I started Mega Awesome Messy Art (MAMA) to document our journey with messy art and to offer tips/advice for others who wanted to create messy memories at home. At the time I had no idea there was a huge community out there of like minded people all wanting to do the same thing!
I was introduced to the world of Play Prompts and Challenges on Instagram when I saw the hashtag #the12weeksofwinter. The aim was to create activities based on a theme that the account put out so I thought I’d have ago for “sunshine”. I created a little montage of us in each season with our shadows and to my surprise our idea was featured and I was then hooked! I found that having a theme allowed me to create activities I would otherwise not have thought of and my son also enjoyed knowing what ‘week’ it was so he could then tell me his ideas too! We picked from different accounts and I tried to tailor activities to what my son was into at that particular moment (mainly dinosaurs, Paw Patrol, vehicles and getting messy!)
After following play prompts I then took the next step and joined a fantastic team who put out play/activity ideas each month. When I joined it was #march_play and now we’re on #august_play which is based on ART IN AUGUST (right up our street!!!) This group changes slightly each month and includes people from all over the world! We bounce ideas off each other and create themes and prompts that people can pick and choose to have a go at. It has given me a fantastic drive to try new things, for example; before joining this group I’d never heard of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Maths) then for #july_play we chose this as a theme for the month and it was fantastic. My son loved doing experiments and learning new concepts and so did I! We’ve also learnt about spin art, coloured rice, magic milk experiments, schemas, clouds in a jar and big outdoor art to name but a few! The group is also another support network for this fantastic but difficult journey that is parenthood!
Whilst participating in play prompts/challenges the issue that Instagram shows a ‘false account of play’ as the pictures are often too ‘perfect’ or ‘posed’ has come up quite a bit. I am hoping our account shows this isn’t always true, as whilst I love setting up beautiful trays and I do take ‘arty’ style photos of the process my main aim is focusing on what my children enjoy and things do not stay ‘perfect’ for long! I also limit myself to taking photos towards the beginning of and end of an activity so the play is not interrupted and my children can have my full attention. Often the direction I thought the play will go is completely different to the way it ends up, which I think is fantastic. I try to accommodate my son’s wishes as far as possible as often they end up better than mine!
As well as my children having the freedom to be creative I really enjoying being able to express myself through art too by; setting up the play trays, taking photos and making things from their messy art creations such as collages, cards and gifts. I have also started drawing and painting again myself which I find allows me to relax and have some down time (not very much with two kids but every little bit helps!)
So in summary; I am thoroughly enjoying being immersed in the fantastic community of play and thank all of those who have welcomed us with open arms. The biggest thing I’ve learnt is not to feel pressured to do ALL of the prompts if you feel they will not suit your child, just choose or tailor those that grab your imagination. After all, there is no point in doing an activity if your child doesn’t want to do it, because the whole point is to HAVE FUN!!!
Here is a ‘montage’ of all the things we’ve been getting up to over the last 5 months, I will be putting out some more focused blogs about groups of similar activities soon, so keep an eye out and please follow us on Instagram if you’re not already, maybe you will want to join in and play along too!!!
Play prompt pictures for each month courtesy of @playtime_with_dougie, all other images are from @megaawesomemessyart.