When Messy Play goes wrong…

I love a bit of messy play with Monkey, it is usually great fun and also a great way for him to learn. It is one of my favourite things, as a SAHM to be able to do these things with him. Sometimes though…. it really doesn’t go as well as I would hope. Last week is a good example of this.

I read a great post a couple of weeks ago about playing with coloured foam. It wasn’t something I had seen before so we definitely hadn’t tried it. It looked great, the blogger’s little one loved it and all went well. So, one afternoon last week I decided we should give it a go. It did not go quite so well for us.

coloured foam

The idea is nice and simple, you combine some washing up liquid with a splash of water and food colouring, and then whisk, using an electric whisk, to get some really good foam.


You continue whisking until you get soft peaks forming (similar to making a meringue out of egg whites).

I did 3 colours of foam and poured them into the baby bath as we sometimes use that for messy play. Immediately I noticed that the foam was losing some of it’s great consistency but we went outside for a play in the tuffspot.


It started well and Monkey was intrigued by the texture. He was playing with his cars and people I had put in there….

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Then he tipped it all out in the tuff spot, which was fine…


Then he got bored…. about 5 minutes in.

And this is where it all went a bit to pot really, as what I had failed to think about was how slimy the washing up bubbles would be at that consistency. You know kind of almost greasy slimy. I was a bit gutted that he got fed up so quickly but he just had enough and kept saying ‘inside, inside’ so I had to scrabble about a bit to clean him before he wandered back into the house.

I immediately realised wipes weren’t going to cut it as it just lathered up his soapy skin more. Argh! I went to quickly turn the hose on but it wasn’t attached to the tap (joy) and I struggled to get it on, and well, my toddler understands many things, but one of the things he chooses not to understand is ‘stay there’ so he was following me and getting covered in all sorts of dirt that was now sticking to the foam and irritating him. Thankfully he stayed outside at this point, though he was getting pretty moody!

I eventually got the hose going properly and started to wash his hands and feet, but by now his clothes were also covered in the foam and spraying them with water just made them go massively soapy and basically Monkey, me and the patio were all just becoming one big soapy mess, and he had had enough. I managed to get his clothes off him and again requested that he ‘stay there’ while I made a dash for a towel. Of course he chose to ignore me and came trotting into the house with big wet soapy puddles being left in his wake.

I will admit I completely lost my cool at this point and got very cross, I mean how hard is it to understand the concept of ‘stay there?’ Apparently very hard, when you are 2 years old. Cue me on my hands and knees cleaning the floor with a towel, chuntering away to myself while Monkey happily ran around the lounge in his nappy (thankfully dry by this point).

It wasn’t the worst playtime in the world, but it certainly wasn’t what I envisaged, him playing nicely while I was able to sit and relax with minimal input. And I certainly did not think through the clean up operation, at all!!!

Have you had an messy play experiences that have not gone the way you expected? Am I the only Mama who goes into these things inadequately prepared sometimes?

Super Busy Mum

48 thoughts on “When Messy Play goes wrong…

  1. We used to do this a lot [I work in a preschool], it works a lot better in a tray up high, one they can stand up to [like a school water tray] or on a table if not. And one thing I learnt is to get the balance between water & bubbles right, so you’ve got more bubbles than water, less sticky and messy. Have you tried colouring shaving foam in the same way? This is my favourite! 😉
    Lianne | TheBrunetteSays…

    • Hmm I can see that would be better, and I definitely didn’t have the right consistency! Ooh yes we love the shaving foam! Lots of fun to be had! xx

  2. I love messy play, but it definitely isn’t fun when things don’t go to plan, and unfortunately it never seems to go smoothly when you have children! At least it looked pretty at the beginning; even if it did go wrong after that! Great post!
    Steph | stephaniejayne-xo.blogspot.co.uk

    • Thank you, I love it too but it definitely stresses me out when it goes to pot!! All part of the fun though I guess! xx

  3. Oh bless!! I’m so OCD but I’m dying to try out messy play. Not sure how I’ll cope with the clean up haha. The foam looked great and it looks he had a blast so well done you 🙂 xx #mummymonday

    • haha you will love it, though always make sure you have old towels and wipes a plenty – I was seriously under prepared this time, rookie mistake! 😉 xx

  4. Thank god that I’m not the only one! I see people everywhere doing this and that and when I try it never looks the same – finally some honesty!!
    Sorry it did go all a bit wrong but glad he finally came clean. Maybe try cornflour gloop next time? We love that x

    • Thank you, well I love sharing the successful attempts so thought I would share the less successful ones too – as I can;t be the only one who doesn’t get it right every time!! Ooh yes cornflour gloop is soo much fun, haven’t done that in ages so will have to try again! xx

  5. Oh no! My son gets bored quite easily with things, too, which is frustrating if you’ve spent a while setting it all up. I confess, I stick to tried and tested or easy to set up things more at the moment, until he’s attention span improves!

