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50 fantastic ideas for messy play

In Bookshelf Resources for Practical Activities


Messy play is at the heart of the early years curriculum, supporting creativity and imagination, and giving children opportunities to experiment with tactile materials. This book offers 50 ideas for using natural resources, simple household items and recycled resources for low cost inspiration.

Practitioners and teachers in the early years are always looking for new ideas for messy and 'hands-on' play, and this book will give children many opportunities for exploration and investigation through sensory play. 


I love books like this – that do exactly what they say on the, in this case very messy, tin. Many of us are very familiar with the Featherstone’s “Little Books” series and have been using them for years to inspire and excite us in our planning. This “Fantastic ideas” series is very similar – and would be a wonderful addition to any staff library.

The “Fantastic ideas for messy play” book does include lots of ideas that have ‘done the rounds’ over recent years – moon dough, freezing small toys in ice blocks and bicarbonate of soda volcanoes to name a few. However, what this book does do very well is consider the safety aspects related to each activity which is always an area where staff feel very anxious. Each activity has allergy and sensitivity advice as well as flags to more general health and safety reminders that need to be imparted to children. I know that my staff would find it extremely helpful to have these laid out so clearly for them when they are planning their activities.

The layout of the book is great, the photos are clear and bright and show practitioners exactly how they need to prepare their resources and the environment. There are clear suggestions for extending the activity and also ideas for reinvigorating children’s enthusiasm if it wanes. Confident practitioners will use the ideas as launch pads into topics and themes or as provocations to spark children’s curiosity. Less confident practitioners might use the book to gain a basic knowledge of the potential of messy play with children and will be able to build their skills and understanding from a very well-explained collection of activities. There are also plenty of activities that might be photocopied and sent home for parents to do with their children ‘for fun’!

Children would love looking at the photographs and choosing potential activities with staff. The “What to do” instructions are very clearly explained and I can see that, working alongside an adult, children would enjoy following the methods themselves and collecting and organising the resources they need independently. In my setting, I am going to use the book with my pre-school children to help them understand about different kinds of writing and to help them see that not all ‘recipe formats’ result in something edible!

Edited by Rebecca

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