The majority of these materials can be bought at the Poundshop therefore you don’t mind throwing them away when your children have finished (it makes clearing away easier!!). And yes... messy play is messy, but you can minimise 'the damage' by either having it outdoors, or in a room with an easy clean floor, or else by buying a large waterproof vinyl/plastic cover for the floor and/or table. Don't forget to cover the child as well if needs be!
Why bother though? Why is indulging in messy play more beneficial than digging out a plastic toy from the toy-box? It's certainly more hard work!
Well, by playing with a wide variety of messy play materials you are allowing your child to explore the world around him using all his senses as well as encouraging the development of his motor skills and co-ordination. Besides which, it's fun! There's nothing quite like the feeling of getting your hands dirty.
Try using a wide variety of play materials over a period of time, such as flour, corn flour gloop, playdough, dry or cooked pasta, rice, ice cubes, compost or even mud.
You can extend the play by adding some small world toys such as farm animals in a tray of compost or cars in a tray of shaving foam. You can hide things in shredded paper or mush up jelly. Add glitter, sequins perfume, or food colouring to make it special. Buying a builder's tuff spot tray or a cat's litter tray will help to contain the materials.
By playing alongside, copying what the child does and describing his actions you will be helping him to use language, thereby enabling him to describe his world to you. Try to avoid asking too many questions, just follow the child's interests.
NOTE As with all activities, your young child should never be left unattended and be particularly vigilant with choking hazards.