    • Yeah that is not a bad plan, I like to try new things though I guess you have to be prepared for it to not go perfectly!! xx

  6. Oh dear, there are always those sessions that don’t turn out the way you thought they would and of course there are also those sessions that go completely a wry and really ends in disaster. I have done it too, but I think it is all a learning curve, for both of you. It is always difficult to get a small child to stay where you want them to x

  7. Oh no! I have recently got to grips with messy play and we’ve all quite enjoyed it so far. However, I’ve not attempted anything that can’t be swept up quickly when it escapes from the tuff spot. My ocd vibes are twitching at the thought of cleaning up a foamy, soapy child #whatsthestory

    • haha yes it was definitely another level of mess and I was just not fully prepared for it, which stressed me out!! 🙂 xx

  8. Oh dear. I used food colouring with foam with similar results except my son ended up with green hands and looked like the Incredible Hulk until it eventually faded! You have my total sympathy 🙂

  9. Oh no 🙁 I hate it when fun goes wrong and its just so stressful (its happene on more than one occasion here! (If you read my welcome post..you will see what i mean…its all about god dam home made playdough!!!) As I was reading it I was expecting that he went flying and bumping his head (phhheww that he didnt!) due to slippy shoes/feet, i hope that you have the gutso to try something else messy again some time, its not always so crap…I promise XX

    • haha oh I know it can be so frustrating hey? haha I will have to have a read of that! no thankfully no slipping but that was one reason I wanted him to stay put!! Thankfully not all messy play is as stressful as this!! xx

      • no most certainly not, I love to look back at photos of a fun session and the smile on their faces and the enjoyment they are having, makes the bade ones seem worth it X

        • I can totally relate to that, some of my fave pics of Monkey are when he is covered head to toe in some gloopy substance as he looks so happy! 🙂 xx

  10. I love the idea of messy play, but find it hard to pick a day when I’ll be able to cope with the clean-up afterwards. My toddler manages to make most days into messy ones anyway – there’s always a puddle or patch of mud he manages to find his way into!

    • haha yep toddlers to have a mess magnet don’t they? yeah I do have to build myself up to it some days, but it is worth it to see him have so much fun! xx

  11. Messy plays often go wrong in my household and it’s quiet irritating, at times.

    Monkey is growing real fast. Hope you will have lovely messy play next time.


    • Thank you, it’s always worth trying these things but it can definitely be frustrating when they are not interested! xx

  12. Oh I wanted to try this out, think I’ve been put off now! It looks so good and loads of fun but the mess! maybe not! – so glad I read this post first 🙂

  13. Things do go wrong sometimes, especially when there are toddlers involved! You never know if they’ll love something or get bored quickly. It’s a hit and miss with messy play! #letkidsbekids

  14. This has really made me smile! I have a 2 year old who loves messy play but when i let her do marble painting with paint and shaving foam alongside her older brothers she took it a step to far and starting launching the marbles around the room and slapping messy hand prints eveywhere!! #letkidsbekids

  15. Oh you are not alone I tend to avoid too much messy play as it never goes to well for me and I’ll be the first to admit that I don’t have great patience, at least you gave it a good go 🙂 #mummymonday

    • haha I am sure you’re right, and I wont be put off trying new things in the future as thankfully not all messy play goes this badly! xx

  16. You’ve got some patience in going through all that!
    I loved the idea of creating a foam, makes for a good sensory play too? But my Little one dislike getting into situations of messy play. He will just touch his finger, feel and if he realizes it’s going to get yucky, he walks away! And I have to wrap things up and unfortunately it doesn’t turn out the way I expected it to be.

  17. Wow, that kinda went spectacularly wrong…but I bet your Monkey enjoyed the mess. The only comparable thing I can think of is when it rains heavily, you know all day.

    I’ll put her in her oldest clothes and take her out with instructions ot get as muddy and wet as possible. The aim is to ensure my wife gives us both a look of mock-disapproval when we get home and she has to strip off on the door mat to stop the carpet from getting muddy. #MMWBH

    • Yeah it really didn;t go to plan, he did enjoy it, for a few minutes at least! That sounds like a lot of fun though and the best kind of messy play 🙂 xx

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  19. Haha, I love this! I’m so glad it’s not just me 🙂 Sometimes I’ll be inspired to try an activity and it works out great. Other times, not so much. The mess will be messier or my daughter won’t be interested or will play with it in a completely different way than she was ‘meant’ to. I’m learning to let go of the expectations and just go with the flow. And also learning what works for us and what doesn’t. I saw the whisked soap blog post too and thought it looked great but haven’t quite psyched myself up to do it yet…!

    • Thank you, and glad it’s not just me! It is definitely better to go into these things with low expectations!! Good luck with it and just be prepared for the soapy clean up!! 🙂 xx

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