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Messy Play: Mud, Powder & Paint

A quality messy play environment provides lots of opportunities to explore the senses, experiment, develop physically and provides reasons to work together and communicate. It is also a great way for children to unlock their imaginations, as there are no prescriptive end goals making it an open-ended way to play and learn.

Posted on Tuesday 12th May 2015

As many practitioners know, the word ‘messy’ can sound negative, but being advocates for messy play is important because of the profound influence it can have on a child’s cognitive and creative development.

Messy Play

If you are looking for ways to mix things up in your messy play area here are some simple ideas to try with some affordable materials:


  • Mud kitchens are very popular, you can create one quickly by using bowls and spoons and some upturned crates
  • Younger children may want to experiment, stirring and adding water, rocks and other natural items found outside
  • Introduce some small world animals into the mud for some imaginative play
  • Use kitchen utensils and trays to create some mud pies – you could even make them look pretty with flowers or introduce dried food such as pasta, lentils and rice
  • Make your own paint using mud and food colouring

Messy Play Outdoors

 Cornflour, Baking Powder and Soap Flakes

  • Add cornflour to water in a tray to create a gloopy consistency. Try adding paint or food colouring to suit your themes, you could  use different small world characters and create a swamp or develop knowledge and understanding by experimenting with different natural materials in the gloop
  • Create gooey slime using non-toxic wall paper paste and food colouring, this looks great with glitter, or try sand for a rough texture
  • Add vinegar to baking powder and watch it fizz and bubble – add paint or food colouring to create a bright sensory experience, you could even do this on top of sand or mud
  • Whisk soap flakes with water to create a malleable foam, add some food colouring and aromas for an experience that appeals to all of the senses

Messy Play       Messy Play


  • Use large rolls of paper outdoors with paint and introduce different marking making equipment like rollers or sticks and twigs – many children will want to use their hands and feet
  • Mix paint with water in ice cube trays to create some sensory ice paints, use them for mark making or allow them to melt on different textures

Messy Play           Messy Play

For more ideas visit this Pinterest board and don’t forget to share your creative messy play ideas with us @TTS_EarlyYears.