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hi, we have a boy in our setting, he is 3 years old and has been coming to us since sept last year.


apart from joining in and communicating problems, our main concern is this childs dislike of anything messy.


by messy, i mean the usual paint, glue etc, also sand, water etc, but not only this, if he goes near anything slightly like these activities, he begins to gag, if he gets anywhere near the glue he makes himself physicaly sick.


have spoke to mum, and she said he is like this at home, but cant think of anything that may of caused it.


we have tried gradually introducing messy things but he just clams up and panics.


has anyone out their had the same problem, do you have any ideas of ways we could encourage him to be involved. he wont go near anything slightly messy or wet, he even gags when he washes his hands.


any ideas of what we can do to help this child. i dont want him to be sick in the setting, but would love for him to overcome this fear before he goes to school in september.


look forward to your replies

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This sounds like a case for Dr Tanya Byron on Little Angels!


WIth limited child psychology experience, could it be that mum is a 'clean freak' (in the nicest possible terms?) Meaning, does she clean up every drip, spill, mark or mess that is made in the house and has the little boy got a fear of being dirty?


I had a best friend like this and her daughter would not touch playdough, gloop etc and me steaming in with cornflour and food colouring didn't help!! We managed to get the daughter to play by watching me and her mum (under protest) playing with it. She took about a month to pluck up the courage to touch it, but now we can't keep her clean!


I would try and encourage the little boy to watch messy activities, get involved in baking where he just has to stir the ingredients and not touch them or even try wearing gloves (latex - allowing for allergies?)


Remember to involve mum in what you are doing - could she do a 'stay and play' session at the nursery so that her son can see her playing with messy things?


The only other thing that springs to mind, although only you know the child, is that there may be autistic tendencies? Children on the spectrum that I have worked with did not like messy activiites or 'soggy' food i.e. food with gravy or sauces but would like whole sausages, fish fingers, carrot sticks etc...


Just a couple of thoughts - now must really go to bed! :D

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He could have sensory difficulties. In my school (Special school- SLD and PMLD) there are lots of kids who are sensory defensive and he sounds like this. The opposite of this is sensory seekers (got lots of those too, including one who eats ANYTHING and I mean ANYTHING!) Is there an occupational therapist you could get in contact with to talk about suggestions for them? That's who deals with that kind of thing at my work.

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We have had a number of children like this over the years and they just didnt LIKE getting dirty. We had one particular boy who would wash his hands everytime he touched pens , pritt sticks, chalk etc. With mums permission we had a sensory day and did blindfolded touching which very wickedly ended with the Nursery Nurse filling his hands with gloop :D However the next messy activity he looked on and finally joined in after a short time. This year we have a child who rubs everything on his face including lunch! :o

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thanks for replies,


talked to mum again today, i get the impression that the child has never been allowed to ever touch anything at home, parents very over protected. his strange behaviour is not just messy play, he is afraid of one of my books, just a normal story flap book like curtains, well, for some reason he was scared of this and couldnt sleep in his own room (so mum said) because of this, his mum changed ALL her curtains!!!! dont ask me why. i think you may be right about OCD, but mum has been in before and she had no problem with mess.


he will sit at the activity (if encouraged!!) and will touch dry paint, but anything wet and he begins to gag again.


mum doesnt seem to be a clean freak, but the child does seem wrapped in cotton wool, but you only know what they tell you.


i work closely with our health visitor, so i think i will have a word, and if she feels their may be a problem too, we can get mum involved.


thanks again for your help.

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We had a 21/2yr little boy like this. Refused to paint, do anything with glue etc, playdough, chalk boards.

Everyday he used to cry to mum that he didn't have a painting like the other children.

We eventually convinced him to put on gloves like the ones you use to change nappies or are in first aid box.

He started off with playdough and after about a month we progressed onto paint. I took nearly a term to paint but now he is 4 and starting school at easter and is fine. Even did a lovely hand print picture for mum without gloves at christmas.


net x

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