The weather bureau was warning locals to prepare for a cold blast on the eve of our Messy Play May Day in North East Victoria’s high country. Cold it was with snow falling in nearby Harrietville as we set up in the Bright Community Hall on a bitter and frosty morning. The weather did not dampen spirits and the indoors beckoned us in to have fun. People travelled from Springhurst, Yackandandah, Beechworth, Milawa, Falls Creek and surrounding townships to take part in the event.

The hall quickly warmed up as kids raced around, overwhelmed by the choice of activities laid out before them. One side of the hall was dedicated to messy play activities. The children could choose to play with bugs in the mud, play dough, foam, slime or they could even splash about in bubbly warm water. It was a great sensory experience that involved many different colours, textures, smells and sounds. The children could not have been happier and delighted in the variety of play.  

On the other side of the hall was a make-believe land with soft toy animals, a slide, tee-pees, mats, building blocks, a parachute and more goodies for the children to discover and explore. Binoculars and wicker baskets were handed out and the children were encouraged to look for hidden treasures as part of a scavenger hunt. Colourful autumn leaves, flower petals, toys and paper art all became part of the imaginative play experience.

An arts and crafts corner was abuzz as children gathered, drawing and finger painting enthusiastically. The kids decorated their binoculars with the help of the adults and created colourful leaf art which they could take home.

Alyce Pritchard from Yackandandah attended with her husband Orrin and their two daughters. Alyce said that she really liked how Playgroup Victoria had brought the outside world in for the day. She likes to incorporate outdoor play through all the seasons, even in the cooler months of the year.

“Kids need to be outside, it is who they are and we should be more like kids and learn from them.”

“Today is fabulous. It is a great way for kids to do messy things that they wouldn’t normally get to do at home and they get to interact, play and learn how to play through others,” Alyce said.

Kellie Maconochie from the Bright area enjoyed the morning as her children explored the messy play activities.  

“It is great for confidence building. I have three girls and they have loved it,” Kellie said.

Playgroup Victoria is creating opportunities to bond with local community members and hopes to provide more support to regional and rural areas of Victoria.

Mylie Nauendorf is the Events Coordinator at Playgroup Victoria. She spent many weeks planning the event, down to hand making the binoculars and decorating them.

“It was heart-warming to see everything come to life. The children were enthralled by the texture and colour of the foam. It was fantastic to see them do all these messy things that they would not usually do at home.”

“I have set up events before, putting a great deal of effort into planning and it has often gone unappreciated. It was wonderful to witness the hard work being adored by the children and seeing pure joy from them,” Mylie said.  

Playgroup CEO Danny Schwarz thought the event was fantastic and said, “Play is child’s work. The children were able to enjoy their work while developing their skills and inquisitiveness of the world around them- this all contributed to making the day a success.”

It was a day full of happiness, creativity and fun.

Article by Sinead Halliday