It can be tempting to shirk away from messy play. Kids create enough chaos as it is so the suggestion of adding to the list of things to clean can make for the loudest “no thank you!”, but let me try to change your mind.
Messy play, also known as sensory play, is an essential part of early childhood development. It involves allowing children to explore and learn through the use of their senses, especially touch, and the bonus is that it can keep you both occupied for hours!
Here are 5 reason’s why setting up some messy play is beneficial for your child.
It Promotes Creativity and Imagination
Messy play encourages children to use their imagination and be creative in the way they interact with the materials provided. When given the opportunity to explore and experiment with materials, children are more likely to think outside the box and come up with new ideas. They can make up their own stories and games and even create their own artwork. An imaginative mind leads to imaginative language and ultimately to a competent communicator.
It Supports Cognitive Development
Messy play supports cognitive development, including problem-solving and critical thinking skills. When given the opportunity to explore and experiment with materials, children are encouraged to think about cause and effect, i.e. “what will happen if I smush this into here?!”. They learn through trial and error and develop their ability to problem-solve.
It Enhances Sensory Development
Engaging in messy play allows children to use their senses, which is essential for their overall sensory development. When provided with a variety of textures and materials to explore, children develop their tactile sense (touch), which is important for their understanding of the world around them. They are also stimulated visually and by smell if you set up something like mud play or scented play dough.
It Encourages Communication Development
Messy play can also encourage social communication development as children learn to share, take turns, and work together with other children or with a caregiver. If you join in with your child (which I strongly suggest you do) and talk with them, they’ll be picking up all of your language whilst also learning to direct the play with their own language.
It Supports Emotional Development
Engaging in messy play can also support emotional development as it provides children with a safe space to express their emotions and feelings. Messy play can be a great way for children to release pent-up energy and frustration and reduce stress. It’s also a safe place to make mistakes and take risks, which can otherwise really hold back children with perfectionist tendencies. Practising ‘just giving it a go’ with no expectations together can make them more likely to give other types of learning a go in the future.
Have I talked you into it? Nearly?! Well here’s another reminder that it doesn’t have to be complex and doesn’t require you to go out shopping - you probably have everything you need.
Here are five simple messy play ideas that can be created using items that can be found around the house.
Play Dough - Create a simple play dough recipe using flour, salt, cream of tartar, oil and water. Check out our recipe here. Give them some things out of your cutlery drawer like forks and spoons and maybe some cookie cutters so they can create til their heart’s content.
Water Play - Fill a large container with water and provide children with cups and pans and ladles to explore. You could mix things up by making the water hot, or adding ice for a chilly experience. Add food colouring if you want!
Soap Foam - Create a sensory bin using dish soap and water. Use an electric mixer to create soap foam, and let children use their hands to mix and explore. Add in some of their plastic toys like lego - they’re easily dried later.
Furniture Fort - Chuck all your sofa cushions on the floor and create a fort or an obstacle course. Trust me - your child will LOVE IT and it’s also great for gross motor development.
Chalk Paints - Mix cornflour and a tiny bit of water and food colouring to make chalk paints, you could mix them in a muffin tray. Give your child a paintbrush (I’ve been known to repurpose my make up brushes!) and let them paint the garden. It’ll all wash away with the hose or in the rain.
You’ve got this! For more simple play ideas, follow me @zaziplays on Instagram.