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Messy fun

Picking up handfuls of goo that squelch between their fingers, or walking through mud with bare feet that makes them giggle and smile are two beautifully messy things for little ones to do which are not only fun but also a great way to learn.

Although your child will get messy, it’s well worth the effort of the clean-up because play in this way sees a child’s imagination soar, and allows them to express themselves in a creative way.

In New Shoots’ Recipes for Messy Play book, there are 40 fun sensory experiences for young learners, and the book explains that “the value of messy play is in the doing, not in the producing of an end product.”

Here’s some recipes to try:



  • 2 cups baking soda
  • 1 cup baking powder
  • 1 cup dishwashing liquid

Mix together baking soda, baking powder and dishwashing liquid in a large bowl.

Stir the mixture with a spoon until a sandy/doughy substance forms. Keep adding baking powder if the mixture seems too wet.

Kneed the mixture until it feels sandy and dough-like but not wet. Continue to add more baking powder at this point to make it fluffy.

This is a great recipe to prepare in advance and you can store your mixture in a plastic container after you finish playing with it.

Thanks to Tracey Came from New Shoots Tauranga


This is a great science experiment with ‘wow factor’. The baking soda reacts with the lemon juice/citric acid releasing carbondioxide as a
by-product. The bubbly gas released produces super foam from the hand soap.


  • ¼ cup clear liquid hand soap
  • ¾ cup warm water
  • 2 tbsp baking soda
  • 2 tbsp citric acid, or lemon juice (try using both and experimenting to see what works best)
  • Food colouring

Set out small containers in a deep basin or water trough. Add clear hand soap and warm water to each container and invite the children to mix to create soapy water. Add a few drops of food colouring to each one. Invite children to add spoonfuls of baking soda to each bowl of soapy water and mix it in – it should become gooey. The children can then add spoonfuls of citric acid (or lemon juice). As soon as the citric acid/lemon juice hits the baking soda/soapy water combination, it will create a very light, airy, fluffy foam.

Set out small spoons or sticks for mixing. The more the children mix in the citric acid, the lighter, fluffier and bigger foam they’ll get!

Tip out all of the containers into a large container – get stuck in with hands and mix for some extra foamy fun!

Thanks to Silo Park Playcentre

The fun and inspiring book Recipes for Messy Play features original recipes created in the 1970s Playcentres, alongside new ideas currently used at New Shoots Children’s Centres.

The book takes a modern and environmentally-friendly approach to messy play that helps children expand and develop their understanding of the world – and is easy to use for parents, children and teachers alike!


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