early learning and development

Mayhem and Messy Play: Messy Play Contributes to Children’s Learning and Development

Although it sounds terrible to parents and caregivers, messy play contributes to children’s learning and development. It’s a sensory delight for kids and one of the joys of childhood. If play is the brain’s favorite way to learn, messy play is kids favorite way to explore both themselves and the world around them. For this month, blog posts will explore Mayhem and Messy Play.messy play development learning

What is Messy Play?

We certainly know what it looks like, but what is messy play? Messy play is an interaction between a child and materials that stimulates one or more senses. It is a hands-on, and sometimes other parts of the body too, immersion into an activity. Kids are making new discoveries about themselves and the world and the result is often a mess. Hence the name: messy play.

Why is Messy Play So Fun?

To begin with, messy play is not something kids have to do right. There is no right or wrong. Kids are free to interact in an endless number of ways.

Kids are not constrained by having to create a product or get a particular result. What they do get is an opportunity to enjoy and discover.

Messy play contributes to children’s learning and development by engaging the senses and the body. Kids might be feeling the texture of dirt or soapy foam, from head to toe. They could be smelling a magic potion made with spices or watching a baking-soda and vinegar volcano. Finding out what kinds of sound they can make banging on pots, pans, cans, and containers, kids are using the sense of hearing. As for taste, cooking is certainly messy, but the play does have to follow directions.

Kids are directing the play and are much more in control of the timetable. They can start and stop as they choose or, perhaps, respond by taking a break and returning later.

An activity may be repeated several times, but messy play isn’t always the same. That’s part of the appeal, what happens could be quite different each time.

Why is Messy Play So Important?

Messy play contributes to children’s learning and development in a variety of ways. Besides the sensory aspect, kids are problem-solving, organizing, linking cause and effect, exercising muscles, developing coordination and motor skills, observing, predicting, and more. They are gathering information about themselves and the world around them. Curiosity asks questions and messy play can reveal answers.

Messy Play and Memories

Why does messy play have such a negative reputation? Yes, after making a mess we have to clean up but, in the meantime, we’ve had all the fun of making it. Memories of great messy play activities as kids often stay with us for a lifetime.

Can You Come Play?

Come back to play every day this month for messy play ideas. Is there an opportunity for some messy play for your child today?


Parent Wishes #12: More support for kids experiencing learning or developmental delays

More support for kids experiencing learning or developmental delays was one parent’s wish for early childhood programs, especially before school entry. Waiting until kids arrive in grade one misses such a critical time of development.

support for learning and development

We know that children are all unique and learn and develop at their own rate, in their own ways, and in their own time. While kids follow a similar pattern, kids experiencing learning and developmental delays need extra support. This could mean more time, targeted coaching, special equipment, and other strategies. It also means an extra burden on parents.

In her article, What You Need to Know About Developmental Delays, Amanda Morin gives a helpful overview of 5 skill areas:

1. Cognitive Skills: These are the mental or thinking skills, like “learning to count, naming colors and learning new words,” and strategies, such as organizing, sorting, and solving problems.

2. Social and Emotional Skills: Interactions with others and dealing with feelings and emotions are not just children’s personality; these are skills that kids learn and develop.

3. Speech and Language Skills: No matter which language you speak at home, language abilities are tremendously important. Some children also communicate with sign language.

4. Fine and Gross Motor Skills: Kids like to move and be active. Skills like walking, running, jumping, rolling, use the large or gross muscles. Doing up buttons, building with blocks, fitting puzzles, and unscrewing the door stoppers use fine or small muscles. These are still developing even when kids start school.

5. Daily Living Skills: Self-care, being independent, taking care of bathroom needs, and others are daily living skills.

support for learning development

All children will have their own strengths and challenges. Kids learn the skills they need thru daily living, interacting with other people and their environment, and play. They need time and space to figure out themselves, others, and their world. In some cases, extra support for kids experiencing learning or developmental delays is required.

In the following posts, we’ll look at each of these areas and more specific ways to support children and play. In the meantime, another great article advises, “Focus on your child’s gifts and talents.” (Helping Children with Learning Disabilities: Practical Parenting Tips for Home and School) Could a favorite way to play or particular interest be part of your child’s day?

