The importance of "Messy Play"

Mess is an essential part of Early Childhood.

Unfortunately for children there is a stigma attached to “Messy Play”. Families feel that others pass judgement on them if their child is seen wearing dirty clothes. There is also a societal fear of “GERMS” when children participate in “Messy Play”.

When talking about “Messy Play”, we are not referring to unhygienic or bacteria or disorder. We are talking about experiences such as playing in the mud kitchen, water play, sand play, playdough, slime clay, finger painting and gardening.

Young children need plenty of opportunities to explore their environment using all of their senses. We know that children predominantly learn through play, so bringing together the necessity to play and explore usually results in mess. It’s part of life and as adults we need to be less uptight about it and embrace it.

Play that embodies rich textural experiences allows children to express their emotions through manipulating materials, such as play dough, building sand, goop, and refines their sense of touch. The richer the textural experiences, the richer their cognitive and language development will be. How can a child grasp the concept of ‘slimy’ if she has never touched anything ‘slimy’?


Bedwetting happens to children in lots of families and is not uncommon. Lots of children grow out of this by the time they begin school, however, many primary school children do still wet the bed.

Why does it happen?

although it can be frustrating for parents, it is important to remember that normally it does not occur to gain attention, or that the child is too lazy to get out of bed, but something over which your child has no control.

  • It happens when a child's bladder is full and they do not wake up to empty it.
  • Often these children ate very heavy sleepers and hard to wake up.
  • These children can have smaller than usual bladders.
  • Their bodies may produce more urine than usual while they are sleeping due to low levels of a hormone which controls this.
  • Bed wetting may run in the family. it may be that a family member also used to wet the bed and they may still get up in the night to use the toilet.
  • Very occasionally bedwetting can be due to a medical problem so it is always advisable to get the child checked out by their doctor.
  • Most children grow out of this, however their self esteem does take ahuge blow. For this reason it is a good idea to try and come up with a way to solve this problem because once the bedwetting stops, their confidence usually returns.
  • Stress can cause children who have never wet the bed to start, such as a family break up, a death or maybe they have been unwell. In these cases it usually stops again when the child begins to feel more safe and secure.


What can you do?

  • Reassure your child that they will grow out of it and that it is perfectly normal. Most children experience it at some stage.
  • never limit the amount you allow your child to drink. Children need about 6 drinks a day and if they do not get this they may become dehydrated or ill. However, do not give your children soft drinks that have caffeine in them as they may make their bodies produce more urine than usual.
  • Try and explain to your child the reason why this may occur in a way that he can understand, such as, "You sleep so well that your brain doesn't get the message to wake up and go to the toilet in time." If they understand why it happens they may feel a bit better aboutit.
  • Try not to let the bed wetting cause you or your child stress or worry. Keep reassuring them and talking to them about it and tell them that when their body is ready/capable, it will end.
  • Some people find it useful to take their child to the toilet 2-3 hours after they fall asleep.
  • Cover the mattress with a mattress protector.
  • leave a light on or use a night light so your child can see when they get up in the night to use the toilet.
  • When your child wets the bed at night make sure he has a shower in the morning before starting his day so he doesn't smell.
  • When your child has wet the bed make sure they still know youlove them. Do not become angry or cross, simply clean it up.
  • If you make your child clean up their wet bed they may interpret this as being punished for their misfortune and what they have no control over, so do it quickly, discretely and without fuss. Your child really doesn't want to upset you.
  • Behaviour charts cannot work, as your child has no control over their bedwetting.
  • Bedwetting alarms have found to be useful or successful in 80% of cases. This treatment take between 6-8 weeks to work and it can deliver successful results if used in conjunction with plenty of parental love and support. Statistics show that this method has a strong long term effect and fewer relapses than medication. these can be obtained from The Royal Children's Hospital and all you need is a referral from your child's doctor.
  • Always get your child checked by their doctor to ensure there is not underlying medical problem.



* Between 2-3 years of age.

* The child is showing signs of being interested in watching you or older siblings go to the toilet.

* Their nappies are dry for more than 2 hours at a time.

* The child may show signs of disliking wearing a nappy. They may pull at it or take it off themselves.

* The child is aware of when they are using their bladder or bowel and is telling you.

* They can concentrate for a period of 5 minutes.

* Can pull his/her own pants up and down.

* Can follow simple instructions.



Whether yo use a potty or go straight to the toilet is up to you and a very individual choice.

* Some children are frightened of falling into the toilet. If this is the case you may be better off using a potty.

* You can take potties anywhere in the house and on trips.

* A child who uses only a potty may be too scared to use any toilet which can make going out stressful and difficult.

* If your child is using the toilet you will need to buy a step and toilet seat insert.

* Some parents choose to encourage their child to use both for convenience.


* Choose a date to begin.

* Consider timing-it's easier to be at home, warmer weather, make sure you have a supply of pants, you will have lots of washing.

* Stop using nappies during the day. Only use them for day time sleeps and night time.

* Put training pants or underpants on your child.

* Dress your child in clothing that is easy for them to put on and off, such as pants with elastic waist. Don't use body suits, buttons and zips that are difficult for them to undo.

* Remind your child at regular intervals during the day to see if they need to go..

* 5 minutes is long enough for a child to sit on the toilet. If they haven't done anything then, they are probably not going to and you don't want them to think they are in trouble.

* When your child first starts toilet training you will need to wipe their bottom for them. It is important to remember to wipe from front to back.

* Teach your child to wash his hands after each use of the toilet or potty.

* If your child misses the toilet or potty or has an accident, just clean it up casually without making a fuss. It doesn't matter and your don't want your child to become disheartened.

* Remember to give your child lots of encouragement and praise for their success.

* If your child is ready they will  get the hang of it quite quickly, however they may still have accidents, so don't lose heart.

* If they refuse too use the toilet or potty, don't force them. Leave it and try again in a few weeks.

* Toilet training may take days or months, it varies for each child.


* Remember that your child has been wearing nappies for their entire life. This is a new skill they are learning and it will take practice.

* Toddlers can't hold on for very long, so if they indicate that they need to use the toilet, they need it now!

* Even if your child doesn't make it to the toilet on time, still praise their efforts for telling you that they needed to go. It is important to continue encouraging them, to keep their spirits up.

* Your child may become disheartened by accidents, but remind them that it doesn't matter and that these things take time.


* Toilet training, like a child learning any new skill, can have its set backs. Your child isn't doing this to upset you, it's a part of life, so don't become annoyed with them and certainly don't punish them, just continue to encourage their efforts and success. 

* Remember to stay calm and relaxed and this will assist your child to do the same.

* Your child needs to feel they have your support during this time.

* Some children and parents find it useful to try and make toilet training fun. While your child is sitting on the toilet you can sing songs or even read a story!