messy play ideas and inspiration
messy monkeys is proud to provide messy play all over the UK and to have hosted super messy play parties for hundreds of lovely little monkeys – but if there’s not a messy monkeys class near you don’t worry – we’ve got lots of ideas to inspire you to play at home or to organise your own themed party that the guests are sure to remember!!
We’ve included affiliate links to products that we’ve found essential over the years – other suppliers are available!
first things first – preparing your home for messy play!
There’s a reason people pay to go to messy play classes – not only is the environment super friendly and relaxed it’s also a wonderful feeling to play safe in the knowledge that we’ll tidy everything up! Not so at home! Your first job is to find as many old sheets as you can to cover your surfaces with – the more relaxed you are the more fun you’ll have alongside your monkey! Afterwards, the sheet can be used to wrap up your child, like a paint-soaked swaddling robe, to carry them straight up to the bath or shower.
We always encourage playing on the floor if you can – it ensures you and your messy monkey are quite literally on the same level and provides opportunities to explore with hands, arms, feet and legs…messy play is a full sensory experience!
For INDOOR messy activities at home we recommend tuff spot trays to contain the messy madness.
For messy water play you’ll need something a bit deeper than this – sometimes garden trays or storage trays are more sturdy and cheaper than the ones marketed for play! These garden trays are perfect for stomping and splashing!
next step – preparing yourselves
We’d suggest that both you and your little monkey have a dedicated set of ‘messy clothes’ that you are willing to sacrifice for the greater good of messy play. From our experience, paints which market themselves as ‘washable’ can often still stain fabric and if you’re worried about your clothes, you can never fully relax into the activities.
Your body language and facial expressions will have a huge impact on how your child plays; children feed upon your enthusiasm and respond to your behaviour. If you are tense and a reluctant participant, your child will be too; consider what your face might be ‘saying’ and relax into the activities…
Messy play introduces your child to a whole host of new experiences which can bring with it the possibility of a ‘sensory overload’. To ensure the best opportunities for successful play sessions, you need to lead from the front; providing reassurance through side-by-side, co-operative play. You are their role model, providing a positive, encouraging, supportive environment where they can explore at their own pace and most importantly, take a break when they need to. Sensory play can be really hard work for little monkeys, so don’t be surprised if at first, their attention span is fairly short – as with everything new, skills need time to develop.
messy play at home – the basics
You’ll already have lots of things in your cupboards that can be used for messy and sensory play at home – sticks of spaghetti, bags of rice, cous cous, bath bubbles… all create a great and cheap sensory experiences for little monkeys to explore.
Playdough is an essential messy activity loved by children aged around a year upwards – it’s great for the development of fine motor skills and provides ample opportunity for imaginary play.
We’ve a great play dough recipe which takes just ten minutes to make and allows for instant use – it also keeps for weeks! Whoop! We love these wooden playdough tools for extruding, shaping, cutting and squishing the dough…
Obviously, the paint you use at home needs to be water based and non toxic – avoid anything with acrylics and remember – washable doesn’t not always mean washable, still wear those old clothes!
Chubby brushes are fab for little hands to hold…
Dabbers make fab squidgy circles!
messy play outdoors
Outdoor play is great fun in the sunny weather but be sure to get sand / water trays that are TOUGH enough to take some destruction and have a LID to stop water… and other feline unmentionables contaminating your sand!
One of the great things about messy play is that is allows children the chance to sort and organise – we love to watch our messy monkeys moving objects from one tray to the next and tools are great for encouraging this essential developmental play.