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Messy Play - How Far To Go In Protecting Clothes


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Hi, the issue of parents complaining about messy play/messy clothes has cropped up again.


It's a little bit complicated this time as the parent in question is very unwell and we need to do what we can to support her and her family. What I've suggested is that we put these particular children in old uniform while they're at the setting as a one off. (This is rather than sticking rigidly to our procedures when it is clearly a unique situation.)


However, we're wondering how far we should go as a setting to protect children's clothes. Obviously the children wear aprons/tabards for things like messy play and painting, but should we go further than that? What do other settings do? We have a uniform which we sell at cost price so they can buy that to keep specifically for preschool.


We make it clear to parents regularly that we are a freeflow, messy play kind of place. I don't want staff to spend their whole time worrying about whether children are completely covered up, and anyway that isn't appropriate in the summer. I'm happy to say 'this is what we do' and stick to it, with this instance as a one off.


Could I please ask what other settings do so I can get a feel for the best solution?

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We havent had that for a while but we always stress that the children should wear old clothes or clothes that you dont mind getting stained because, although the paint says washable it often isnt.

In the past I have laughed it off and reminded them that messy play is part of what we do. I remember wearing my dads old shirt for art activities at school, could you use something like that to cover them totally?

I think even with mom being very ill, if she's able to complan then she's able to accept your explanation and your attempts at keeping clothes clean. We also add a little thing about us not being responsible for stained clothing along with loss of personal posessions.

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Oh my, well if you were at our pre-school today all our lunch club children were mark making with chalks and having the most wonderful time outside.[ just opened the door when they were collected by parents/carers and said sorry they are all a little messy and that we had been having a wonderful time].

At our pre-school it is explained to parent/carers and they can see first hand at our induction days that we love messy play.

We do sell pre-school t-shirts, sweatshirts although it is not compulsory to purchase these.

We also suggest to wear old clothes, we provide aprons, but as we know some children just get more messy than others.

Maybe just a little more support without encroaching on their play may help as you obviously want to support the family in the best way you can. :o

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I agree with all that has been said previously.


We don't allow water/ paint play without an apron but even with they get wet and messy and it says in our info booklet that children shouldn't come in their best clothes!!!


I do wonder sometimes..........


When will people accept that getting dirty or messy or very wet is part of being a small child learning?!!!!

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I explain to parents that sometimes aprons get in the way of children's creativity. I've had a few children down the years who love to paint and stick and do all manner of things but will absolutely refuse to take part if they are told they need to wear an apron first.


Fortunately on the whole parents understand this and either put them in old clothes to come to nursery, or even if they do send them in expensive newer clothes, understand that children will get messy despite our best intentions. They tend to think that it is best to wear clothes like that every day to get the most wear out of them rather than keep them for 'best' and never wear them at all!

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same really, on their visit one of us would point out to the parents that they get very mucky and old clothes or ones you don't mind being dirty a must.. in prospectus, in newsletters, and everywhere else we could think of.


Aprons provided for the paint and water... none otherwise, (not for craft ) unless it was particularly messy day when we provided them for things like mud, goop etc but they were aprons not coveralls so things still became mucky at times.


we too encouraged sale of uniform at cost... and found parents would return them once the child left or pass them on to next group.. we offered these to those we knew could not afford the uniform..asking for a small donation as most wanted to pay something ...


spare clothes drawer was often in use for the very wet and very dirty... parents seldom complained as they saw me more mucky than the children most days..


any 'special circumstances' were as our discretion and done very confidentially, so other parents were totally unaware. we have given parents old uniform to wear if needed



Your post did remind me of the day all of the children went home looking like they had been through a snowstorm where we had been using flour with the dough and it went everywhere... as usual we apologised and laughed it off on collection...


more than one parent said if they went home clean they would wonder what was wrong...

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