Of all the rooms in a home, the kitchen is one of the best equipped for messy play. Without any effort, there are already so many resources at your fingertips, including everything you need for clean up! Messy play in the kitchen can entail cooking, experimenting and role-playing; there are so many ways children—and adults—can be creative with play in the kitchen. And if indoor mess makes you quake, take the kitchen outdoors!

Benefits of messy play in the kitchen

Messy play in the kitchen is a complete sensory experience as children can see, hear, smell, touch and taste what they are playing with. This sensory input stimulates neural pathways and helps children grow healthy, curious minds. Kitchen play also promotes literacy and numeracy by reading the words on packaging and recipes and incorporating mathematical concepts such as weight, size, number and time. Engaging children with food in a fun manner can also help them to overcome any aversions they may have. Of course, time spent playing with mum and/or dad improves language skills and emotional wellbeing. Family time in the kitchen has many benefits to reap; add a bit of mess and you’re making precious memories to laugh about for years to come.

Tips for delivering messy play

Preparation is the key to ensuring everyone enjoys messy play in the kitchen.

Indoors:

  • Minimise hazards by flicking taps to cold, putting away sharp objects, locking the stove, etc.
  • Pull out the ingredients and utensils you need, or those you don’t mind your child playing with if you’re letting them experiment. Consider the safety of your child and your kitchen when choosing appropriate ingredients and utensils.
  • Have washers, wipes, towels, tea towels, paper towel, broom, dustpan and vacuum cleaner handy.
  • Dress yourself and your child in appropriate clothing and lay some ground rules, if necessary.

Outdoors:

  • Choose a safe outdoor area you don’t mind getting messy.
  • If you need it, position a work surface such as a table or mat.
  • Gather the ingredients and utensils you need for the activity.
  • Have a hose, towels or blower handy.
  • Dress yourself and your child in appropriate clothing and lay some ground rule, if necessary.

Most importantly, understand it is going to get messy and be in the moment – cleaning can wait!

Ideas for messy play

Utensils

Ingredients

Extra bits and pieces

Bowls, plates, cups, pots, pans

Flour, oats, sugar, salt, herbs, spices

Sticks, rocks, soil, flowers, leaves

Whisk, spatula, spoons, tongs, sieve

Pasta, rice, legumes, nuts, seeds, fruits, vegetables

Recycled bottles, containers, packets

Measuring cups, scales, Tupperware

Water, oil, food colouring, sauce

Elastic bands, bread clips, pegs

Tips for engaging children in messy play

Some children will love messy play and will enthusiastically engage with the experience you provide. Some children may be cautious about trying new things or have an aversion to some of the sensory input. The best way to engage all children in messy play in the kitchen is to get involved yourself. Talk about what you can see, smell, hear, taste and feel. Explain what you’re doing and why you’re doing it. Occasionally invite hesitant children to join in, perhaps with something they’ll find easy and you’re sure they’ll enjoy. There’s no need to force them; remember, this is play and play is fun!

Blog by the Playgroup Queensland Community Programs Team