Messy Play with Little Learners – Our Review

If you’ve followed me on Instagram for a while and are familiar with photos of my home, or if you know me in real life, you will know I am positively anal about mess. I would actually go so far as to say the idea of mess makes me anxious and I am somewhat of a Monica around our house. So when an Insta friend (who is now a real life friend, Hey Poppy if you’re reading) invited me to a play date at a messy play session, you can only imagine my anxiety. I was convinced that I’d find it stressful, that I’d struggle to relax into it; but I really didn’t want my own issues to restrict Maxon’s development, and after all, babies and kids are inevitably messy, so maybe it was best to just throw myself in at the deep end? Right?

So off we went to The Baltic (which Messy Play aside, is a fab visit, kids or not). Booking in advance for the bi weekly sessions is essential, and we booked online through the Baltic website, nice and straightforward. I’d been advised to take spare clothes for myself and Maxon and plenty of wipes for clean up afterwards; I armed myself with Johnson’s wash cloth wipes (which FYI I swear by for poo explosions). I wore old clothes that I wasn’t bothered about and dressed Maxon in an already stained body suit (carrot stains on white…hit me up if you have the answer). We were prepped!

What was apparent from the off and what I loved first and foremost about the session was how relaxed everything was; all the stations of trays/activity spots are dotted around the room and you can move between it all freely; there is no structure and it’s a really warm, easy going atmosphere. After I’d gotten over the initial 5 minutes of being grossed out by the mess, I started to appreciate how much Maxon was enjoying himself. One of my favourite parts of being a mum is watching Maxon discover the world around him and experience new things; it didn’t matter that I was getting covered in food and paint, because he was loving his life!

Happy as Larry covered in chocolate and cereal
Is there anything cuter than baby toes?

So we booked up again, and again. Each session brings new experiences and activities; I love the concept of learning through play and I think varied sensory play is really important in developing motor skills. Sometimes the sessions are themed (Easter was hot cross bun in the food trays, obvs), sometimes they are messier than others; but what is consistent is the fun that Maxon (and me!) have. So much effort goes in to the presentation of the trays and my inner OCD thinks ‘oh what a shame to spoil this pretty display’ but before I’ve even finished the thought I’ve dunked Maxon bum first into them…

If you’d told me a year ago that this would be my idea of fun I’d have laughed in your face yet here I am, looking forward to the next session and what new things we will encounter. Each week we (I say ‘we’ loosely, Maxon isn’t much of an artiste yet) try and make something from one of the craft stations and I’m starting to build a little collection of our ‘creations’ (full disclaimer, my chick didn’t survive/wasn’t as good so this is Poppy’s…).

All in all, I couldn’t recommend these sessions enough, we’ve had a blast at every one, and as the weeks have gone on, I’m caring less and less about the mess (last time I even went so far as to let Maxon roll around in the paint section (literally, in the paint trays)). Not only have I relaxed, but Maxon’s getting braver, getting more and more stuck in and showing less apprehension about new textures, smells and surroundings. Maybe there’s hope that he won’t inherit my irrational fear of mess after all?

Impressed with himself for drawing such a perfect heart (jokes)

North East Mamas: Little Learners also run these Messy Play Sessions at Denton Burn Community Centre and Kingston Park. You can find all the info over at

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