Sometimes I hate messy play because I’m the one who has to clean it up afterwards. Usually, though, I think it is the best – it engages the boys’ tactile systems in unusual ways, gives them a new or uncommon activity to delve into, and provides them an opportunity to create and imagine with different raw material then they’re used to.
Baking is one of my favorite messy plays because it’s highly edible and somewhat productive as well as being a lot to clean up, but outdoors messy play is also nice – not so tasty, but less work for me at the end.
One of our favorites around here is cloud dough (8 parts flour to 1 part coconut oil), which feels like soft, crumbly, slightly moist, moldable sand. I keep it in a box with a few different types of toys: spoons and cups for scooping and dumping, cookie cutters for molding, and a bulldozer for building. Then I set the box on the back patio (I’ve found there are too many distractions out front) and let the boys explore freely.
They typically play together well – Rondel is fairly good-natured about letting Limerick investigate everything he’s doing, and Limerick isn’t particularly aggressive about it. I think it helps with the cloud dough and similar activities that they don’t have a routine in which some toys are the sole possession of one boy or the other. It is always a joint affair.
And, ultimately, while Rondel is busy using the spoon or the bulldozer shovel to scoop cloud dough into the small buckets and cups, Limerick ends up just eating handfuls of it. (That, incidentally, is why I use an edible oil like coconut oil instead of mineral oil or baby oil like many cloud dough recipes call for. It’s also why I don’t use tempura paint to color it like I might when they are older…)
By the end, the cloud dough was everywhere – in their clothes, in their hair, all over the patio – but they were incredibly happy and so was I. The spilled cloud dough had become an opportunity for the bulldozer to build roads, and I was commissioned to bring out one of the HotWheels cars to drive on said roads. The boy who had been wiping off his fingers every few minutes at the beginning of the activity had cloud dough completely covering his legs and arms and was utterly disregarding it 🙂 So, all in all, a great success!