My child doesn’t like getting messy – what next?

Messy play and mark making – it’s what we do. But what happens if your little one DOESN’T like mess?! Does that mean that they can’t enjoy and get the most out of Little Messy Learners sessions – of course not! Find out how Little Messy Learners can help support your child and help them learn to love mess!

A baby covered in flour plays with a sieve at a Little Messy Learners class
A baby enjoying our flour play activity!

Sessions at Little Messy Learners always have a range of activities – wet, dry, paint, messy, playdough, fine motor, puzzles and more! As class leaders, we try and ensure that we are giving a good choice of sensory experiences each week (which is why no two weeks are ever the same!). This also allows your little one to start to develop and find out about their preferences. There are always lots of activities that will develop your child’s mark making skills without getting wet, messy or sticky – things like colouring, pasta play, oats, jigsaws and bingo dabbers.

If you really want your child to get stuck into messy materials, water play is a great entry-level activity. They will also learn from you so rather than making “yuck!” noises, try some oohs and ahhs, smile and offer your hand or a tool for them to start investigating with. We always encourage parents to get stuck into our tuff tray activities – it really can make all the difference for children who don’t like mess if they see their Mum or Dad get involved.

A child plays with porridge oats as part of a messy play activity. She certainly likes mess!
A parent encourages a child to explore the taste of oats!

Our classes also include crafting activities, which can be another great entry point to the world of messy play. Most children love to paint and are comfortable doing hand or foot prints, so why not encourage them to simulate this but using other materials such as flour, gloop or jelly? Squishing your toes in fruit jam or jelly isn’t so different from paint – especially if the child is busy trying to make a foot print on paper to gift to Granny! Talking through WHY we are getting messy is a great way to encourage children to take the plunge!

Don’t forget, children also learn from each other! If your child doesn’t like getting too messy, you can offer gentle encouragement by saying things such as ‘Ohhh isn’t that family having a great time playing in the paint?’ or ‘Would you like to play with the paint too?’ – even better if you can gather around the activity with some other children who enjoy mess. No one likes to feel left out, so interacting with other families in class is a great tool to help your little one, plus they might make a new messy play buddy!

A boy in a red t shirt plays in a sand pit at a Little Messy Learners session
Sand is a great material for messy play and one that many children already know well!

Don’t forget, your class leader will also be there to help, and if there’s a messy material that your little one starts to enjoy, don’t be surprised when you see it crop up again – we’re always watching!

Originally written by Anita from Little Learners South Colchester

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