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23 March 2015

The idea behind messy play is that it gives children the freedom to experience and try out different things without the pressure of creating an end product (such as a picture or a craft). During Messy Play children are not simply squashing and squeezing different textures and strengthening the all important muscles needed for writing, but they are discovering new things as they go along, evaluating success, trying again and using what they have just found out. This is an extremely powerful way of learning. Children will also experience lots of maths concepts, (size, shape, language such as big, bigger, biggest, capacity, to name a few), and have endless opportunities to develop vocabulary as they use adjectives to describe the what it feels like and what they think of it.

Obviously the name ‘Messy Play’ is a bit off-putting and you may feel like it is a reason not to do it at home! If this is the case for you, why don’t you try some of the ‘less’ messy activities such as ice play - which is easy to clean up afterward with a mop.

What you need:


·       Ice cubes (make your own or buy a large bag from the supermarket)

·       A tray to catch the mess!

·       A mallet or a rolling pin to bash the ice (great for upper body strength!)

·       Table salt in ordinary salt shakers

·       Plastic pots (all shapes and sizes - margarine pots and yoghurt pots are great.

·       plastic bowls, funnels if you have them

·       jugs of warm water


Day 1

Leave your child to play and explore the properties of ice. Be close by to support them with new words and mathematical language as they play.


Day 2

1.     Make up some bigger ice cubes for the following day. Half fill a yoghurt pot with water and freeze it

2.     put some a small toy or objects that would interest your child on top of the frozen ice and top up with water and freeze it. (For example a toy, leaf, initial letter of their name, flower…)


Day 3

1.     Make even bigger ice blocks with a toy in for the following day!

2.     Put a rolling pin, salt and jug of warm water

3.     Observe how your child retrieves the object and ask them how they did it and why they chose that method


Day 4

Involve your child in preparing the ice

Talk to child about the different kind of animals that live in icy conditions (if you have toy penguins put them in the ice!)



Jude Marriott Early Years teacher and mother of 2