The world tends to be divided into those who love messy sensory play and those for whom the term fills them with dread. My husband and I polarise the debate – I think it’s great and know how much fun it is for children (and adults) but my normally laid back husband actively loathes it! My children have spent many happy hours playing with sand, water, mud, shaving foam. In fact perhaps the depleted supplies of shaving foam are responsible in part for his phobia. Messy sensory play is great but if not properly prepared for, it undoubtedly can be tiresome and hard work to clear up, dampening the enthusiasm of even the most ardent supporters. When I think of messy play my mind instantly wanders to play with couscous on a dark winter’s afternoon. Having cooked a mountain of couscous, in a rare yummy mummy moment I decided to offer my 2 and ¾ year old some to play with. All was going swimmingly until the office phone rang and I made the ill-fated decision to answer it. What I thought would be a quick call became a protracted discussion with a person that I didn’t feel able to cut short or introduce the delights of couscous!

The horror of messy play began to unfold before my eyes as the couscous was spread from the tray to the kitchen table, over the kitchen floor and eventually all over two fabric chairs. On finally finishing the call I was faced with the aftermath of messy play, 8 months pregnant and tired, I tried in vain to clear up the mess. If you’ve ever tried to wipe up soggy couscous then you will know what a challenge it is. Each wipe of a cloth simply smeared and engrained the couscous deeper. It was whilst trying to clean the smeary mess off the floor that my husband came home from work and his hatred of messy play began with cleaning those couscous engrained fabric chairs! As for me, I learnt the hard way about the importance of preparation, providing time and space and not to multi-task to avoid messy play spiralling out of control. I still am an advocate of messy play, even couscous, and the new kitchen chairs look great!

And so I’d love to hear your stories of triumphs in messy play, tips for minimising the horror and any traumas and tragedies that others can try to avoid! If you have any stories to share or ideas for recipes, activities or resources then I’d love to hear from you. They might even make it into a new Practical Pre-School book on Sensory Play or be featured at an early years event near you where others can benefit from your pearls of wisdom!

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