Children and Messy Play
30 April, 2021

Why Children and ‘Messy Play’ Must Go Together

Are you afraid of the idea of children and messy play?

Well, in one sense you should be!

Give younger children an opportunity and they’ll turn even the most innocuous ingredients into a near disaster area. That’s great fun for them and an awful lot of cleaning up for you afterwards.

Even so, messy play is absolutely necessary for their healthy development.

How messy play helps

Toddlers and pre-school children aren’t miniature adults – they’re kids. As such, they’re also still making huge discoveries about their bodies, the world around them and how the two work together.

They’re taking a lot of input to that learning through their senses. We often think of things like vision (books and TV), taste (various new foodstuffs) and hearing (music and chat). Children also need to learn through their other senses though, both smell and very importantly, touch and sensation.

This means they need to get their hands onto and into ‘stuff’! They’ll also need to do things with that stuff which means lots of spreading and throwing of it around – hence the inevitability of mess.

They also need to get things like the sun, wind and rain on their skin and in their hair. That comes about by messy play for sure but also by spending time outside in nature – a subject we have blogged on previously.

Through these activities, children learn how to interact with the world around them.

Some specific ideas for messy play

Here are just a few ideas you can explore:

  • Lots of opportunities for mixing things and getting your children’s hands really messy! Great fun for all but don’t expect too much help with the cleaning up;
  • A great traditional activity this and one kids adore. Don’t get too hung up about trying to restrict them to boring things like brushes because they’ll be more interested in using their fingers. Do make sure you select non-toxic child-play safe paints and top tip – be certain they’re water-soluble and “easy clean” too;
  • digging/planting. Really great way for children to get fresh air and covered in mud but this time with their parents’ notional approval! It’s also a marvellous way to introduce the natural world concepts. Don’t forget to consult your doctor about tetanus shots or a booster, particularly if you have them working with soil;
  • Probably no need to say more on this subject! Remember with younger children, games with water need to be supervised. Given half the chance, they will try to pour it into power sockets, in each other’s ears and so on;
  • modelling with wax or clay.An absolutely brilliant way to allow children to develop their fine motor skills and tactile senses. The usual advice about being sure the product is safe and non-toxic applies, though you can also make your own from safe household food products too.


A final tip or two about messy play:

  • cover or otherwise protect everything in the surrounding area;
  • however ‘easy clean’ the materials claim to be and however many precautions you’re taking, make sure your children aren’t wearing their Sunday best outfits!

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