I love my job as an Early Years teacher and the one part that I particularly love is messy play. Messy play is an important part of a child’s development and all children should be able to experience messy play throughout their childhood. Many parents don’t want to deal with the mess that messy play experiences create but I hope this post will change their minds. If not, then I would always encourage parents to let their child experience messy play at an organised set up such as a playgroup, toddler group, forest school or nursery.
What is Messy Play?
Messy play is play that is messy! It’s a way for children to explore various messy activities that will stimulate all their senses. Messy play is fun and may include mud, paint, water, sand, shaving foam, food or slime. The most important part of messy play is freedom. The children need to be able to fully explore the messy play activity without an adult telling them, ‘be careful’ or ‘don’t touch that!’ For Messy Play to be most beneficial, children need the freedom to explore the activity for themselves with or without adult support.
Why is Messy Play important?
Most people know that children learn through play. Free play is the most valuable part of childhood. Messy play allows children to use all their senses which creates more connections in the brain. These connections or pathways allow children to make better sense of their world. They compare, sort and organise things through their play. Messy play allows children to communicate their feelings about something. They can use descriptive language more effectively. For example, how can a child describe something that is gooey if they have never felt something gooey? All that descriptive language that we expect older children to put into their creative writing comes from experiences when they were younger. Messy play is also fun as it is something to be enjoyed together. This builds relationships and is a lovely way of sharing fun and laughter.
Ideas for Messy Play at Home
Great Messy Play ideas will incorporate different temperatures, textures, colours, scents, appearances and locations so keep these in mind when planning play experiences for your child.
Here are some ideas that you might like to try:
Obviously be careful with babies and young children as they tend to put everything into their mouths and should never be left alone with any messy play activity.
These are my top 5 Messy Play favourites:
1. Get outdoors in all weathers. There are so many things you can do to create messy play opportunities. Splash in muddy puddles, make mud pies, roll conkers, make collections of leaves, go out in the rain/snow/hail/sun/wind, make wind streamers and make blackberry ink to make marks. I have written a post about Outdoor play activities which you may enjoy. The only thing stopping children getting outside is their clothes. I once had a little girl come to a Nursery class I taught in all white cashmere. As you can imagine, I had to politely tell mummy that she needed leggings and a T-shirt! I advise parents to buy a waterproof all-in-one and off you go!
2. Paint. Paint is awesome -face painting, finger painting, feet painting. Use different sized paintbrushes, sticks, cotton wool, vegetables, leaves and construction toys.
3. Shaving foam. I use this all the time in school. Shaving foam has such a lovely texture and young children love it as it’s so soft. It could be used for scooping, writing in, feeling and investigating slipperiness.
4. Water. Add bubbles, washing up liquid, food colouring, ice or soap to water of different temperatures. You can also add boats, sea creatures, things that float or sink, spoons and containers or whisks. Obviously, the best place for children to have fun with water, is in the bath. Make time for children to play in the bath or a paddling pool, then you can wash them afterwards!
5. Sand. Wet sand and dry sand. Add diggers, buckets and spade, shells and found materials and scoops. Wet sand is great for dribbling between fingers and feeling between toes. Sand can also be added to playdough or shaving foam for a different experience.
There are so many different messy play experiences that you can offer children. I have many pinned many ideas on My Pinterest board.
A blog about my life in The Old House, a mum to teenagers, a primary school teacher and my passion for gardening.