Video 11: My Mess Is Best!

And no one can argue about this one!

Messy activities have been the antidote to boredom of any kind for a long, long time. But they also have a hidden quality: they are master teachers! All the impressive science that a child can learn from sheer mess is often hidden from adults who are thinking ahead and beyond: sponges, floors, clothes, shoes, or hairs. I confess that these same topics have crossed my mind on more than one occasion.

Nonetheless, there is nothing that can substitute for the laughter, the wonder and especially the discovery that comes from the gooey, the sticky and the mushy. Shaving cream, among many other ‘messy’ substances that we will feature here at Go Beyond The Classroom, offers all that.

Children start adding colors to their clouds of cream, and a really large window opens up right before their eyes. They start asking questions that they can answer in time spent on rich inquiry. They come up with really deep discussions and sophisticated theories about the world around them.

When they have a chance to add characters, animals and other storytelling accessories, they also experiment with unusual backgrounds and dream-like plots. This is also a great opportunity to look at change when another substance is added: in this case, water. They describe what they see with vocabulary that also changes to match their new found discovery after something is introduced to this mix. We had a rich conversation about how water changes the physical properties of a lot of things: hair, paper, the driveway, shaving cream.

Children will often feel ‘tired’ after ‘wrestling’ with all that mess. It’s physical work and also relaxing at once.

Set-Up for Episode #11:

  • Shaving Cream (sensitive skin works best)
  • Tray, or any surface that can hold a good amount of shaving cream
  • Food coloring, liquid watercolors, or watered down tempera paint
  • Bowl of water
  • Spray bottle
  • Toy animals, people, anything that can take shaving cream and/or water
  • goggles (you know your child best)
  • Sponges

There are so many different ways of using shaving cream as a learning opportunity for young children. The toy animals and people gives them a chance to use storytelling, or to re-enact something that has been on their minds for a while. They come up with intricate plots and use new words in their own made-up contexts.

The set-up should be so inviting that they can’t turn around when they see it. I often start with the plain trays and shaving cream. I’ll add accessories, cups, spoons, anything after they’ve explored the texture and are eager to go beyond this stage. At times, my children will start by collecting the animals, or cars before they come to the table and that often tells me that they are in with a plan!

If your children are not yet sure or just don’t really like the texture of shaving cream and its ‘relatives’, try using a sealable plastic bag, or shaving cream in a bowl with a spoon. They can still experience the colorful fun and add animals, people, and cars as well. It will help build confidence around things that are hard but not impossible to tackle. Adaptation is good for motivation!!

We also play some hide and seek games, like “I hid something ______ + _______ in there. What is it?” We’ll often try opposites to what they need to find as they take their turns “tricking” us. Another way to add spice is to show them a handful of objects, hide them in the cream and ask what’s missing – it encourages mathematical thinking a great deal. We have been using shaving cream with our oldest with some fun algebra, too. The goal is not to drill and kill our children. If the moment shows up we grab it. If not, like most times, we just enjoy open-ended exploration with no hidden agenda – not even under all that shaving cream!

How would you use shaving cream with your children?

Did you find this helpful? Need more? Let us know how we can help you enjoy this site with your children by leaving a comment below.

Have fun and Go Beyond The Classroom!


©2023 Go Beyond The Classroom

All Rights Reserved.

One thought on “Video 11: My Mess Is Best!

  1. how can you be soooo creative using just simple things????? these are the hapiest children ever!!! i´m posting this at facebook!!! 🙂


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s