It can be a parent’s nightmare – watching their little loved ones gradually getting messier.
And one recent survey found that two-thirds of parents have admitted to discouraging their offspring from messy play because of the tidying up and extra wash loads necessary afterwards.
I wanted to give parents a place that they could come along, have lots of messy sensory fun and go home without having to tidy upKate Farley
But now one mother from Drayton is trying to combat that by giving children the opportunity to experience messy play.
Kate Farley, 35, started Custard Club after noticing a gap in the market and as a way to help under-fives interact with each other.
She says: ‘As a mum of two boys under five, mess is a part of everyday life, but like so many other families, messy sensory play is not at the top of my list of things to do it at home.
‘So I wanted to give parents a place that they could come along, have lots of messy sensory fun and go home without having to tidy up.’
During the group, children are encouraged to cover themselves in custard, foam, jelly, sand and other concoctions and able to poke, prod and explore sensory trays.
Kate says: ‘There is no wrong or right way to explore the trays and the open relaxed nature of the session allows the children to discover and learn at their own speed.
‘Children often return to their favourite sensory tray over and over and play repetitively, which is a sign of learning.’
Since the group has been running Kate has noticed that there has been some great steps in their regulars being more comfortable and confident to touch a wide range of things.
One of those regulars, Liz Ashford, from Fareham who runs Little Sprouts Childcare.
She says: ‘I have known Kate for a while and when she came up with the idea I thought it was really good.
‘It’s brilliant for me as a child-minder.
‘If I was to do this activity at home I would have to get all the stuff out and then have to clear it away but at Custard Club I don’t have to, which is fantastic.’
Activities at the club are organised to suit children who have an adventurous side and those who are more cautious.
One station which is popular with youngsters is edible paint that is made up of mashed-up fruit and vegetables or chocolate or condensed milk with food colouring, which the children explore and paint with their hands or brushes.
Other activities include trays full of diggers and cornflakes as well as some with coloured rice and peas.
Kate says: ‘This allows children who are fussy eaters to explore a range of textures, tastes and smells.’
But not all children like mess so Kate puts on other activities including a ball pool, paint in a bag and paint a pot. As a qualified early years teacher Kate has 13 years of experience and knew the importance of play which is why she initially set up Custard Club for children with special educational needs. ‘There are many benefits to sensory play and research has shown that a whole range of skills are learnt through the exploration of a variety of sensations and textures,’ she says.
With more than 1,000 likes on Facebook and being talked about amongst parents, the group has become a place for all children to come along and experience a range of activities.
The group gets together on Friday with two sessions one; from 10am to 11am and another 11.30am to 12.30pm at High Slope Community Hall in Porchester, which are usually attended by 75 families each week.
Kate says: ‘My favourite part of Custard Club is once everyone is in and settled at a chosen sensory area I like to stand back and just watch.
‘The children are all engrossed in exploring and learning and their parents are sat with them enjoying the experience and supporting the play.
‘There is a fantastic friendly atmosphere and because the activities are all tray based mums sit around them and chat.’