aside The story of Messy Play – before our room makeover

2We’ve had a blast over the last 6 months with our messy sessions for under fives. To be honest when we started off I was wondering how messy we’d get. My idea of messy is often a little more extreme than others. So I started the first session off with some simple finger painting on massive sheets of card with shaving foam on a mirror on a low table. We also had a wealth of fabric, cushions for den building as well as a deep hoop lined with fabric which had dry oats and rice in it. We had a stack of large ‘best-toy-ever’ cardboard boxes too.


I did the meet and greet at the door, assigned wristbands and headed to the Play Room. I explained to the parents and grandparents that the room was theirs to explore and to ask if they needed anything else. We’d set up a side table with reels of masking and sellotape which was an immediate draw and a couple of mums got quite literally stuck in creating all sorts of models with boxes and assorted bling.

The finger paint went down well and one child painted her face too. Her Mum said she loved to cover things up with paint. She sat for a long while totally engrossed in what she was doing. Some parents asked for brushes so we had a combination of ways of painting.


The shaving foam was a real sensory experience and eventually had paint added to it too. We tried a bit of printing from it by drawing shapes and pressing on paper. But the draw was the ‘feel’ so we continued with that.


One of our passions in the Play Room for these sessions is that it is all about the PROCESS, we’re not concerned with a final piece of art work or the perfect den, or something to take home and hang on the wall. We’re totally about the process rather than the product. We want children to explore, create, use their imagination, change their minds, make mistakes and have another go, to enjoy being immersed in what they are doing.

The ring with the dry rice and oats in seemed to be a mesmerising space for several children. I had put some paper cups in the mix as my Mum had once told me her earliest memory was sitting in her dad’s barn, with two tin cans, pouring dry corn from one to another. Magically this is just what several children did with our dry mix. They seemed totally captivated by pouring over and over.


The cardboard boxes were well used and we’d taped some up which children found fascinating, we had some fabulous conversations about what might be in them! Dens were made and things were stuck and very soon two hours had whizzed by and off everyone went.


The following two weeks went in a similar way, we kept the boxes and den building stuff and added different types of wet and messy play activities. Some parents booked as soon as they’d left the first session and some phoned the next week to find the subsequent sessions fully booked (sorry!) We explored Silky Playdough which is made from 2 parts cornflour to one of hair conditioner. The fun was in the mixing by hand and we had little left to play with. One girl sat with the little we had made and rolled and pushed and prodded and enjoyed being totally hands on.

We had a request to make green dough the following week so added powdered food colouring and green glitter.


A couple of parents commented that they were really enjoying ‘being in the moment’ with their children. They said at home if their child was happily playing then that was when they’d pop out to do the washing up or cook tea. Here they had the opportunity just to ‘be’. I really liked that feedback.

For our final session we had taped fresh lino over the carpet. We spread sheets of paper over the floor and painted them with water then sprinkled them with dry food colouring. The sprinkling became a bit more of a sand storm and there were some truly fabulous experiments in colour going on. It reminded me of an exhibition I’d seen at Tate Modern. Some children used big paint brushes and some used their fingers and all were enjoying the experience to such an extent that we had to go out to the warehouse for more colours.


We’ve made some big changes in the Play Room since then, to make even messier play easy to facilitate, so I am really looking forward to our sessions in the February term. There’s one in half-term too, but some older children will be allowed in to that one as they will be on holiday from school!

Sessions cost £5 per child (£3.50 for siblings) and run from 10.15 am to 11.45 am. We really need advance booking to keep these sessions running, and you can now book for a whole term if you wish.

You can make an online account and pay in credit to book for sessions at

It’s a stay-and-play session, so we only need the information on the first page for you to book: your basic contact information, child’s birth date and names.


Alternatively, we can help you fill in paper booking forms and accept card or cash at the till in the Artrageous shop in Children’s Scrapstore.

For further information please call 0117 304 1783 or email Gemma at

Niki Willows – Early Years Trainer


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s