Messy Play

Where is the Messy Play for Toddlers?

We all love those pictures on Pinterest, Facebook and Instagram-beautifully appointed environments with sparkling new timber equipment, tidy spaces, provocations set up and not a spot of paint anywhere to be seen.  Is this your reality?  Is this developmentally appropriate?

Toddlers are discoverers, they use their senses to make sense of their world, and they need MESSY PLAY!

Finger paint, paint with brushes, playdough, sand, mud, water, goop, leaves, sticks, rocks, boxes….the list goes on.  The messier the better.

EVERY DAY…EVERY CHILD…needs access to messy play where they use their hands and bodies to squish, squelch, rub and feel.  Yes it’s hard work cleaning up the mess, but it is developmentally appropriate and essential for growing toddler minds and bodies.

Here are some tips from Karen…


  • Provide the children with unhurried time;
  • Allow the children time to explore experiences (eg. if you set up a painting experience, allow the children time to explore these materials until they are finished);
  • Allow children time to return to an experience. Don’t just pack it up straight away. You may find that a child needs to develop confidence in using the materials until they start to truly engage in the experience;
  • Ensure the routines are flexible and follow the needs and interests of the children;
  • Allow for small group experiences. Smaller group sizes allow for deeper engagement of children;
  • Create spaces where children can go to engage in ‘quiet/alone time’. (eg. a tent with pillows, blankets and a book, that can only fit 1 or 2 children at a time).

For more information about providing experiences for babies and toddlers see our CHCECE032 Learning Guide 

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