messy play activities

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 #13 – Support Children’s Physcial Development

Continuing with the posts on parent wishes for early programs and kids with special needs, one parent’s wish is to support children’s physical development. This post gives some suggestions on play and movement activities for all kids.

physical development activities

Kids are all unique with their own strengths and challenges. Some will be constantly on the move and hands touch everything like walls and fences when walking. They bump into things just for the extra sensory stimulation. When talking to a grandparent on the phone, they pace back and forth or go round in circles. Other children do not have such high mobility needs, but they still need to strengthen their muscles and learn to coordinate their bodies. Some large muscle activities might be:

  • Have a space and time for kids to run, jump, hop, roll, climb, tip toe, kick, throw, and more. Containing kids’ energy in a house isn’t possible. Sometimes, a backyard isn’t big enough either. Hopefully, there are some parks and playgrounds in your area.
  • Sing some action songs, like Hokey Pokey or Shake Your Sillies Out.
  • Put on some dance music and enjoy it together. Do some exercises or yoga for kids

Small muscles are still developing in young children so fine motor activities can be particularly challenging.

  • Play dough involves squishing, patting, rolling, pulling, smooshing, smoothing, and more.
  • Puzzles, blocks, puppets, paints, and other art materials are toys that exercise the muscles in the hands and wrists.
  • Playing in water, sand, dirt, and mud appeal to kids and support children’s physical development.
  • When cooking, kids can stir and mix.
  • Doing up buttons and zippers may take more time when kids do it than when we do, but it is important kids have the opportunity to practice.fine motor activities

Sensory activities are a part of physical development. Messy play is more than fun, it gives children a chance to learn and discover thru their senses.

If you had wish for programs and places for young children, such as daycare, preschool, and kindergarten, would it be to support children’s physical development and play?


What Makes Childhood Magical? #21 – Messy Play

There is nothing like the satisfaction of making a mess. Having a magic wand to clean it up would be a definite plus, but still and all, messy play is pretty enjoyable. A formula for a magical childhood could be: play + mess.

What makes messy play so much fun?

  • For a start, messy play has no right or wrong. Kids can use the materials in an endless variety of ways. There is no intention to ‘be’ something, or ‘make’ a product, it’s all about the doing.
  • messy play activitiesMessy play is very hands-on, and includes the other senses too. Besides touching and feeling, there can be sights, sounds, smells, and sometimes taste.
  • Because this play is so self-directed, kids can start, stop, get distracted and return to it as they need.
  • The answers to “What happens if…” can be something different each time, or exactly the same, but kids get to find out for themselves.

What are some fun messy play activities?

  • Touch and feel messy play could include sand, dirt, mud, and water. Playdough is a wonderful choice and can be slimy, stretchy, and gooey. Some kids do not like to get messy hands and some kinds of playdough are okay for them.
  • messy play activitiesHelping a grownup make bread could be considered messy play. With the assistance of little hands, the flour can go everywhere. Sprinkling some cinnamon and a bit of sugar on bits of dough makes great smells when baking.
  • It’s fun to explore with paints beyond the borders of a page. Spread newspapers all over the floor, give your child a brush and maybe only one container of paint. Clothes, if worn, need to be washable.
  • Sprinkles are one of the ultimate materials for messy play and they come in a whole rainbow of colors. No amount of newspapers though will keep them from getting everywhere.

One of the messiest activities I did was with homemade soap for giant bubbles. Corn syrup was one of the ingredients along with glycerine and soap. The soap should have helped for washing, but the syrup meant that the bubbles were sticky. Of course, when the bubbles popped this spread the stickiness and dirt stuck to hands, faces, and clothes. The kids had fun but I avoided that recipe.  What kind of messy play does your child like?