Being Silly for Children’s Fun and Learning – Mad as a March Hare

Being silly for children’s fun and learning is written in the calendar. The expression to be “mad as a March hare” means to be crazy, and it is March. Children laugh far more times a day than adults do. Being serious is important, but laughter can help all of us cope with life’s stresses.red nose faces

Silly antics can take no time at all and can happen practically anywhere. Absolutely no extra materials are needed to make faces at and with each other. You might want to make different ones or try and copy each other. You can use a mirror and see who makes the silliest ones. If you want to make sure you have your child’s attention for giving a few instructions, try making some very exaggerated expressions at the same time. Ask your child to say the instructions back to you, along with some silly faces.silly fun and learning

Playing some silly games, like using bizarre words, covers up for the times when you don’t mean it. For example, ask kids to hang up the coats in the shower instead of the closet or to put the ice cream back in the dishwasher. Usually, they will howl with laughter. When you unintentionally get mixed up, like putting Little Brother’s coat on Big Sister when trying to hurry, it’s not so obvious. When getting ready to go outside, pretend to try and put on a child’s coat. It will be much too small but the enjoyment will be much fun. Or, zip your coat up on your child and then look everywhere for it. From such little interactions comes big learning.silly fun and learning

A sense of humor is something that develops and it is surprisingly complicated. First, kids have to recognize a situation as unexpected or unintended. Then, they need to check if it’s scary or threatening in any way. If not, they can go ahead and giggle. Finding something funny requires brain processing.sharing laugh with a friend

Besides being silly for children’s fun and learning, crazyiness helps children bond with us and other people. When we share a laugh, we also share a relationship. Getting along with others is a work in progress, and being able to laugh together can make it easier. Can you and your child have some silly fun today?


How to Steal a March #15: Helping Kids Ask Questions

Helping kids ask questions will give them an advantage. Thomas Berger said, “The art and science of asking questions is the source of all knowledge.” Despite the astonishing number of questions kids ask a day–some estimates are more than 300–asking questions is really quite complicated. Brains have to organize the correct order of words, change … Continue reading How to Steal a March #15: Helping Kids Ask Questions

New Year’s Resolution: You Are Your Child’s Greatest Learning Resource So Take Care of You

Today’s new year’s resolution is brought to you by the letter Y: you are your child’s greatest learning resource so take care of you. While this sounds next to impossible for parents, especially when comes to the issue of getting enough sleep, it’s far too important to ignore. And we all need to be there … Continue reading New Year’s Resolution: You Are Your Child’s Greatest Learning Resource So Take Care of You

T = Trust: Parents, Educators Need to Trust and Let Kids Play

This post was inspired by play-expert Jeff A. Johnson at Explorations Early Learning. The message is parents, educators need to trust and let kids play. It seems parenting and teaching are balancing acts. There’s so much we would like to do for kids, but at the same time we have to let them learn for … Continue reading T = Trust: Parents, Educators Need to Trust and Let Kids Play

Q is for Questions: Why We Need to Help Kids Ask Questions

Since they ask more than 300 questions a day, why do we need to help kids ask questions? Asking questions is the first part to figuring things out. In the words of Thomas Berger, “The art and science of asking questions is the source of all knowledge.” For kids to know, they need to question. … Continue reading Q is for Questions: Why We Need to Help Kids Ask Questions

Before I Go to Kindergarten #19: Kids Need Curiosity

Is Your Child Curious and Eager to Learn? As parents, if you were given a choice, would you choose being curious or being smart for kids? For success at school and life, kids need curiosity. Because kids always seem to be asking questions and wanting to know how something works, we overlook the critical importance … Continue reading Before I Go to Kindergarten #19: Kids Need Curiosity

New Year’s Resolutions vs Bucket List Wishes for Young Kids

When parents and caregivers think of young children and resolutions, we include things that are important, like play, exercise, nature, and healthy foods. There is so much learning and development that has to happen in the early years and what children see, hear, and do now will impact them for a lifetime. But the word … Continue reading New Year’s Resolutions vs Bucket List Wishes for Young Kids