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The Importance of ‘Messy Play’

By Aimee Collett

Messy Play is an important part of early education. I time-table messy play into our routine several times a week with Freddie and I wanted to share with everyone that it is not only fun and enjoyable, but it offers several opportunities for learning.
There are several physical, mental and physiological developmental benefits to Messy Play, below are some of them:

Physical Development

Give your children the tools to develop and practice fine motor skills and hand, eye coordination. Activities such as stacking, pouring and spooning rice or pasta are simple but fun ways to have fun with messy play. Practicing cutting, writing in shaving cream and using tongs will develop your kiddie’s fine motor skills. Hands-on activities will provide opportunities for children to compare textures such as smooth, rough, hard and soft and trust me all children love to get messy!

Communication and Language Development

During messy play, give your children opportunity to speak and listen. Children use words and gestures to share resources, explain actions, negotiate plans and take turns. You can ask open-end questions to encourage thinking skills. The use of letters in the activities, leads to understanding the symbolic nature of written language. I will write Freddie’s name using a stick or feather in the sand or in the water. Hold you child’s hand and guide them!

Personal, Emotional and Social Development

Messy Play is designed with children’s natural curiosity in mind. It encourages a positive approach to new experiences. There is no “right” way for children to explore messy play. This builds self-confidence and self-esteem. Through messy play, children can develop concentration, problem-solving and planning. Working with others fosters self-respect and respect for other children. It also presents opportunities for making relationships stronger with parents and siblings. Messy play can offer an outlet for feelings, experiences and thoughts. I have used messy play in my work before when trying to find out why a child is upset. Lots of conversation (even with young babies) and lots of sensory material will engage your child for long periods of time!

Intellectual Development

Children can investigate, explore, design and create leading to a better understanding of the world around them. Children learn to group and classify, arrange items in a logical order, identify and match and understand cause and effect. As they observe, predict, try out solutions, observe the results, and evaluate information they gain a greater understanding of WHY things happen.

Mathematical Development

Messy play offers many opportunities for counting, calculating and measurement. Children will sort objects, fill containers and create patterns. Numbers will be involved in many activities providing opportunities to understand their symbolic meaning. Freddie likes playing 5 little ducks in his water tray. Not only is he enjoying my singing but he is listening to new language that introduces number!

Creative Development

Children are given endless opportunities with a variety of materials to build imagination and creativity. Through sensory experiences, they are able to respond to what they see, hear, feel, touch and smell. Bubble machines, goop and play dough are fab ways of introducing color, texture and smell into your child’s messy play. I add smells like lavender to our platy dough!

Special Benefits

Messy play offers benefits to all children of all ages. It allows children of all abilities to become involved and get to know other children in a fun way! Children who are in the process of learning English as a second language can join in and use the materials with their peers because messy play does not necessarily rely on words.

The most important thing to remember when participating in your child’s messy play is to enjoy. Don’t worry about your kitchen floor getting dirty or how filthy your child becomes the learning possibilities with messy play are endless!

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