Splay Messy Play – You want me to encourage my child to get messy?!
You want me to encourage my child to get messy?! That was my first thought when somebody mentioned “messy play” to me. Evie, my little girl, was only a few weeks old, and it felt like I was constantly trying – unsuccessfully, I might add – to keep her clean. I just couldn’t understand why on earth I would ever take her to class and encourage her to get messy. I mean, why would anybody do that?! I actually felt sorry for the poor woman who was trying to encourage me to bear messy play in mind when Evie was older. I laughed. I honestly did. Messy play?! You’ve got to be kidding, right?!
Baby-lead weaning: mess, mess, and more mess!
I didn’t think much more about the above encounter until Evie was around six months old. It was around this time that we started introducing solid foods. After careful consideration, my husband and I decided to go down the baby-led weaning route. We were told – warned, even – that, initially at least, we should expect Evie to spend a lot of time playing with her food. Well, this definitely happened. Lots of bashing, smashing, smushing, and crushing. Not a great deal of eating.
You could see, though, how much she enjoyed exploring all the different colours, textures, shapes, and tastes. Our dog enjoyed it, too! After a few weeks, we noticed a marked improvement in Evie’s hand eye co-ordination, her fine motor skills, and even her ‘communication’. It was then that I decided to take another look at messy play. After all, as anybody who has weaned a baby will, no doubt, know, introducing ‘proper’ food to a little human is, essentially, messy play at its finest!
Our first foray into messy play
I took Evie to our first messy play class just before she turned six months. I honestly had no idea what to expect, and neither did Evie. When we arrived, we saw in front of us a range of stations filled to the brim with messy fun. Edible paints, coloured spaghetti, gloop, and so much more.
It was amazing! Even if Evie wasn’t yet excited, I was! After spending the first half hour carefully observing all the other babies and toddlers, Evie finally decided to start interacting with the many messy activities on offer. She wasn’t sure at first, but she kept going back for more. It was hard to tell by the end of the class whether she had enjoyed it or not. Being honest, I think this is fairly common when trying any new class with a tiny human.
I decided to give it a second go. Evie loved it! By the third session, she squealed with excitement when we walked in the room, and took great delight in rolling in the paint. Yes, rolling. She was so, so messy. I won’t lie, my inner OCD demon was going into over-drive at this point. Seeing Evie have such fun, though, was the most amazing feeling ever. That big grin. The infectious giggle. The wide eyes full of excitement and wonder. I was hooked, and so was she.
If you had told me this a couple of years ago I’d have never believed you, but I now run my own messy play business. Both Evie and I loved messy play. I won’t say it was quite from the outset, but it wasn’t far off. After leaving a busy, and often stressful, career in sales and marketing when I was pregnant, I decided I wanted to do something different. Baby and toddler groups helped me in ways that I can’t explain when Evie was teeny and I was battling post-natal depression. So, the idea of setting up and running my own messy play business really appealed. Evie has recently turned one. How, I’m not quite sure.
She still loves – and I mean loves – her messy play. The way in which she interacts with the activities is continuing to change, and it’s so rewarding watching her grow in confidence each week. Over the last few months, I’ve been lucky enough to welcome many other babies and toddlers into my weekly classes. Some are messy pros from the very get go, despite their parents telling me that “they aren’t keen on mess”. Some take a little time to get used to it all. Some just don’t enjoy it, and that’s fine, too. The only way to know which category your little one will fall in to is to give it a go. I honestly didn’t think Evie – or me, for that matter – would enjoy getting messy. Turns out I was wrong. I – we – absolutely love it!
Curious about messy play? Why not come and see what all the mess is about!
Why not come along to one of our classes, and see what all the mess is about.