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Too Much Messy Play Or Not Enough?


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I would really appreciate your wise words. I am getting in a complete muddle with how much creative/messy activities to put out each week/day. This is what we currently do:


Every day -




Pritt stick

Junk modelling


Each week -


Painting easel one week, PVA the next

Cooking/adult lead painting (if not easel week)


The staff would like more messy play - each day and in addition the painting easel each day.


So today I found myself putting out sand, playdough, gloop, painting easel and a sticking table. Then standing looking at it and screaming, because of course, there has to be all the other areas and activites to provide.


We are in a pack away community building and only open mornings.




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we had every day..




painting easel, this had paints and boxes under it with items in it..

craft which was an area with all sorts of craft stuff.. Pva, tape, paper, card, boxes, scissors and laods of other general stuff.. we had it all on a trolley to wheel in and out , and a box of 'junk' stood next to it.. children helped themselves and generally used the area as they wished.


we often changes the playdough for clay... and used to change it for goop, or other stuff ,


or the water tray was used for something different, like soap snow or wet messy play.


sand was changed to different meduim , using rice or soil


painting we used to change to a table for some days using different things like for bubble painting ,


sorry got to go will add more later..



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Hi, we have some kind of sand/water ish type activity each day, but that might be bowls of water for washing babies, as it was this morning, rather than the big water tray. We get the sand pit out every other week or so but it is heavy, so at the moment it is away. There's soil and water outside for them to get mucky with as well.


Then we have 'malleable' which might be playdough but equally could be an alternative, e.g. gloop.


Then we often have paints out every day, but today I got them to break with tradition as we had lots of other things going on.


My suggestion would be to stick to one or maximum two activities that have the potential to get very messy or need direct adult supervision.


We're also a pack away setting, only open mornings. I'm trying to get staff into setting that as a bonus rather than a pain, e.g. it gives us the chance to vary what we have out each day or week. So, I would question whether having those 4 same things out every day is a good idea or not, don't you find that the children get a bit bored with seeing the same stuff after a while?


Hope that helps.

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We too are pack away, mornings only.


Every sesssion - sand

- water

- malleable

- mark making

- creative - a trolley that has a wide range of materails on for junk modelling,

painting, sticking, collage, glues, tapes, scissors and so on

- easel plus a table so children can decide where they would rather paint/create

These areas may have an alternative as mentioned in other posts. This would be cyclical.


We cook with the children once every half term - maybe more if it comes up


It's not easy when everything has to come out of a cupboard and be set up in a very limited period of time. Also having the range of resources to hand can be an issue.


Is it just you setting up each time? - in which case I can understand your feeling of it being too much.


We are four staff and we set up together each morning - we have about 20 minutes unless I can get there earlier (if Hubbie takes children to nursery and school) and it doesn't always feel great.

There isn't the time to make it exactly how you'd like it before the children arrive and I sometimes envy settings that aren't pack away and where you could spend time enhancing and not starting from scratch every time!


But moan over - I also agree with SuzieC8 that you have all the flexibility and freedom to change things and have variety - which is a bonus.

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Much the same as above - only open mornings, packaway. We have all the above out. somedays however, children don't use 3d modelling, maybe only one or two paint, it's when they all decide to paint or model that things get tricky - spaces to dry stuff out etc. lots of little hands all wanting to do the same thing at the same time.

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I work in children centre and I have sand/water/mark making/playdough out all the time. I then have a tuff box with something like jelly/ cornflakes/oats in. I also have a sticking and gluing activity.

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We're also a pack away setting, only open mornings. I'm trying to get staff into setting that as a bonus rather than a pain,



Do you mean you are trying to get staff to see being a 'pack away each day' setting as a bonus?


What I mean is, given that we do have to pack away, we should try to see it as a positive rather than a negative. What it does mean is that we don't have to just stick with the same stuff being out every day, and that we can experiment with different approaches more easily.


In terms of packing away, I've made it as simple for staff as possible, e.g. we have invested in wheel out storage, large display boards which go easily up and down, etc. etc. It ain't perfect, and it would be lovely to leave stuff out, but I'd rather see the glass as half full.

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Thank you everyone


Looks as though I wasn't providing enough. I'm still confused :o

My staff do ask for it....but rarely clean up after.

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We had a hilarious messy play incident with talcum powder/baby bathing yesterday.


I just initiated the activity, the poor staff were left to do the clearing up. I don't think they minded, and at least they all smelt really lovely.


I think when you're working with this age range you just have to accept that mess is a good thing or you'd go mad worrying about it.


Oh, and there was an incident last Friday with outdoor chalks and a wall we're not meant to touch. Luckily it came off with water and washing up liquid.



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Thank you everyone


Looks as though I wasn't providing enough. I'm still confused :o

My staff do ask for it....but rarely clean up after.



How about setting it as a 'task' for them to do... initiate, resource and clear afterwards.... so it would be one persons responsibility for that session.... or if they want to share fine, but let them know it is theirs to take 'care' of....


we often used to change the water for something, or sand, or dough.... craft area had all freely available, and we often found the paint travelled there too so had them close together...


i often felt that we were the one place the children could be as messy as they liked and not be reminded to be careful or 'dont get it on there' etc so had lots of messy play.. everyone knew when I had been in .. luckily I had staff who did do the clearing up after me...


and like Suzie.. I too liked the freedom of setting up each day and nothing ended up being the same for long, regularly reviewed.. it would have been good to not put away each day but it did have its positive side too...



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We very lucky being in a permanant building, however it's a tiny portacabin and space is an issue but we have out each day....


Sand tray - either with sand, jelly, bark chips and different tools and accessories.


Oh a good thing to try is Polenta (from local indian shop, bright yellow and big bags, LEA called in and loved the idea it's going in their newsletter!)


Water tray - coloured, foam, bubbles etc


either table top or easel painting only have space for 1 or the other.


Messy table - with a gluing activity, ethier pritt sticks or PVA


Malleable table - which has either dough, shave foam, clay, cooking, gloop


can i also add, the older staff in my setting DON'T like the children transporting to other areas and thats any resource it drives me crazy, what id give for free choice! something i'm going to change when i'm in charge in September :o

Edited by mk5698
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Gosh I'm really wondering if we have enough messy play activities.....


We always have an easel chalk/paint double sided, tactile table or tray not room for both, that covers dough, gloop. foam, sand, water clay etc and a craft table which can be sticky, painty, junk modely etc.


I hope we are doing enough!


I understand to a certain extent the transportation issue, play dough and gloop in the carpet is a bugger!



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Playdough and gloop are not what they have an issue with i's things like sand toys in the water tray, or other way round, anything out of the home corner coming out of the area and god forebid if they bring a pan/cup over to water tray.. :o

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