As for in my house, no thanks! #TwinklyTuesday

    1. I can understand messy play outdoors as there’s always an expectation that little ones will end up a bit muddy when they’re playing outside. I’m definitely not keen on having it in my house though.

  3. Ahahaha!!! Spot on! Although given the choice I’d always prefer to go elsewhere to do the whole messy play thing – because who needs that amount of mess at home?! I struggle to clear up the weetabix splodges left after breakfast before they set like concrete, I’ve got no hope against half a tin of shaving foam and some poster paints!

    #triumphanttales xx

  4. I do like messy play, but only in certain circumstances. When it was at nursery and they dealt with all the clean up. During the summer when he can play with thepaints or whatever in the garden and be half naked, hell, he be entirely naked if he wants. That’s fine, I pick him and pop him in the shower. But inside the house, nope. Or even taking him to a group that I would have to change him at, those things are not for me. #blogstravaganza

  5. Ha ha! Good to see that someone other than me isn’t into these groups. Especially the food play. However I do like sending my little one to nursery and letting them get her as painted/muddy as possible. At least then they get to clear up!

  6. This made me chuckle! I love messy play and have encouraged it at home too, I think it helps with so many things and is a lovely active example of child led learning and play. I can see why it’s not for everyone though! Thank you so much for linking up with #Blogstravaganza 🙂

  7. I like a bit of messy play but I think a messy play class would be too much for me. I don’t mind mess but I cannot handle play doh being mixed ? Thanks for being on the #DreamTeam

  8. I’ve always felt a bit mean because we never did much in the way of messy play, partly because we lived with my inlaws when the kids were very small and I worried about them making too much mess or damaging something. And partly because I just bloody hated it! Thanks for linking up #twinklytuesday, hope to see you again soon

  9. We’ve done it once in a play centre and once I decided to put mats down on the kitchen floor for him to do painting but he pulled them up and it got all on the floor!! I love messy play but only when I’m not the one cleaning!!
    Thank you for sharing this with us at #TriumphantTales. I hope to see you back tomorrow!

    1. Oh I hate painting at home. We do it sometimes but only after all efforts to convince my 3 year old to do something else have failed. I do feel a bit guilty about that one actually…

  10. I love a bit of messy play especially if there is glitter involved, but I can’t handle just letting them mess with food so I am very with you on that. I don’t think anyone’s life will be drastically affected without messy play and kids know when you don’t want to be doing something so I say do what work for you. We bake alot as I like baking and its a bit like messy play with a purpose – lol! Thanks for joining us on the #DreamTeam this week I loved the post. If you get a chance it would be fab if you could update your badge to our latest version xx
    Kirsty recently posted…I made another mum feel bad – Mummy GuiltMy Profile

    1. If the end result was cake I could probably tolerate messy play actually….! Sorry about the badge – will get it updated!

  11. Haha this made me laugh. Although, I do really love messy play. We do it more with paints and slime etc than food, we don’t waste food in this house!xx #triumohanttales

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