Places for Messy Experiences

a girl outside is painting on paper on an easelIn addition to sand and water play, think about where art experiences may take place and surfaces on which they can happen.1 For example, painting can be done on easels, picnic tables, and large sheets of paper fastened to fences or outside walls. Paint brushes and plain water can be used on a variety of surfaces. Playing with play dough and clay may work best on surfaces in shady areas where the sun will not dry them out too quickly. Toddlers enjoy using large pieces of chalk; smooth, concrete surfaces are ideal for chalk scribbles. Paint, play dough, clay, and chalk scribbles are easily washed away with a hose.

Messy activities—including playing with sand and water and digging in dirt—are an important topic to talk about with families, regardless of program option. Some families may not be comfortable with these kinds of activities. It is important for program staff to honor families' views while also communicating the value of these experiences to children's development.

1U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Administration for Children and Families, Office of Head Start, Early Head Start National Resource Center. "Outdoor Spaces."