ecostore New Zealand Blog

Messy play: the recipe for healthy, happy kids.
Posted On November 28th, 2013

Kids at Balmoral playcentre

Kids love to get messy and playing with materials like playdough, fingerpaint, puddles and mud pies are an essential part of a healthy early childhood.

The Sandringham Spring Festival in Auckland recently offered visitors a chance to try out some messy play experiences with the wonderfully squishy gloop and slime at the demonstration table created by Balmoral Playcentre.

Messy play is something Playcentre literally wrote the book on, with ‘Messy Play’ the latest title to be published by Ako Books. Previously known as Playcentre Publications, they have been leaders in Early Childhood Education publications since the 1970’s. This is a book that can best be described as full of recipes for fun!

Here’s one of the great recipes from the Messy Play book:

Easy-to-clean finger paint recipe


  • 1 cup cornflour
  • ½ cup cold water
  • ¼ cup dishwashing liquid
  • 2 cups hot water
  • A few drops of food colouring

Mix the cornflour, cold water, colour and dishwashing liquid to form a thick paste like texture
Quickly mix in the boiling water to form a glossy paste
Allow to cool and you’re ready to go!

Tip: Dishwashing liquid gives the fingerpaint a soapy-like feel, as well as making the fingerpaint easy to clean up and wash out of clothes. Because your little ones will be getting the fingerpaint all over their skin, we recommend that you use a product with no unecessary chemicals that’s gentle on skin like ecostore Dishwash liquid.

Messy Play book and dishwash liquid

To enter: All you need to do is share a story with us in the comments below about a funny messy play experience you’ve had with your child. We’ll email the lucky winner by December 10.

Meanwhile here are a few links that might come in handy:

Playcentre Aotearoa Facebook page

Ako Books (Playcentre Publications) Facebook page

Playcentre Aotearoa website

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42 Responses to “Messy play: the recipe for healthy, happy kids.”

  1. Christine says:

    My then 8-month-old boy wanted to stand up in the fingerpaint tray like the 3 year olds. Not being able to stand up independently he had to be content with body surfing!

  2. Michelle Ramsay says:

    Messy play was my girls favourite thing to do at Playcentre. She would be into it head first and stay immersed for the entire session! She could make messy play out of anything. glue,playdough, baking,collage, paint, sand with a little bit of water, the old favourite cornflour and water. At the end of every session we would go home, stop at the door, strip her off and throw her straight in the shower! She always had fun and became so very confident with experimenting and the joy on her face was amazing!

  3. Jisun says:

    my ten months old son loves gloop. the favourite part of it is eating them! I think he definately used up his cornflour ration for the year!

  4. Linda Roderique says:

    My twins helped themselves to the aqueous cream. It was a large and new tub. They spread it all over themselves, their hair, the carpet, the door and anything else they could. Luckily popping them in the bath washed it right off … wish I’d taken photos …. but I was too busy saving my carpet ! LOL

  5. Lynda McAlister says:

    It didn’t start off as a messay play activity but soon turned into one…..I had been feeding my 8 month old pureed pumpkin & the phone rang. I tuned to answer the phone & left the bowl within reach……within seconds she happily used the pumpkin as finger paint to cover herself & the highchair tray!

  6. Anneke Jochem says:

    Was busy cleaning an activity station, while my little one was playing with the bubbles in the 5cm of water in the bucket next to me. Went to rinse the cloth, and found the little one, had attempted to climb into the bucket. And in the process tipped the entire thing on her head (and got a mouth full)! So in the end, the activity centre, her hair and the floor got a clean.. lol.

  7. Sarah Mandeno says:

    The messy play started as sensory play with lavender scented coloured rice but my daughter wasn’t fully content so water and cereal got added to the container by her while I was distracted and she jumped in said mess fully clothed.
    Soggy cereal sticks like glue to clothes and child, cereal was showing up round house for days to come.
    She did smell of lavender tho …

  8. Gemma Bergin says:

    My 2 boys (4 and nearly 2) love rainbow bubbles, I mix dish washing liquid with some water and food colouring (in different colour batches) into a baby bath outside, and we get hours of play out of it, its amazing how much fun they have!!!

  9. Sonya Horne says:

    My 14 month old daughter LOVES drawing. I put out huge pieces of paper for her and she loves sitting in the middle of these and drawing. On the paper?? No – herself. Face mostly. Oh and the dog gets drawn on. And mummy. The paper, apparently, is for sitting on only.

    • Sara Mason says:

      Skin makes such a great canvas! It pays to be cautious about the paint you use as some can have chemicals that cause irritation.“Non-Toxic” does not mean “safe for skin.” Sara :)

  10. Casey Williamson says:

    We had messy play in the vegie garden yesterday. Large about of dirt + water = mud pie fun! Both my 2 and 1 year old had a great time and it was easy, free, and only required a hose down and bath to clean it up!

  11. Shannon says:

    When my 18 month old twin girls discovered how to open the pantry door, they made their very own messy play as they very quietly tipped flour everywhere! They did look kind of cute with white hair etc.

  12. Maria Boyd says:

    My daughter loves painting, we usually do it outside on an easel. I taught her to paint her hand and splat it on the paper. Some days I wish I hadn’t lol cause she splats it other places too.

  13. Shirley says:

    My two and a half year old discovered finger painting with jam. Great idea, as it’s edible and safe!

  14. Chris says:

    My two little monkeys (2 and 5) got into the freezer when I was hanging out the washing one morning. When I came in they had stripped off all their clothes and used lime icecream as body paint. We were finding green icecream drop on walls, doors and windows for the next month. All I could do was laugh!

  15. Willow says:

    My little girl loves painting … just not on paper! But it’s great fun watching her squish the paint in between her fingers and toes!

  16. Eddie says:

    My 2yr old loves to draw with crayons, so much so that he started drawing on the walls and quite proud of his work as he shows it to all his young/old visitors.

  17. Jessica says:

    I don’t have a child myself, but I am a Brownie leader (7-9yo girls) and they love messy play, it’s not just for toddlers! The funniest moment we’ve had was when we were creating some foam to play with. One of the girls dropped her bottle and it went everywhere! As it was blue coloured, the girls said it looked like a smurf had been killed!

  18. Daniel says:

    My little ones love playing with washable paints. I remember coming home from work one day to find them covered in paint from head to toe. My wife had covered the kitchen floor and then let them go with the paint. They had a blast and the best thing about it is that the paint washes off.

  19. Gabriella says:

    our little girl is only 4months old but we have already had a few messy play experiences at Playcentre. The funiest one has been when we did paint footprints. Her expression when I was painting her feet was just gorgeous and then the paint that got everywhere, except the paper I was trying to get the print on was lots of fun for her. At home we have also had lots of fun with filling her bath with jelly. she just loved the texture and colours.

  20. Rebecca says:

    My 3 yr old and I recently made flubber (with pva and borax) I love watching him experiment and learn! It’s not too messy but the blue food colouring leached out for the first few plays so he had smurf hands.

  21. Beks says:

    My girl loves helping me with baking. Especially messy things like chocolate cake batter!

  22. Tammy says:

    My wee 22 month old just loves arts and crafts. Before she does anything she likes to put glue all over her hands but doesn’t realise that everything will stick to her and not the cards or paintings she is doing! She will learn eventually!

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