Messy Play: How Good Is It!

Are you a messy play lover? Are you the person that struggles with the mere thought of mud, water and dirt everywhere? Glitter be gone perhaps is your motto?

Whatever your personal views, however, there is no denying the incredible benefits messy play can bring to children’s learning and development.

Now, to embrace this as an early learning centre, educator, and then share this passion with your team and families!! Many studies have shown that messy play is one of the best ways for our children to learn and develop, so now is the time to embrace it and get messy!

Did you know that messy play fosters curiosity, imagination and exploration?

What are the Benefits of Messy Play?

Sensory Development

There is no right way to carry out messy play, it is all about letting children explore and experiment with different objects and raw materials without any end goals to restrict them. For example, although toys can be fun, such as a toy car, children are restricted in the ways that they can use them. With raw materials such as sand, water, chalk, paint, play dough or glue and so much more, children’s imaginations can run wild and they can spend a long time exploring these, making their own discoveries, stimulating their curiosity and developing their knowledge. With messy play, the sensory experience also helps children to understand their senses. By exploring how things feel, smell and taste, this type of play nurtures awareness and understanding of the world that surrounds them.

Communication and Language Development

Messy Play also encourages Communication and Language Development. It is a sociable activity, between educators and children, and children and peers, enriching relationships through social interaction. With non-verbal children, it allows them to share their discoveries in different ways through the use of objects and gestures and in order to do this, they need to think through their actions so they can communicate this explanation which also helps develop their cognition. Depending on what you make the messy play activity, you can also use it to develop language skills and encourage speech. For example, using letters in the activity helps develop an understanding of the written language, by describing sensations and textures to your children you can help them build their vocabulary, and by talking through what you’re doing and asking open-ended questions such as “I wonder what happens when I do this?” you are providing speaking and listening opportunities and encouraging thinking skills. During this type of play, these interactions will come naturally.

Enhancing Concentration

Enhancing concentration in children is another bonus of messy play! High concentration levels are needed while engaging in messy play, from exploring objects and engaging all senses to think through discoveries and try to communicate them. This helps children to develop essential learning skills which then enables them to focus and concentrate when learning and practising practical skills. Next time when you see a child making marks in the sand, they could be developing an early form of writing! Or perhaps when you see them swap an object with another child, they are learning to share and negotiate with others, no better way to learn these skills than through play.

Physical Development

Hands-on play also offers many physical benefits, allowing children to develop an awareness of their body and personal space whilst strengthening their muscle control. Activities such as pouring, shovelling or drawing in the sand help build strength in the large muscle groups at the top of the arms and it is these muscles that then enable the smaller muscles in the hands and fingers to make precise and controlled movements. In messy play, children can play with tools to develop and practice their fine motor skills as well as their hand-eye coordination, until soon they can hold a pencil or eat with a spoon and fork!

Fosters Independence

Messy play also supports children’s independent play. In an unrestricted play environment where there is no right or wrong way to do things, this is the perfect situation to allow children to play how they want to and play by themselves if they choose. By using their own mind to plan, explore and problem-solve, they are building self-confidence and self-esteem that will develop them as independent people.

A quote by John Holt sums it up –

“We learn to do something by doing it. There is no other way.”

John Holt

How will you promote play today?