In my opinion Herve Tullet is a master of interactive children’s books. When I saw SAY ZOOP! on the bookshelf in my public library, I knew it was a must borrow. SAY ZOOP! did not disappoint and I immediately made plans to use it as inspiration for Messy Play with twos and threes. Similar to PRESS HERE and MIX IT UP the children are invited to participate in the story and seemingly move the story forward with their actions. In SAY ZOOP! the children are asked to not only play with the colorful dots but to make the coordinating sounds. In the end Herve Tullet challenges the reader to create their own sounds. Well… challenge accepted.

What you need:

  • Large white paper
  • Finger paint
  • Paint dotters
  • Colored coding stickers

The children dotted, dabbed, and made all sorts of noises as they made their creations. Some made dots of various colors and sizes, similar to the book,

others blended and mixed,

all had a good time in the process.


A Busy Creature’s Day Eating

A BUSY CREATURE’S DAY EATING is a fast favorite for the kids and grownups in my family. Mo Willems has created an alphabet book that has a complete story arc from first bite to bedtime. The reader follows a sweet little creature as it eats through the alphabet. The creature also suffers the repercussions of eating everything and anything. This alphabet book is anything but bland so I created an alphabet art activity accompany it.

Much like my three year old at home, my twos and threes at Messy Play are learning their letters. A great place to start is with the first letter of a child’s name. With that in mind we had fun making paintball splattered letters. For this project you will need:

  • Mixed media paper large
  • Mixed media paper slightly smaller
  • Washable tempera paint
  • Coffee filters
  • Rubber bands
  • Scissors
  • Painter’s tape (not shown)
  • Something to cover the table (not shown)

Cut the slightly smaller paper into letters for each child. Affix letters to the larger paper using a roll of tape on the back. Create paintballs by pouring paint into coffee filters and closing them with rubber bands. Then move the chairs away, step back, and start dropping paintballs on the letters below. The coffee filters create an interesting texture by allowing a little paint to seep through. When the letters and backing paper are covered in paint remove the letter from the backing. It will reveal another copy of the child’s letter created with whitespace. Ta da!  

Contest Entry

We take a break from our regularly scheduled program to share my entry to the Susanna Leonard Hill 8th Annual Holiday Contest. If you are unfamiliar with Susanna Leonard Hill’s contest or overall awesome site, check it out here

Now for the story:

Super Santa!

by Monica Acker

Santa is busy in December prepping presents, making mall visits, and of course dropping deliveries one special night. But what does Santa do the other 11 months?

Santa takes the names of the very naughty and takes them to jail, as Super Santa – crime fighter.

This December a particularly naughty criminal has evaded the police. First the gingerbread construction company crumbled, then a chocolate chip caper left the world chip-less, the sugar cookie factory was flooded with milk, and the hot cocoa towers were emptied of fluid.

All the Christmas cookie swaps, cookie decorating parties, and gingerbread constructions are cancelled.

Santa must stop and help. He jumps on Bolt, the speediest reindeer. Together they fly into the night to track down the sweet stealing thief. On a hunch, they head to Marshmallow Mill. He stealthily slinks through the shadows and comes upon Leif von Leaf stuffing marshmallows in a sack.

Super Santa flings fruitcake at the sack, knocking it aside. He hooks Leif with giant candy canes. Leif turns to Santa and sobs. “I only wanted to give other food a chance to shine in December. All the children want cookies, candy, and cocoa. What about some kale, arugula, or spinach? No one ever has a leafy green party.”

Santa returns home after wrapping Leif up with a bow for the police to find in the morning. Christmas returns to normal. But Santa did make Leif one promise. For Christmas Eve, please forgo cookies and leave Santa a salad instead.

Gingerbread Friends

I have Christmas on the brain so a gingerbread story seemed just the ticket. GINGERBREAD FRIENDS by Jan Brett inspired my Messy Play class for two and three year olds. The Gingerbread Baby lives with a little boy named Mattie and loves him dearly, but when Mattie goes off to play with friends, the Gingerbread Baby feels lonely and sets off to make friends of his own. Into the village goes the Gingerbread Baby to the bakery where there are many figures like him, but they are all still as stone. After several disappointing friendship attempts and an unwelcome encounter with a mouse, the Gingerbread Baby races home. At home, the Gingerbread Baby spots a cupcake trail leading to a gingerbread land full of friends cooked up by the best friend of all, Mattie.

The children and I set out to make our own gingerbread friends, well almost. We made salt dough friends instead. You will need:

  • ½ cup salt per child
  • ½ cup flour per child
  • ¼ cup water per child
  • A mixing bowl for each child
  • Cookie cutters
  • Wax or parchment paper
  • A straw (optional to make an ornament hole)

Scoop and pour the salt, flour, and water into the mixing bowl. Mix the ingredients together with your hands to reach a dough consistency. Put your dough onto wax paper sprinkling additional flour if sticky. Play with the dough, shape the dough, squeeze the dough. A rolling pin can be used to flatten the dough, but with this age group we decided to smoosh with our hands. It is Messy Play after all. Use cookie cutters to make friends for the Gingerbread Baby or other fun shapes. A straw works well to add a hole to your design, creating an ornament. Leave dough to dry out or bake in a 200 degree oven to speed the process. When the salt dough is thoroughly dry it can be painted.


Today’s inspiration for Messy play with two and three year olds was drawn from FLORA AND THE PENGUIN by Molly Idle. In this wordless picture book Flora meets and befriends a penguin. While Flora and the penguin enter into an ice dance above, the fish swirl through the water below. Penguin finds himself beak down in the water and catches a fish only to have it thrown back by Flora. Intent on making up for her mistake, Flora uses her skate laces to create a fishing line. Flora and the penguin catch a fresh fish with joyeux de vie and land in a beautiful lift with Olympic size flair.

After sharing the story with the children, we set out to go fishing just like Flora and the penguin, and create some beautiful string art while we were at it. To complete this project you will need:

  • Yarn
  • Straws
  • White multimedia paper
  • Stickers (I used color coding dots, you may use fish stickers if you have them)
  • Washable tempera paint
  • Paper plate
  • Something to cover your work surface if desired

First the children applied the stickers to the paper to represent the fish swimming by. The act of peeling and sticking gave my group of two and three year olds good fine motor practice. When we were happy with the number of fish on our papers we used our fishing rod, a half of a straw with yarn looped through and tied. The yarn was dipped and swirled into the paint on the paper plates and then we bounced our fishing line on the paper to catch our fish. We had fun, made a mess, and created some interesting works of modern art.