Looking for a fun class for your toddler? Louise Emma Clarke tries out a messy play class at Play A Round.
I love the idea of messy play with my boys, but the thought of plucking slime out of my soft furnishings or permanently turning their skin a shade of neon has put me off trying it out at home. So when I found out that a play centre in Dubai Marina was offering a messy play class every Monday morning, fortuitously within a few minutes walk of my apartment, I booked my oldest child into a class pronto.
The details state that Messy Mondays is for kids between 12 and 24 months old and although my son is a few months older, this didn’t prove a problem when booking. When we arrived on our first morning, we found that there were children ranging from 10 months to three years – and while the youngest was too little to get involved (as was my baby, who came along as a spectator), it seemed the older the child, the more they enjoyed the class.
We have visited Play a Round several times before, with its neon lit mini golf area, small soft play area, and large craft room – and as we waited for the class to begin, my son ran around enjoying the facilities with a member of staff hot on his toes.
We were soon called into the soft play area, where the children sat in a circle as the class leader introduced herself and handed out stickers with their name. After checking that we had all packed a spare set of clothes, we followed her into the craft room to discover what the morning would entail.
Before we got started, each child was handed a long-sleeved overall to save their clothes – and once they were donned, trays were bought into the room by staff members, each containing ice cubes they had dyed with food colourings to create frozen paints.
The children grabbed the ice cubes and swiped them over large sheets of paper, creating messy patterns as they melted. There were also trays of liquid gloop, which they could work the ice cubes around in to melt and add colour. It was really effective and my son was fascinated.
One thing to note is that I had my seven month old baby with me the entire time and the staff were incredibly helpful, making it possible for me to bring them both to the same class for the first time. When I needed to tend to the baby, staff helped my son with messy play – and if I needed to join in with the class, a helpful staff member offered to hold the baby until I was finished. I was seriously impressed.
With the ice cubes now melted, a few children moved to the tables alongside to make handprints with thick pre-prepared paints, while others (like my son) headed straight to a paddling pool that had been filled with soapy water. He was covered in paint, so this was ingenious. As he sat, stood, and splashed in the water with a few other class members (all fully clothed, I will add, hence the spare change of clothes in my bag), staff blew bubbles to delighted squeals from the children.
After an hour of fun, we headed to the bathrooms to get him changed into dry clothes, before settling down at one of the café tables for some refreshment. I sipped a cappuccino and he enjoyed a pastry that was included in the class price, before we said our goodbyes and made our way home.
The following week, we were back – and this time, we brought along a friend and her daughter to join in the fun. While we sat and chatted with the baby on my knee, the kids had fun pouring paint from split plastic bags onto paper and making handprints in the mess – and then moving onto a large tray of coloured rice, which they scooped, and poured between pots. We were both amazed by their attention span. My friend was especially impressed, as her daughter usually hates getting messy. We laughed about it being a form of therapy – and while we were joking at the time, I think there’s probably some truth in that if your kids have an aversion to mess.
The staff deserve a special mention too, as they were brilliant. The children enjoyed every second of the messy play class, but amazingly, the room was calm throughout. There was no shouting and no rushing around – just a lot of fascinated children and big smiles. I felt like my son had learnt something from the experience, rather than simply being entertained for an hour.
And the best bit for me? Not having to clean up the mess, which saved both my apartment and sanity. We will definitely be heading back!
Dhs70 per session. Book a course of 12 sessions and get one free. Play a Round, Jewels Tower 2, Basement 1, Opps JBR Shams, Dubai Marina, www.playaround.ae (04 457 0455).