Messy play is often defined as ‘children using all of their senses in the process of exploration, especially the sense of touch, by offering different materials.’
Experts encourage messy play from birth to three especially, and say sensory stimulation is key to early learning.
Examples of messy play activities include;
- Gloop (Cornflour & water)
- Shaving foam
- Baked beans/ spaghetti/ pasta
- Sand/ water
- Ice cubes
- Finger painting (edible paint can be used)
- Mud kitchen/ soil
- Puddle play
As a qualified nursery worker with over 10 years experience, I have done my fair share of messy play, and now offer this to my children. We love every minute of it!
Today, I did ‘Jelly play’ with my 6 month old.
I setup a small paddling pool, stripped her off to her nappy and let her loose!
She had a whale of a time.
I had a bath ready and waiting, so straight from the sticky mess to bubbly bliss (which again can be used as a messy play experience).
Some adults find it quite stressful, and the fear of clearing up afterwards can be somewhat daunting.
This shouldn’t deter parent’s, the benefits (listed below) are absolutely incredible;
- Children learn important information about the world around them.
- Stimulates senses
- Helps children to relax (parent’s not so much apparently!)
- Enables children the opportunity to express their feelings.
- Helps to develop hand/eye coordination & fine motor skills.
- Builds on children’s confidence & self-esteem.
- Allows children to investigate through their natural curiosity.
- Great way to learn concepts, such as; hot, cold, full, empty etc.
- Can encourage babies to try new foods (add food purees or new foods to highchair table and allow them the opportunity to explore for themselves)
As children get older, messy play can also help with counting, investigating space, measuring, questioning and naturally encourages children to use scientific processes to explore.
Adults need to remember that what can often look like a huge mess to us, is truly a great learning experience for a child.
Clinical psychologist, Claire Toi says,” A small child’s life is riddled with do’s and don’ts – how lovely for them to be presented with an activity that has no right or wrong way of doing things.”
… and what a fantastic way of putting it!
Children of all abilities can be involved with messy play, so no need for anyone to feel excluded.
Messy play classes are now on offer from organisations such as ‘Messy Monkey’s’ & ‘Splat Messy Play’ and can therefore be a great social opportunity too (for children, and Mum’s & Dad’s!)
The brain learns from body experiences, so get adventurous and get messy!