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7th October 2014Don't let messy play disappear into the history books

Don't let messy play disappear into the history books

We recently read about a poll that caused us a great deal of consternation here at TP Toys - because it suggested that today's children aren't enjoying messy play for fear that it will clutter and litter their surroundings.

The survey of 2,000 people was carried out by Persil and it discovered that almost two-thirds of mums and dads are discouraging their offspring from carrying out tasks like baking and painting because they know it will create a lot of washing up and laundry afterwards.

Some 57 per cent of parents admitted they would rather see their kids playing with an electronic device than a paintbox as it keeps the house tidier - and it seems this is rubbing off on the youngsters.

Sixty-one per cent of the seven to 11-year-olds quizzed for the research said watching TV is their favourite activity, and a third insisted they don't like dirt and mess - we could be raising a generation of stainophobes.

This is despite the fact that 41 per cent of parents acknowledged they got much more involved in messy play when they were young.

Steven Chown of Play England warned mums and dads that they could be causing their children to miss out of they insist on a sterilised, pristine environment.

"Many parents are becoming more risk averse yet getting messy is part of a happy, healthy childhood and such play is linked with a range of cognitive and developmental benefits," he pointed out.

Bring back messy play!

It may be worth taking a moment to consider the playtime you enjoy with your own children. While quiet time is important, so is exploring and using the senses - have you ever considered getting the finger paints out, only to decide against it because the task involves a lot of preparation?

If the answer is yes, then why not challenge yourself to bring back messy play at least once a month? This needn't be difficult and is sure to be hugely rewarding, plus it creates some great photo opportunities.

All you need to do is a little preparation and you don't have to worry about the furnishings, either. Remember to:

•    Choose a large area that isn't surrounded by furniture that little hands will grab as they move around
•    Get hold of some plastic sheeting - shower curtains from the DIY shop will work if you like
•    Have paper towels and baby wipes close to hand
•    Instruct children that messy play must remain within the chosen area
•    Stock up on washable, non-toxic play materials - that way, it won't matter if some splashes do escape onto clothes or sofas
•    Have messy play outfits (old clothes) ready
•    Make tidying up afterwards part of the ritual - if kids join in, it's less arduous for mum and dad.

Ideas for messy play

There are dozens of ideas you can use to get messy and have fun with all age groups, as a quick internet search will reveal. One of our particular favourites is making your own finger paints with flour, water and food colouring, as the creation is part of the art.

You can also cook some spaghetti and put food colouring in it to encourage squidging, mixing and plenty of giggling.

Another popular idea is getting hold of some cheap, hypo-allergenic shaving foam and squirting it into a tray, then putting dots, lines and splats of paint on top. Mix it with a stick to create a fun pattern, then lie a piece of paper on top to pick it up.

Wipe off the foam and leave it to try - before long, you'll have a wonderful piece of marbling.

Let's share the love of messy play and get mums and dads all over the country enthused about letting their kids revel in it. After all, the thought of having a generation that's never known the joys of finger painting is too sad to think about. Do let us know about your own messy play sessions too!