Messy Play

Tags: messy play, sensory

Section: Topics

Messy Play

Early years research has shown that messy play has many benefits to young children's development. Messy play helps young children to explore using all of their senses in an open ended way. It encourages children to explore and experiment without the need to 'create' an end product.

The many benefits of messy play...

  • It is a tactile experience which stimulates the senses
  • It develops hand eye coordination and fine manipulative skills which are needed for writing skills later on
  • There’s no right or wrong way to play, encouraging exploration and experimentation
  • It can be relaxing
  • Encourages creative thinking
  • Helps children make choices
  • Can be used to practice making marks
  • Encourages new language as they feel a range of textures and use words to share their experiences
  • Fosters children’s natural curiosity
  • Builds on imagination
  • Helps develop problem solving skills
  • Encourages mathematical concepts such as more, less, full, empty, heavy, light
  • Allows children to use materials in new ways
  • Gives children opportunities to respond to what they see, hear, touch and smell
  • It is enjoyable and fun!

Whilst there are many benefits to messy play it can sometimes be off putting due to the amount of cleaning up required afterwards! The best way to enjoy messy play without it being too chaotic is being prepared and having everything you need to hand.

Tips for messy play

  • Cover your child’s clothes - using an apron or old clothes
  • Use washable paints and felt pens just in case!
  • Have a mat to cover the floor or table where the play will take place and have a dustpan and brush handy
  • Have a bowl of water, a flannel and/or baby wipes close by as well as a towel for drying hands
  • When the weather is more favorable do messy activities outside
  • Activities such as shaving foam could be done in the bath – keeping the mess contained and getting the children cleaned straight afterwards!

Some Examples

Have a look at some of our messy play ideas below and keep an eye out for our Messy Monday’s series coming up for lots more fun ideas!

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