A Post about Messy Play | Modern Mummy

Thursday, 24 March 2016

A Post about Messy Play

This week, thanks to the RSPB, who sent us a brilliant book full of free, outdoorsy, nature based activity ideas called Born to be Wild by Hattie Garlick (more on this another day), and also thanks to the lovely people at ASDA who sent us a hamper full of Easter crafting goodies, we've been getting creative both indoors and out. There's nothing my kiddos enjoy more than getting mucky - whether that's stomping about in muddy puddles in the rain, or painting their hands in PVA glue whilst sat up to the kitchen table!

Have you ever wondered why kids are so good at learning new things? Part of the reason is down to the fact that they learn through all of their senses – which requires exploring their environment. And this is why messy play is an essential part of their education.

Messy play helps children to:
  • make sense of the properties of the materials they’re using
  • understand what happens when materials combine together
  • and recognise that they can effect and interact with the world. 

There are loads of online messy play resources for early years if you need some ideas, but let’s get a little more specific first… what does messy play actually teach children?

Messy play encourages their inquisitive nature and aids cognitive development
Children have an inquisitive nature, and messy play gives them a prompt to indulge their natural curiosity. Messy play enables children to discover how the world works, informs them about the world outside their homes, and also aids their cognitive development

Messy play helps to refine motor skills
Grasping, squeezing, holding, pouring, scooping, digging and cutting are essential fine motor skills that children need to refine. Messy play is a great opportunity to strengthen these skills, and useful activities include finger painting, painting with brushes, drawing, cutting and playing musical instruments.

Messy play enables adults to observe and identify potential challenges
Messy play also enables carers, parents and teachers to identify children who are struggling to develop key motor skills – whatever the reason – opening a dialogue about any additional needs a child may have as they progress through the education system and life in general. 

Messy play teaches more than the immediate task in hand
Children need to use speech in order to communicate with other children during messy play, and with you too. Take the opportunity to ask them what they’re imagining whilst playing, and ask them to describe what they’re doing: this will get them practising how to articulate their thoughts and feelings, and will strengthen their social skills too.

Messy play encourages imagination and creativity
Indulging in handfuls of paint, goo, glitter and glue is great fun, and allows children to get as creative as they want to be. There’s no need to ask them what it is they’re making or why the person they’ve drawn has three eyes. Instead, unguided, unchallenged messy play without an output-focused approach allows children to learn in a way that feels comfortable. It’s a valuable, relaxed learning experience.

Messy play sets the scene for added academic value
Messy play can be a great opportunity to develop problem solving skills. For example, why not challenge children to move the contents of a pool of water into another container using smaller cups and watering cans? This kind of task encourages children to think mathematically and scientifically. You can also use messy play as an artistic exercise, or use it to introduce foreign languages by using descriptive words and encouragements in other languages they’re learning. 

This is a collaborative post.

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