Messy Play

Easy messy play for kids with household chores

Can’t manage messy play at home? Can’t manage messy play at home? Household chores are a great way for the kids to enjoy messy play, while helping you out.

Messy play… at home? Are you crazy!!

I know, I get it, you’re busy. Some days just trying to keep everyone alive, dressed and fed is enough. When it’s 9am and you’ve already spent an hour picking the toys off the floor, and rescuing them from the nether regions of the couch, the last thing you want to hear is that you should try messy play… at home. Because, well… it’s messy, and it’s your house!

Not to mention the time to set up and clean up, rice doesn’t become rainbow coloured by itself, taste safe slime always seems to be made from ingredients you can only find in the health food section of the supermarket that’s four suburbs away (the one with no parking), and play dough + carpet = Just No!

But, hear me out. Messy play is about more than Insta friendly rainbow rice, and “how am I going to get that out” slime. There are some very easy ways to incorporate messy play (or sensory play, as it’s often called) into your everyday, and if you persevere some big payoffs for doing so in the long term.

Household chores offer kids amazing sensory play opportunities

“Never help a child with a task at which he feels he can succeed” – Maria Montessori

How often do your children ask to get involved with the household chores? Washing the dishes, digging in the garden, cooking and preparing food. How often do you let them help?

When you’re a parent and you have a mental list of chores, it’s easier sometimes to simply say no. You know that you can do the job faster, and with less mess. But when you say yes, magic happens.

The chores we do around the house often involve an element of messy play – digging out the weeds in the garden, water play while washing the dishes, kneading pizza dough, or rolling biscuit dough into balls for cooking. Each of these involves elements of water, dirt, flour, materials that make a great big beautiful mess!

Chores help kids learn and grow

When children play with dirt, water and flour they’re engaging their senses. Feeling the squishiness of the pizza dough, smelling the richness of the damp dirt, having a sneaky taste of the cookie dough. They’re learning how these materials feel, how they smell and this is helping to build their understanding of the world around them. But they’re also learning more, much more.

They’re learning that you enjoy spending time with them, that you value their help, that you trust them and believe they’re capable of helping. They’re building their confidence.

They’re learning that sometimes the pizza dough sticks, or the cookie dough is a little too soft, or the weeds can be prickly and stubborn and these are all problems that can be solved with a little perseverance. They’re learning resilience.

They’re learning that chores need to be done. That there is a time for work, and a time for play. That everyone in the house contributes to making it a home. That you can help each other when you work as a team, and that helping each other feels good. They’re learning responsibility.

They’re learning that their actions are valuable. That while parents look after you, you have a role in looking after them. That sometimes doing the dishes is the best way to say “I love you”. That self-worth, satisfaction and happiness can be gained by caring for others. They’re learning empathy.

Messy play makes chores fun

Chores aren’t fun. They’re boring, monotonous work. But messy play is loads of fun, and chores can look very much like messy play with a purpose.

  • Turn water play into washing the dishes by adding a few suds and a sponge.
  • Make the most of the garden by planting seedlings you can watch grow.
  • Grow some herbs that your child can harvest for dinner.
  • Ask your child to help you bake bread, pizza or biscuits, and let them mix the dough with their hands.
  • Ask your child to wash the vegetables, or scrub the potatoes ready for dinner.

These are all great messy play activities, while helping you out and learning valuable skills.

Don’t expect perfection

The key here is not to expect perfection. Gardening, cooking, cleaning are all learnt skills, which take time to practice and master. Remember close enough is good enough. Correcting and redoing your child’s work will discourage them over time. But, if you persevere and let them make a bit of a mess you’ll end up with a wonderful helper in the long run. Plus, you’ll have mastered the art of messy play at home.

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