Many people think of messy play as an activity that’s reserved solely for younger children particularly those in infant or nursery school. While it’s true it is great for younger children in helping them develop important skills like mark making, fine motor control, and self-expression older primary children can benefit from incorporating messy play into mentoring.
For older children messy play can work both as a means of self-expression for difficult feelings or abstract concepts but also as an activity which opens dialogue and conversation between you. I’m sure we’ve all been in situations where we feel uncomfortable communicating and end up resorting to awkward small talk, well guess what children feel like this too! Messy play can help you both to focus on the task at hand, and as you get stuck in make conservation flow much easier. Often you can go from short, shy answers to full on discussions about favourite colours, dolphins, Moana, family members, and what they like best for tea all in the space of fifteen minutes or so.
This is fantastic for planning future mentoring sessions as not only does it give you more of an insight into areas that need developing in mentoring, it also gives you as a mentor ideas for how to pitch different activities in a way that catches the interest of your mentee. For example through messy play I discovered one of my mentee’s favourite things is dolphins, knowing that enabled me to plan sessions around her interests while also incorporating work on helping her manage her friendships in school better. Our time spent together doing messy play also helped remind her of when she used to spend time doing this with her Mum, meeting her unmet need for structured messy play with a caring and attentive adult.
One of my favourite messy play activities to do has been making slime with my mentees. Don’t let the fact that it’s slime put you off, while yes it is messy prior planning can keep the activity contained, and under your control. It doesn’t particularly need any specialist cleaning equipment or tools to work with, just stuff you’re more than likely to already have in your kitchen. When I’ve made slime in school I’ve found the following items really useful for making it, and keeping the clean up to a minimum:
• Plastic mixing bowl (plastic being useful as it’s easy to wash at home and unlikely to shatter or break)
• Plastic measuring jug
• Measuring spoons
• Mixing spoons
• Plastic tubs for the slime to be taken home in (old takeaway containers are great for this!)
• Old tshirts or ask your mentee to bring one from home
• Cleaning wipes
• Kitchen towel
• Kitchen cleaning spray
Below is the recipe I’ve used for my slime making sessions as it’s one of the few I could find on Pintrest that didn’t involve using washing powders or gel liquitabs. As well as adding food colouring, you could also add glitter, foam shapes or sprinkles for a different texture or look to the finished slime. When I’ve made slime and it’s gotten onto my clothes (often I’m messier than the kids) it has been removable using Vanish to pretreat as well as an additional scoop in the wash. Though I would wash it separately from other items of clothing because of the food colouring in it, no one wants home dyed pink formally white t-shirts!
Here’s some photos from one of our slime making sessions in a primary school:
What do we do with the slime once we’ve made it?
Short answer, anything that’s reasonable for the space you’re working in (as tempting as is I’d personally draw the line at seeing if it rolls down walls!). Sometimes me and my mentee have used the slime like a stress ball to prod and poke while they talk about different feelings. Another preferred to build different models together while we talked about her friendships. What you can do with the finished slime depends on your personality, and dynamic you have with your mentee. I hope this blog has helped demystify messy play, and in particular making slime. It really isn’t as messy as it first may sound, and is good, sort of clean fun models together while we talked about her friendships. What you can do with the finished slime depends on your personality, and dynamic you have with your mentee. I hope this blog has helped demystify messy play, and in particular making slime. It really isn’t as messy as it first may sound, and is good, sort of clean fun!
By Lucy, Cherished Mentor