Sliming it: the benefits of messy play

Have you ever wondered why your child feels the urge to jump into puddles or eagerly clump fistfuls of mud together to make a delicious mud pie? Have you ever wished they just wouldn’t? Children love to get messy, it’s a fact of life. And unfortunately for us, messy play is an important part of children’s development, much like learning their numbers and letters, playing with raw messy materials in an unrestricted way encourages them to question, experiment and learn about their environment. On the upside it provides you with some much needed alone time, time to contemplate the laundry, food shopping, hoovering…contemplate, not do. These things need serious consideration.

As Ireland is such a wet, mild climate it is very easy to engage in some messy play at home in our own back gardens. However, if you’d rather your child didn’t trample around your flower bed on a rainy afternoon hunting for worms, we have a simple recipe for the ultimate messy activity: slime.

Slime is a material that keeps children occupied for hours and it is simple to make with ingredients from your pantry. It’s safe and edible (though it won’t taste very nice) so there’s no need to worry if some slime ends up suspiciously around your child’s mouth. The texture is changeable, rock hard when trying to mix it with a spoon, then melting almost as soon as a warm hand touches it, so children will be thrilled with trying to make things out of it, only to have it melt through their fingers over and over again.

Tips for parents

During messy play it’s hard for us not to continuously do damage control for our kids. ‘Don’t drop it on the floor, don’t get it on your clothes, don’t eat it!’ It’s habit, it’s instinct and we can’t control it. However, in order to get the most benefit out of messy play, children need to engage with the material unencumbered by what adults believe is the right way to hold, mould, or play with it. Just leave them to it. You can support your child through messy play by making sure there’s adequate space available with a washable surface and floor (not carpet for the love of all holy), putting an apron over their clothes (or just not caring when they get dirty), by joining in to show your child that it’s okay to be messy, and using descriptive words such as ooze, slimy, runny, lumpy, and wet to help build your child’s vocabulary.

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We have the recipe for simple slime right here for you to try at home!

DIY: Simple Slime

Equipment needed

  • Bowl
  • Spoon
  • 1 cup of water
  • 2 cups corn flour
  • 3-4 drops of food colouring (careful with this as it can stain hands)

Method

  • Place the corn flour in a bowl.
  • Mix the food colouring with the water.
  • Slowly pour the coloured water into the corn flour.
  • About half way through give it a good mix and see if it needs more water.
  • The consistency should be hard until hands get into it.
  • When cleaning up, do not put the slime down the drain as it can clog up the plughole.

If your child loved Slime, then why not try these other great recipes for Goop and Fluffy slime. Be sure that neither of these ends up in their mouths though!

DIY: Rubbery Goop

Equipment needed

  • Saucepan
  • Whisk
  • Wooden spoon
  • 2 cups baking soda
  • 1 and a half cups of water
  • 1 cup of corn flour
  • Food colouring (as needed)

Method

  • Combine all the ingredients into a saucepan.
  • Mix them together using a whisk to remove any lumps that appear.
  • Heat on medium heat, stirring with a wooden spoon. Mind those wandering hands when using the hob!
  • Bring mixture to the boil.
  • Small lumps will appear, keep stirring until a thick clump has formed.
  • Turn clump out onto a work surface and knead together (be very careful it’s super hot!)
  • Knead until a ball is formed.
  • Play with the goop!
  • Store in an airtight container or ziplock bag in the fridge.
DIY: Fluffy slime

Equipment needed

  • Bowl
  • Spoon
  • PVA glue (1 part)
  • Shaving foam (at least 2 parts)
  • Contact lense solution (as needed)
  • Food colouring (as needed)

Method

  • Place PVA glue into a bowl and add 3-4 drops of food colouring. Mix well.
  • Add about double the amount of shaving foam to glue and mix well.
  • Once mixed through, add a liberal amount of contact lense solution and mix through.
  • The mixture should come together, but if it’s sticking to the bowl and spatula add more contact lense solution, this will help to bring the mass together.
  • Once in a single mass, you can start playing with it!
  • Note, it shouldn’t stick to your hands overmuch – add more contact lense solution to avoid it sticking to your hands and the work surface.
  • Fluffy slime lasts for about two weeks in an airtight container in the fridge.
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