After making our papier mache balloons at playgroup we hung them up on a rack outside to dry. I came by the next day to collect them and put them safely away in the storeroom, but sadly the elements (or perhaps the other children who use the centre) had not been kind to them, and most had fallen off the rack and suffered varying degrees of collapse. R's had completely sunk into itself so that it resembled a bowl - actually rather cool. When it came time to paint them we reshaped them as best we could and the children really enjoyed covering them (and themselves) with paint and glitter. R's special 'glitter bowl' has since become a bed for small soft toys.
An article in Sunday's newspaper quoted a long-term study of preschool children which, sadly, has found that 36 per cent of parents 'never do messy activities with their children, which experts say is critical for developing the senses and motor skills'. As I wrote in this post some weeks ago, playgroup is a fantastic place to do the 'messy' things that some people are unwilling to do at home. And isn't it funny how these things are always the most exciting? When we put out troughs of water in summer the kids go wild. Finger-painting attracts a crowd of eager artists. The sand in the sandpit is used not only for building and digging but also for 'cooking', raking, rolling in and even eating (there's at least one sand-eater in every group, I've found. I understand why they might try it once - but why do they eat it again and again?).
All we lack at playgroup is a nice mud-patch, but fortunately the lanes behind the local park are full of lovely muddy puddles on a rainy day, with lots of little gravelly stones to toss in them. One just has to remember to keep a towel or two in the car for dusty, mud-covered children. No child should miss out on the joys of messy play!