Does your toddler enjoy messy play? It’s such a fun and important part of play for babies, toddlers and pre-schoolers. All of my kiddos have enjoyed some messy play at some point or another. Little ones are always delighted to get their hands stuck in to some messy play because they get to feel and touch items they wouldn’t normally handle. But, messy play is also useful for the beginnings of mark-making and ideal for helping little ones to observe and explore their world. With even the smallest of tots, long before they are even thinking about writing – mark-making can help to develop a child’s imagination and creative skills. When Archie and I were invited to attend a Little Learners Mark Making Messy Play class – I jumped at the chance because Archie is well known in our house for being a tad messy – I knew he’d just love it!
Messy Play Mark Making Class
We attended a class in Bromley run by the lovely Gemma but Little Learners run Messy Play Mark Making Classes all over the country for pre-school children aged 5 months -5 years old. The class was lovely and welcoming and when you first enter you are immediately enticed by a sea of colour and themed displays that are created with the messy play materials. It made me want to dive right in – never mind the little ones! Each session focuses on a different ‘mark’ that make up all of our letters, numbers, shapes & patterns – the ‘marks’ are made into cute, memorable characters (there’s even an Archie one which is the arc shape!) First off, children are encouraged to make the mark with movement and songs and the babies enjoy dancing to the songs, then the little ones are left to explore the different messy play materials – choosing what they play with from a range of different materials. There were such a lot of fantastic materials that Archie got to play over the 6 week course – everything was on offer from rice, cereal, lentils, jelly and even ice-cream!
Painting was a standard every week and Archie always made a bee-line for this! It was so lovely to allow him to play with a variety of materials and not worry about any mess! I wish I did more messy play activities with my kids at home and didn’t fret so much over the mess, so it was wonderful to go to a class where all the tidying up was done for you and I could just focus on Archie enjoying himself and not worrying about how much mess was created.
Every week, one of the messy play stations was set up as a theme – there was a ladybird sensory rice messy play where little ones could dig and scoop the rice and a farming messy play station with weetabix for straw (everything is safe taste for babies!) The ultimate favourite amongst the little ones and their parents was the garden sensory play tray complete with edible soil for digging – made from crushed bourbon biscuits – genius idea! A particularly lovely touch is that your Little Learners leader creates a private online account where they can share photos and show your child’s development in exploring mark making. It’s fun to look back on the photos after a few sessions.
Benefits of Messy Play
On our first visit to a Little Learners Group, I was a little surprised that Archie didn’t take to it quite as easily as I thought he would. At 22 months, he loves making a mess at home and loves any kind of messy play like painting, water play, play doh etc……. and if his brother and sisters are drawing or making art – he loves to be involved too! However, in week one – he didn’t want to strip down to his vest (the kids do get messy so most parents have them playing in their vests etc…. and there is fun water play at the end to clean up!) and didn’t want to be involved in some of the messier elements preferring playing with the sand and play-doh to the paint or shaving foam. One very sweet little girl handed Archie a paint brush at one point and got some blue paint on his vest – he didn’t like that one bit! I was a bit disappointed that he preferred to sit on my lap at some points and missed the lovely activities.
But by week two, he ventured a little further from me and by week 3 he had grown massively in confidence and tried out all the materials on offer favouring the paint and munching the cereal! I really saw how much fun Archie had exploring the different messy play activities and that he really developed in confidence once he became used to the environment – the Little Learners sessions allowed little ones to express themselves in a completely new way and most importantly – it is fun!
Disclosure: we were offered to enjoy these classes in exchange for an honest review but I would highly recommend them – Archie and I had a great time and plan on booking sessions in the future. All thoughts, opinions and photos are my own.
See here for more Sensory and Messy play ideas.