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How does messy play benefit kids?

February 11th, 2020
Chrissie
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How does messy play benefit kids?
It is hard not to laugh at the look of delight when a toddler jumps in a puddle or plays with some sticky wet mud! Even though, we may be thinking ‘oh no, not more washing’, it is important that children are able to wear old clothes every now and then and get themselves really messy! It is certainly part of the fun of childhood, but it is actually plays an important role in their development.

Messy play is a lovely tactile sensation that teaches children about their sense of touch and helps to develop it. Children will learn the sensations of touching and playing with all different substances and will remember these feelings. Whilst many children love the sensation of playing with many messy things, their will be ons that they really dislike. The important thing is that they have had the experience of feeling and touching the substance/item and will remember the experience for the future.

Using their hands and fingers as they explore a tactile substance is the ideal way for them to develop their fine motor skills and particularly, their hand eye co-ordination so that they can pick items up more easily. Larger items will also be fun to feel and to hold and this helps develop their gross motor skills and strengthen their muscles. As well as understanding the feel of different large objects, they will become aware of what size, shape and weight they can confidently move around and lift which is an important life skill. Messy play of all kinds will also improve your child’s sense of balance.
Let’s have fun with mess!

Before you begin, it is a good idea to remove any items you care about as they will get splashed- it’s inevitable! Cover surfaces and flooring with plenty of newspaper – or better still, if it is a nice day, suggest messy play in the garden! Dress yourself and your child in old clothes and give them a painting apron or, if you don’t have one, one of your old shirts is perfect.

Enjoy Water play.

Children love water and on a summer’s day, nothing beats the fun they can have in a paddling pool or a trip to the swimming baths. If you do not have a paddling pool, they will enjoy a washing up bowl or baby bath filled with water (about one third full). Give them an assortment of different sized plastic cups as well as a small plastic jug and they will thoroughly enjoy measuring and pouring the water.

They will enjoy learning about what objects sink and float, so give them an assortment to try including ping pong balls, a cork, a stone, a piece of wood and a piece of plastic. Add some food dye to the water so that they can stir the water with a stick and watch how the dye moves around. Adding lots of bubbles is fun too.

Children love a garden hose; either for running in and out of the water, or for you to create some puddles on the path that they can jump in them with their wellies on!

If your child enjoys painting, they will find it fun to paint on a paving slab with water. Give them various sized brushes so that they can learn how they differ.

The joy of playing with sand.

Whilst a covered sandpit is great, it is not essential and a baby bath or washing up bowl filled with sterilised sand works well. Your child will enjoy adding water to the dry sand and mixing it in and some small plastic cups make great sandcastles! You can get different shaped moulds including animals and shapes and these will keep them occupied for ages.
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Get out the play dough!

Play dough is a perennial favourite for all ages and can be used as soon as your toddler stops putting things in his mouth. Children love simply feeling it between their fingers and rolling it with their palms into ‘worms’!The commercial brand of play dough comes in great colours and these can be used to make all sorts of models. You can quickly make some play dough at home if you don’t have any and this type is usually easier and more pliable for little hands.

Children will love using a little rolling pin and an assortment of shaped cutters as well as a small round-bladed knife, to create different shapes and models – their imagination will amaze you! If they have a Birthday coming up, a play dough machine can provide hours of amusement as they will enjoy pushing the play dough through the different shaped holes.

Enjoy a colourful painting session!

Be warned! Your child will not only paint the paper or card, but their hands, faces and hair! Collect the sides from cereal boxes as these are perfect for budding artists! Check before you begin that the paint can be removed easily from clothes. If you can do the painting outdoors this is a huge bonus! For fun, paint the palms of their hands and the soles of their feet to make some prints. This is a great way to make a very special birthday card for family members. Don’t forget to keep some of the prints and to date them for the baby book!

Another fun idea is to put a blob of paint on the paper/ card and then to blow the paint through a drinking straw to make a pattern. This looks great when done using a few different colours of paint.
Other great messy ideas….

Fill a baking tray with porridge oats so that your toddler can push their toy cars and tractors around in the oats or they will enjoy scooping and weighing the oats with some toy measuring scales.

Fill a washing up bowl with crazy foam and have fun together piling it on your head and making a pretend beard!

Pour some water on the soil in the corner of a flower bed and encourage your toddler to mix it until it is nice and gooey! Sticks, stones and leaves add to the game!

Have Fun!!

Chrissie x

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