A lot of parents freak out at the idea of messy play - I did too at first! But it's really simple to keep it easy, and I promise it doesn't get that messy!
1. Always use a wipe clean mat (you can pick these up fairly cheaply on Amazon, alternatively you can use a wipe clean tablecloth, I bought ours in Dunelm)
2. It's good to also restrict the mat (and the child) to a room with a wipe clean floor, like the kitchen!
3. You can pick up a few basics really cheaply as well, I bought A3 pastel coloured paper sheets and a pack of three tubs of knock-off play-doh in Poundland, as well as managing to get two bottles of poster paint for £1 each in Tesco. I also picked up a value washing up tub to be used as a play bin.
4. If you're worried about your young child putting everything in their mouths (as mine does), I would recommend using food as a sensory play. It sounds bizarre, but you can use bright gungy orange baby food as an alternative to paint you can use pasta, rice and flour in the sensory bin for them to touch and feel, and both corn meal and flour are great to use in the sensory bin as a sand box, just add in some scoops for the baby to play with!
5. It's good to strip the baby to their nappies for messy play, and then run them a warm bath after!
6. Have cleaning cloths, wipes and sponges at the ready
7. I also like to play cheery pop music, like Taylor Swift or Katy Perry, in the background to make it more fun.
One of the easiest things I've done with Rhys is to lay a messy play mat on the floor and fill an old paint tray with water and some water-friendly toys for him to play with, it was really simple and he loved it!
Something else we've done was make up cookie dough, and I got Rhys very actively helping me to mix it up. He was having so much fun with it he got tired half way through so I put him to sleep in his cot before baking them and making them up the icing. He then woke up in time to help me chuck neon icing crystals on them (I demonstrated and he copied me), and then we had some homemade cookies for dessert later that evening.
I've also made up homemade play-doh from water, flour, oil, food colouring and food flavouring. Where it's not particularly good for him, it is fine for him to ingest and safer than actual play doh. This is what we'll be playing with tomorrow, and I'm also going to lay out one of the pastel paper sheets and blob on some poster paint for him to play with and inevitably get everywhere.
This is Rhys's messy play tub, and we add to it as we go!
I've also been looking at some cheap sensory water beads, as they'll be a lot of fun for Rhys to feel and play with.
So yeah! This was just a quick little introduction to messy play, and obviously you can encourage it however you want, but this is just what I do with my son. I find it's really good to encourage messy play as they enjoy it, it's fun for both parent and child, it keeps him actively thinking and guessing, and they learn so much through it that I can't recommend it enough, and there are always fun and new activities to engage them with.